The Cain Conundrum

As yet another sex scandal rattles Herman Cain’s bid for president, am I the only one wondering if marital fidelity is too much to expect from our political leaders?

MORE QUESTIONS: Though GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain denies the latest allegations of sexual impropriety, he's "reassessing" his campaign in light of the scandal. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

In the aftermath of Atlanta businesswoman Ginger White’s bombshell revelation Monday that she allegedly carried on a 13-year “off-and-on” affair with GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain, Cain is now “reassessing” his campaign strategy. Even though White is the fourth woman to accuse Cain of sexual impropriety, some pundits still believe Cain has staying power — or at least nothing to lose by staying in the race. Others pundits, however, believe he should concede defeat.

Although the Republican Party has unofficially branded itself as the party of family values, I’m wondering if this party and all political parties should reassess how we choose our candidates. Should we leave the personal affairs of candidates, married or not, out of politics? After all, the candidates are not running to be pastors or deacons or even husbands or wives of the year, they are running to be president.

Clearly, New Hampshire’s largest newspaper, the New Hampshire Union Leader, managed to look past Republican nominee Newt Gingrich’s personal failures in its recent endorsement of him.

“Newt Gingrich is by no means the perfect candidate. But Republican primary voters too often make the mistake of preferring an unattainable ideal to the best candidate who is actually running. In this incredibly important election, that candidate is Newt Gingrich. He has the experience, the leadership qualities and the vision to lead this country in these trying times. He is worthy of your support on January 10,” wrote Joseph W. McQuaid, New Hampshire Union Leader publisher, in his editorial on Sunday.

ANOTHER OTHER WOMAN: Ginger White claims she and Herman Cain were more than friends.

Even ultraconservative 700 Club host and former presidential hopeful Pat Robertson, who is famous for having extreme views, is taking a more pragmatic approach to campaigning. “Those people in the Republican primary have got to lay off of this stuff. They’re forcing their leaders, the front-runners, into positions that will mean they lose the general election,” Robertson said. “You appeal to the narrow base and they applaud the daylights out of what you’re saying, and then you hit the general election and they’ll say no way.”

CNN contributor Anne-Marie Slaughter considered this issue in her blog post “Why Anthony Weiner Should Not Resign” when former Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner was lambasted after his sexting scandal earlier this year. (Weiner, however, ultimately did resign.) Slaughter points to former President Bill Clinton as an example of a political leader whose failures in his personal life did not negate his effective governing. She writes:

I for one am deeply glad that Bill Clinton did not resign; he was one of the best presidents of my lifetime and left the country in far better shape than he found it. His wife and daughter chose to forgive him and to preserve their family, which is their business, not ours. He also breached the public trust by lying, but in my view not to an extent that it affected his ability to govern successfully.

And there is even precedent for this stance in the Bible. In spite of King David’s flagrant cheating with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband, he was not removed from the throne. Read 2 Samuel 11 and 12 if you don’t believe me.

But, of course, Cain hasn’t been elected to anything yet, and our perception of a candidate’s integrity and commitment to family are two important ways for us to gauge how much we like him. If he lies and cheats on his wife, will he lie and cheat the American people? This is a fair question.

If Ginger White’s story is to be believed, Cain ended his alleged affair with her prior to jumping into the presidential race. So, again assuming White’s story is true, at least Cain doesn’t have the hubris to believe he can juggle an adulterous relationship while persuading the American people that he’s the man to lead the nation. His 9-9-9 plan? Well, that’s another story.

Although as Christians we do not condone this kind of behavior, many powerful men down through the ages have struggled in their personal lives. And in today’s political scene, sex scandals seem to be a common denominator. If we subtract every candidate that has failed personally from the race, we may be left with very little to work with.

In fact, when you consider all the male politicians who we eventually discovered were unfaithful to their wives (think: John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Ensign, Mark Sanford, Rudy Giuliani, Gary Hart, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and the list goes on), one might begin to wonder if having the gumption to run for office predisposes one to philandering.

Abraham Lincoln, another male politician, once said: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

Among other things, power provides a person with greater opportunities — opportunities to do good or to act selfishly. Whenever we pull the lever or mark the oval for our candidate on Election Day, we’re putting faith in that person to choose the former.

May God help us to do the same.

About the author, Jacqueline J. Holness

Jacqueline J. Holness is a preacher’s kid, a preacher’s grandkid, and a preacher’s niece who blogs at She is also the author of After the Altar Call: The Sisters’ Guide to Developing a Personal Relationship With God.
  1. Good article. David is a great example of God forgiving one after repentance. While David stayed on the throne however, his children paid a heavy penalty for their dad’s sins. (Can we say reaping the sins of our fathers?) First, the baby born to Bathsheba died. His son Amnon raped his sister Tamar. Then David’s other son, Absalom, killed Amnon because of the rape. According to Nathan God promised the sword would never depart from David’s house. While he copulated with Bathsheba in secret, someone else would have sexual relations with his wives in public (his son Absalom). The Almighty views adultery, like all sin, seriously. What is wonderful is that David repented, and God forgave him. BUT the consequences of sin must still be suffered. Now the allegations against Cain remind me of the historical background in this country when white women accused black men of raping them, causing the men to be lynched. Black journalist Ida B. Wells wrote about this in the1890s, and concluded that the sex was consensual in many cases. Another piece of history is slavery, where black men were taught to honor, cherish and obey the white woman or be beat, maimed or killed. Simultaneously he was not taught to cherish the black woman. Of course because the race issue is so muddled now, black folks come out confused. Because of that psychological damage, Black men for hundreds of years, didn’t and can’t seem to leave non-black women alone, especially with that history. Black folks advocate we take descendants of our former masters as our marriage partners; black homosexuals advocate same-sex marriage while black men and women don’t marry and can’t say married when they do! When Herman Cain came on the scene, I wanted to know if he had a black wife. I was glad to know he did (even though he followed the behavior of many dark-skinned black men who try to stay in the race – Gloria is light skinned). So these allegations are troubling to me, again, because of the history. Then we have to question: where’s the proof to support the claims? If White’s allegation is true, I’m not going to jump on the Gingrich bandwagon as I notice some people are doing, and as some conservative radio talk hosts are pushing. Cain probably won’t get the Republican nomination because the whites who see Barack Obama as a failure may not want to experiment with a dark-skinned black man as president. (Oh yeah, the other race issue: Obama was seen as suitable by many blacks and whites because he’s a mulatto). I don’t know who I’m voting for at this point. I think Cain should stay in until the bitter end. If guilty, repent, ask the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness, and seek His help in facing the continuing onslaught. I will pray that he looks to the Lord for guidance and help, just as I pray for Pres. Obama to accept salvation through Jesus the Christ, and this country to turn to the Lord.