Here is a principle we’re all supposed to learn in elementary school, right around the time we study gravity and start growing soybeans in paper cups: The rules are different for popular kids.
It’s a simple, universal truth, and yet the pizza baron and would-be Republican nominee, Herman Cain, was apparently out sick that day because this week he got a crash course in this Darwinian stricture. Oh sure, he’d already been pushed around over his 999 plan, but that was just good natured ribbing of an electoral newbie. Now, however, he finds himself in a full-scale “I’ll meet you after school” D.C. smackdown over these allegations of sexual harassment.
First things first: Most serious political analysts would agree that the questions being asked of Cain are valid. Anytime anyone stands even a chance of seizing the nation’s highest office, he or she better expect some skeleton hunters to start digging through the closet. And even if all they find is a couple of dusty bones, a stiff interrogation is sure to follow.
But once such an allegation is raised it gets trickier. Because if the accused is already a poll-winning, successful Washington insider, he will likely have a broad base of powerful defenders who will automatically take up his cause. Like a popular kid in school, he will enjoy a presumption of innocence that others can only envy, and even if he ultimately admits guilt, they may yet rally to keep him in their pantheon of power. After all, letting an established winner be taken down makes the whole D.C. crowd feel vulnerable, and they don’t like that.
Not so for an outsider. If the accused is not already part of the club, the political elite will only too happily whisper the scandal over and over with a nod and a wink. And the candidate in question will largely be left to fend for himself. It’s like being beaten into a gang. Regardless of the facts, if he survives he is “in,” and if he falls, he is “out.”
So while we await the full story of this incident from Cain’s past, it is worth remembering: The rules are different for the popular kids. And along the Potomac, the popular kids are those who have already won.
– CNN’s Tom Foreman is a regular on “AC360°”/www.ac360.com and “The Situation Room.”
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