Timothy Noah

"Reassessing"

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Since other news accounts are tiptoing around this, allow me to translate. When a person--in this instance, fitness instructor Ginger White--steps forward with an allegation about a presidential candidate--in this instance, that Herman Cain ended an affair with her only eight short months ago--and the candidate responds by "reassessing" whether to continue in the race, it means he's pulling out. What the candidate is "assessing" isn't the race per se but the quality of the evidence, which here consists of cell phone records. Cell phone records can't match a semen-stained dress or a sex tape in corroborating an allegation of sexual impropriety, but we've been spoiled by the Clinton and Edwards scandals. Cell phone records will do just fine if they show an inexplicably high volume of phone calls and texts from a cell phone verified to be the candidate's, as apparently these do.

There is a way to do this, and though Cain has always insisted he doesn't follow the Washington rules, he appears to be following them in this instance. First you say, "I deny these charges, unequivocally." (Cain said "those" charges, but that's a quibble.) Second, you say you were trying to help the poor woman and this is the thanks you get. (Check.) Then you say you are reassessing whether to stay in the race. (Check.) Then you say that if it were up to you alone you'd charge full speed ahead, come what may, but you have the interests of your wife and children to consider. (Check.)

Then you take a day or two to appreciate precisely how impossible it will be to refute the charges, and then, depending on how much of the evidence leaks to the press, you either confess, ask for forgiveness, and, prayerfully, withdraw, or you remain defiant, say the allegation has become a fatal distraction to your campaign and a terrible burden on your family, say this is why decent men and women won't seek higher office in this country, and by God, that has to change, and then, regretfully, withdraw. One of these will occur shortly.

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