11.02.11

The Cain Sexual-Harassment Game

Were Herman Cain’s accusers white or black? Old or young? Was he drunk? Did he mention porn? Michael Tomasky plays out the permutations. Plus, Michelle Goldberg on the right's absurd race card and Patricia Murphy on how Gloria Cain stands by her man.

Everybody is wondering whether and how badly Herman Cain is going to be damaged by these allegations of sexual harassment. He’s finished! No, he’s stronger! The first post-scandal poll, out of South Carolina, shows him with a 10-point lead (it’s one of those Rasmussen one-nighters, so factor that in). But the truth is we don’t know yet. When will we know? When we know more about his accusers and their specific accusations. Herewith, as a public service, the new Herman Cain Board Game.

Start by giving Cain a nice, round 100 points. Then add or subtract points based on the following factors and see where he ends up after the facts are known.

If the accusers are 30 years old or older, give Cain 10 points. This will show that he is mature, not an intern chaser like you know who.

If they are between 25 and 30, subtract 10 points. And if they’re between 20 and 25, subtract 20. And if they’re under 20, take away 30 points. Obviously if one was underage at the time of the alleged transgression, the game is over.

If they seem accomplished—college degrees, reasonably impressive jobs—give Cain 10 points. That will show taste and discretion.

If they were secretaries, take away 15 for lack of originality. And for tackiness: we’re not living in the Mad Men era anymore.

A report has emerged that in one case, drinking was involved, at an office party of some sort. If Cain had a couple of beers, give him 5 points. A big chunk of the evangelical base might not approve of drinking in general terms, but everyone understands what a man’s mind turns to behind a couple of brewskies.

If it somehow emerges that he was sloshed in that someone-please-take-his-car-keys kind of way, subtract 20. If there’s video, subtract 40. Although somehow this never hurt George W. Bush, did it?

Now let’s really talk turkey: race. If they are African-American, give Cain 10 points. White conservative voters are less likely to care what black people do amongst themselves. If they are Latina, give Cain 7.5 points, on similar grounds. Unless they’re Cuban and right wing, in which case we take away 10 points, because they will be automatically more sympathetic to right-wing voters.

If they’re … ba-bum … white, take away 15 points. If they’re blonde, take away another 15. If they’re pretty, take away 15 more. If they’re Southern, take away—you guessed it!—another 15. And if they’re evangelical, take away 25 more. All these values are in addition to the age scores above. And if they’re white and blonde and Southern and evangelical and just total stone-cold foxes on top of all that—subtract 90 points.

Now, Cain has this wife. Gloria. She is not as yet a public woman. She doesn’t campaign. Google-image Gloria Cain and you’ll find, like, three pictures of her. Attractive-enough woman. She is now being prepped to be trotted out by the campaign to stand by her man.

If the media decide that she comes across as credible and steady and the sort of no-nonsense woman who wouldn’t put up with that sort of malarkey and keeps old Hermie in line, give Cain 17.5 points (this is all highly scientific, I assure you). If she mouths the usual platitudes in the usual lukewarm fashion and is not deemed a net plus, subtract 2.5 points.

She can be a bigger liability in two different ways. First, if she tries earnestly to stand by her man, but the media agree that she’s some kind of disaster. In that case, subtract 12.5 points from her husband’s score. Second, she could come across as this year’s Silda Spitzer, who stood by her man perfunctorily but stood there looking (quite reasonably I must say) like she wanted to bang him over the head with a baseball bat. That would signal clearly that he’s guilty of something bad, so take away 20 points.

Finally, a bit on the accusations themselves. This is all a bit trickier. From the best-case scenario for Cain to the worst, it goes something like the following:

Best case, he tried to pick them up by saying something that was actually witty and charming. If what he said included a joke about community organizing, Kenya, or provenance (“Wanna see what a real American’s birth certificate looks like sometime?”), give Cain 10 points. If it was just run-of-the-mill witty and charming, call it a wash.

If he said something lewd but not really too out there—complimented them on their endowments in a locker-room-ish sort of way, say—take away 5 points.

If he made reference to the lower part of the anatomy, take away 10. If he made crude reference to same, take away 15.

If there was inappropriate touching, take away 15.

If there was any mention of pornography, take away 15. Maybe 20. Yes, 20. We’re talking conservatives here.

And if it turns out that he actually had sex with one or both of them, take away 25 points if it was once with one of them; 30 if it was once with both of them (not together, you sicko—although if it was that, take away 100 points and buy the domain name hermancainformayorofamsterdam.com); 40 points for one affair of decent duration; 75 points for two simultaneous affairs of decent duration.

If Cain’s accusers are white, blond, and pretty, media figures will insist that it doesn’t matter. But the more they draw attention by denying that it matters, the more it will matter.

So keep this handy, and match my scoring system to the details as they emerge. If he goes below 75 points, he’s in trouble. Below 50, he’s probably cooked. If he stays at 100 or above, he’ll persevere. And if he sails above 125, look out, Mitt.

And finally—yes, this column is tongue in cheek, but we all know this is the world we live in. If they’re white and blonde and pretty, the media won’t emphasize that, but they won’t have to. It will be apparent for everyone to see. Media figures will go on TV to insist that all that doesn’t matter, and the more they bring attention to it by denying that it matters, the more it will matter. And on Fox, of course, some people will say, “You’re damn right it matters!” I still generally predict that Cain makes it through this, but that depends on a lot of ifs.