Who Leaked What? Is Perry Guilty? Is Cain? The Media? Does It Matter?

Speculation has been running wild over who leaked what to whom in the Cain-sexual harassment allegations story in the last 24 hours. Frankly, who cares? If it were leaked by a Republican or a Democrat operative is the least important part of the story because it would’ve come out eventually if Cain won the nomination. What matters is what the actual allegations were, which no one seems to remember, and whether or not they were true, which no one can prove. So the story itself is in limbo and would probably have faded away in a day or two…until yesterday.

The Cain campaign, already having a bad week on the PR front, was desperate for a topic change. Who can blame them? They can’t rebut vague charges, so they find themselves preemptively trying to rebut fog. Out of that fog, however, came this sort of six degrees of Kevin Bacon charge that, if you connect enough dots, leads to the Perry campaign. That’s where you lose me.

What would Perry have to gain by bringing up these allegations? Not much.

Yes, Cain rose in the polls while Perry sunk, but they’re just polls. And Perry lost his support through poor debate performances, Cain didn’t win them over through strong ones. And a lot of Perry’s support, as tenuous as it was, went to Newt Gingrich too, so harming Cain wouldn’t necessarily bring support back to Perry. Especially since that support was so weak that a few less than stellar debate performances could lose it in the first place.

As garbage as the original Politico story was, with no specifics and second-hand speculation, the Cain campaign’s accusations against Perry are equally weak.

Herman Cain couldn’t remember much of anything, then suddenly he remembers telling one guy, and only one guy, who worked for him 2003 about these allegations? Wouldn’t you remember more about the allegations against you, since they have the power to really harm you, more than you’d remember telling one guy who now happens to work for one of your opponents?

While Perry has little to gain by back-channel attacking Cain, Cain’s campaign has much to gain by attacking Perry. Perry has been slipping in the polls more and more every day. Something like launching an attack on a fellow Republican with flimsy charges could be the deathblow.

Since there is absolutely nothing to report on the actual allegations front, no one involved is able or willing to talk, there’s a vacuum. And the media abhor a vacuum.

The Cain campaign wants a distraction, they’re desperate for one. So-called journalists, who’ve done nothing but print rumors in the first place, are desperate for anything to write, desperate for attention. All they had to do was find a few desperate enough to print something that in a normal news cycle would’ve been laughed out of the newsroom, and pow! subject changed.

Republicans were already vocal about their anger, publicly blaming Democrats for the non-story leak in the first place. That anger could have presented itself as an opportunity looking to knock out one of the top-monied contenders.

Why wouldn’t they?

If you think about it, the Cain campaign really had nothing to lose. The “story” they broke yesterday was founded upon wild, even irresponsible, speculation, just like the original. If a Perry operative they accused had leaked it, they would naturally deny it. If a Perry operative the accused hadn’t leaked it, they would naturally deny it. It was the perfect storm of knowing that the response would be the same regardless of the truth. Denials, especially in the political world, are always looked at with a jaundiced eye, as Cain learned this week. Why not turn the tables on an opponent?

It might not be as calculated as this, it might not be a well thought out strategy, it could just be amateurs wildly grasping at straws. But in today’s “journalism” culture, where proof is secondary to being first and getting media hits, it was a safe risk to take.

Perry is seen as weak, but he has a lot of money and a good record in Texas, along with a lot of time to use both to recover. It would almost be campaign malpractice not to try to take him out, particularly when we you have willing and desperate accomplices in the media at the ready. If the Cain campaign had accused Ronald McDonald of leaking the story someone would’ve run with it. And Ronald would’ve denied it too.

The names are irrelevant, when you know a denial is coming you can write the story and plug those in later. And if the real leaker turns out to be someone else, if we ever find out, well, that’s for another story. None of these “journalists” sloppily reporting speculation did anything other than quote someone making an accusation, they didn’t make it themselves.

And if the Cain campaign simply made all this up, we’ll probably never know that either because no one actually investigated the charges they made beyond so-and-so works with such-and-such, etc. It could be brilliant strategy coupled with lazy reporting, or crazy strategy coupled with lazy reporting. Considering there’s really no way to prove it, aside from the original source outing themselves, it was either the perfect crime or the perfect crime. Only it seems like the truth is only victim.

I don’t have any proof of this, just a thought that occurred after reading countless rumor-filled “reports,” but there’s never been much proof in this story from the start. But since what is essentially an Encyclopedia Brown level of investigation bolstered only by speculation from an interested party qualifies as “reporting,” what’s the point in trying to find any? As this network rushes to beat that website to “scoop” something, everyone will just deny it anyway. But hey, that might lead to a lot of links for this piece and some TV bookings … Never mind …

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