Lots of great voices on Day 6 this week including a take on the evolving and fluid political situation in Greece. We go to Athens to talk about the crisis in leadership in a country where economic policy is almost entirely being set by the EU.
Who would want to lead a country with those kinds of limitations? Is there such a thing as Greek soverignty anymore?
And we talk about some of the larger pressures on leadership and a controversial theory that mild chronic mental illnesses may enhance some of the skills and perspectives that great leaders need in times of crisis.
Also on this show, our 50th episode, our first story this season from the U.S. Presidential campaign and a look at a most unlikely candidate.
Americans saw a different Herman Cain this week than the unflappable gentleman who cruised through the first five months of his campaign. Allegations of inappropriate behavior involving former employees roiled through the media and exposed an angry, defensive candidate, not the affable charmer who'd smooth talked his way to the top of the polls.
His candidacy was unlikely, a black Republican who'd never held elected office, a tea party supporter and a self-styled neophyte with a knack for turning a phrase into a slogan.
Cain's appeal was not diminished by his confusing positions on key conservative issues like abortion, foreign policy or anything else. In fact, his numbers climbed as he breezily abandoned the idea he floated for a lethal electrified border fence, then strolled back towards it when he sensed it had a constituency.
When the sexual harassment allegations surfaced Cain tried to do the same thing, taking multiple and contradicting positions. As strategy, it was bizarre. His staff had been warned in advance by the journalists who broke the story, but when Cain was first scrummed on it, he wasn't ready.
By Wednesday Cain was snapping at reporters, saying ""Don't even bother asking me all of these other questions that y'all are curious about. Okay? Don't even bother." Cain also lashed out at his fellow candidates, accusing Rick Perry's camp of leaking the allegations. (Perry blamed Romney.)
Then on Friday, the first poll taken since the story broke showed the scandal had an insignificant impact on Cain's numbers. Republicans, especially women, expressed concerns about him and the story remains in play. But Herman Cain is still tied with Mitt Romney, leading the Republican candidates for President. Additionally, the scandal boosted his fundraising. Once again, defying conventional logic, getting in trouble was helping Herman Cain.
Running as an outsider has worked for Cain. His folksiness and charm endeared him to the Republican base and his vaunted naivety gave him a pass on his gaffes and contradictions. He's made $250,000 as a motivational speaker this year, and it shows. Now he's using his credentials as a non-politician to explain this week's disaster.
"Because I am an unconventional candidate running an unconventional campaign," Cain says, "And achieving some unexpected unconventional results in terms of my, the poll, we believe that, yes, there are some people who are Democrats, liberals, who do not want to see me win the nomination. And there could be some people on the right who don't want to see me because I'm not the, quote/unquote, "establishment candidate."
On Friday, Cain's chief of staff Mark Block declared neither he nor Cain would say anything more about the allegations. "Mr. Cain is a different kind of candidate, this is a different kind of campaign and we're not going to play by the rules that the media has established," Block said on Fox News.
But there's a difference between a gaffe and scandal. When Cain mocked Uzbekistan, or didn't seem to know China had nuclear weapons, media paid attention, but Cain paid no price.
A scandal though, that's a p.r. event, a narrative that supersedes your message. You can't deflect it.
Public figures from Tiger Woods to Don Cherry have all learned this the hard way. It's like a mistake in navigation, it needs to be addressed, or it takes you so far off course, you can never get back on track. Scandals have momentum.
One of the propellants of the Cain scandal is one of the women who first made the allegations against him. Initially she was said to be trying to find a way to come forward and tell her story. Late Friday she released a statement saying she decided not to revisit the incident. It's the best news Herman Cain got all week.
Notwithstanding Friday's poll and the bump in fundraising, many columnists, even among conservatives, think the corrosive effect of the scandal will derail the Cain train in a matter of days.
"A smart business guy in control of himself and in command of the situation would realize the jig is up ...A decent and disciplined man would not put his political party through this ordeal."
-Jennifer Rubin- Washington Post
"The mere fact of this scandal ruins the romantic image voters were developing of Cain, the non-politician. The Herman Cain brand that people loved was utterly plainspoken and direct. ...The old Herman Cain was beating Mitt Romney. This new one can't beat anyone."
-Michael Brendan Dougherty and Zeke Miller- Business Insider
"Cain lacks the grounding and depth needed to be president. If he is serious about wanting to be president, he should be running for the U.S. Senate, or for a governorship, to prepare, because if anything is clear right now, it's that experience matters. Cain is a distraction. At the end of the day, if he is the candidate, we lose -- even if it turns out that he had no behavior, ever, which could be confused with sexual harassment."
-Lisa Schiffren - National Review Online
When the bizarre Herman Cain TV spot featuring his chief of staff taking a long haul on a cigarette first came to light people thought it might have been a parody, or a joke. "America's never seen a candidate like Herman Cain," says Mark Block in the ad, and moments later he puts a butt to his lips, inhales and blows out smoke. The final shot is Cain, silent, a smile slow burning across his face.
The campaign assured the public it was a legitimate spot. "I'm not the only one who smokes in America," Block asserted on Fox News. But he's the only one smoking in a promotional spot for a leading presidential candidate. It's nearly impossible in today's climate to create a political spot that raises an eyebrow given the routine degradations of the form, but Herman Cain's campaign did it.
Cain's rise was quick and unexpected. He's only now raising money to campaign in Iowa even though he's led the polls there for some weeks. Maybe he always was a serious candidate, he just didn't seriously believe he could win. So when he needed the resources to deal with a crisis in his campaign, they just weren't there.
I put the question to Cain's personal friend, black conservative journalist turned Baptist minister Frederick Robinson on Day 6.
Me: Do you think Herman Cain ever expected to be a front runner in this race?
Him: I don't know, I won't answer that but I will say this. What I know about Herman Cain is that he's a believer.
Cain now believes the free ride he's getting from his base could take him to the White House. If they give him the nomination, he'll need to play a sharper game than the one he played this week. And whatever else he believes, he can expect a wild debate when the Republican candidates meet again on Wednesday in Michigan.
I believe Herman Cain can count on it.
Have a great weekend.
Brent Bambury @CBCDay6