The word ‘milquetoast’ — meaning timid, unassertive and spineless — is not one that might normally be associated with a brash, opinionated, externally successful and clearly self-confident man like Herman Cain. (‘Hubris,’ anyone?) That being said, it seems to me it’s a special kind of spinelessness on display by Cain in failing to stand up and do the right thing and withdraw weeks ago when it had to be obvious (at the very least) to him that the Herman Cain Express was careening straight towards a cliff. And Cain just let it happen.
I don’t think it’s particularly complicated as to why Cain didn’t bow out when he had the chance to do so with a least a semblance of his dignity intact. A big part of it, I believe, is that his presidential bid was never actually intended to achieve anything more than raise his media profile. That’s why he really didn’t have much of a campaign organizational infrastructure in place before Florida.
Then after the Florida straw poll, where he got buoyed up in the “anyone but Romney” primary sweepstakes being played by social conservatives rather desperate to hide that their antipathy towards Romney has as much to do with the fact that he’s a Mormon as his “suspect” conservative credentials, there was simply not enough time to prepare Cain for the brutal vetting process “top tier” candidates are subjected to by our 24/7 and highly polarized political media culture. So Cain ran with it.
However, when the first allegations of sexual harassment started surfacing, that’s when he should have sat down with his closest advisors and done a brutally honest self-assessment of the proverbial skeletons lurking in his closet. He should have known, or been told if he didn’t, there was no chance that his transgressions weren’t going to come out.
Historically, even serial philandering isn’t a disqualification for occupying or running for the Office of President, but you do have to get out in front of the story to control and shape it. What did Cain do when given that chance?
And that’s the very definition of ‘milquetoast.’
Matthew Spira is a center-leaning economic and security conservative and political junkie.