Thursday, November 3, 2011

Selling out Cain

As you've may have heard by now, Herman Cain has accused Rick Perry's staff of leaking the sexual harassment charges currently hounding Cain's White House bid. From a purely tactical point of view, it makes sense that the leaks would come from Perry, who desperately needs Cain to collapse in order to regain his footing among voters. (Yglesias and Neil Sinhababu, to their credit, fingered Perry as the culprit days ago.) How did Perry's staff even know about the the decade-old accusations in the first place? Well, uh, they used to work for Cain.

TNR has an instructive question about the affair:
The flurry of charges and demands for apologies between the two camps leaves me with one question: why doesn' t this sort of thing happen more often? Political consultants are famously mercenary, jumping from one team to another with the constancy of a left-handeded reliever or utility infielder. Why don't we hear of more instances of consultants picking up damaging information about a candidate they're working for one year and then using it, years later, when they happen to be working in the camp of a candidate in opposition to the former employer? Do they do so often but manage to be discreet about it? Or is there in fact an honor among thieves that generally constrains such behavior?
Wait, seriously? We're talking about people whose livelihoods depend on getting hired into political campaigns every election season. Presidential campaigns only last, at best, two years at a time (unless you're working for Mitt Romney, in which case they last forever). The vast majority of campaigns fail. Almost to a man, everybody working for a Republican primary candidate right now is going to need to hitch their star to new politician -- and soon. Can you imagine a more egregious way to poison the well of future employment than to leak devastating, potentially career-ending rumors to a rival camp? That person would never work in politics again. They'd be an utter pariah. Really, the strongest evidence so far that this wasn't leaked by a Cain defector is that Perry hasn't fired anyone for being the guy responsible. Because unless said guy plans on staying with Perry forever, he's a giant liability.

If these accusations really did originate in the Perry camp, Perry must either command fanatical loyalty or be in truly desperate straits. Or he must be a really, really bad judge of character. Otherwise, it's hard to conceive what might have coaxed some hapless staffer to throw away his career like this.

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