If anything can be learned from the Herman Cain campaign thus far, it is that a potential presidential nominee should not ignorantly question the ethics of a journalist. Cain, the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO, is now a presidential frontrunner for the GOP 2012 race, but has come under fire in the past week; allegations of sexual harassment during his days with the National Restaurant Association have spurred controversy. This past Saturday, Cain and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich were taking part in a Lincoln-Douglas style debate focused on entitlement reform. All was well until a Washington Post reporter began asking a question about the sexual harassment allegations at a press conference following the debate, putting Cain in the hot seat and igniting the same frustration we’ve seen in the past week. Reporter Phil Rucker was cut off mid-sentence, while asking about the woman who filed a sexual harassment complaint against Cain. “Don’t even go there,” Cain interrupted. Rucker asked if he could finish his question, yet Cain ardently responded, “No. Where’s my chief of staff? Please send him [Rucker] the journalistic code of ethics.”
This reaction comes after a week of Cain attacking the press for repeatedly asking questions about the allegations, all while refusing to answer questions himself. The manner in which Cain and his campaign manager, Mark Block, have acted in relation to the allegations is indicative of anything but grace under pressure. In reality, it shows the weakness of a thin-skinned man who would rather ignorantly throw the book [of ethics] at a journalist than handle the question with dignity.
His reactions are diminishing his credibility as a leader because one would think a man who has reached this point in the campaign (and as a former CEO) would understand how the media works. Yes, the media is accepted by both sides of the fence to be more liberal-leaning, therefore it’s accepted that Cain may be harshly targeted by the press when it comes to sexual harassment allegations. But at this point in the race, Cain should know the reporters are not going to stop asking these questions, even if he and his staff believe the media is beating a dead horse.
Still, at the heart of this issue is the fact that Cain should have thought before attacking the reporter’s ethics. Those who bother to read the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics will easily see that there is nothing unethical about a reporter asking Cain to respond to the question about the allegations. The allegations aren’t going to be fatal to his campaign, but the way he has handled it could lead to the death of his chance at winning the ticket for the GOP in the 2012 presidential race. I want a president who can respond to questions of the press with poise, someone who can handle the pressure of politics and someone who will be able to take the heat from many critics, not only the press. Mr. Cain has a lot of work to do in those three areas.
Until then I could never see him as my commander in chief.