Mark Block: Is Rick Perry going to apologize for this despicable smear or not? Update: A Rahm connection? Update: Accuser wants to issue statement, says lawyer

Three problems here. One: If ever there was a moment to light one up, this was it. Imagine how bad-ass this segment would have been with Block laying into Perry between drags on a Kool. A lost opportunity. Two: He claims that Politico’s using anonymous sources, but that’s not strictly true. They told Cain’s camp the name of at least one of the women and the rest of the media’s had no problem figuring out who they are; according to an ABC story tonight, in fact, “both women are highly respected professionals who have gone on to successful careers in and around government.” If the NRA waives the confidentiality clause in their settlements, we’ll probably hear from one or both of them. Chris Wilson and Steve Deace aren’t anonymous either.

Three: Did I miss something or are they tossing this grenade based on nothing more than the fact of Curt Anderson’s hiring? Granted, the timing of the that hiring roughly coincides with this scandal breaking, but there’s no reason to think rival camps heard about the harassment claims recently. They might have been sitting on them for months and leaked them now because of Cain’s surge in the polls. It’s not as if Anderson was the only insider besides Cain who knew about the settlements either. The NRA’s board members, past and present, probably know, and if you believe Chris Wilson, there were eyewitnesses to some of Cain’s behavior at the time. And as Guy Benson noted earlier, Anderson issued his denial today to … Politico, the same news site that broke this story and the only entity besides Anderson himself who knows if he’s the source or not. Unless they’re willing to print denials which they know for a fact are untrue, then Anderson probably isn’t the source.

Which is not to say that they’re wrong about Perry’s camp being behind this. Remember this summary published last week (also by Politico) about his new rough-and-tumble campaign team?

Perhaps most important, Perry has brought on board a new group of media consultants known for their brass-knuckled tactics and sharp read on the GOP base. Joe Allbaugh, a former top aide to President George W. Bush, added major national heft to the Perry team by signing on as a senior adviser…

Perry’s new consultants are a roster of some of the most nationally seasoned and toughest names in the Republican media world. The [Rick] Scott campaign [on which some of them worked] was among the most searingly negative — and effective — message machines of the 2010 cycle, tearing through two well-liked statewide officeholders with a barrage of self-funded attack ads…

[GOP strategist Alex Castellanos] warned: “Perry won’t just go negative. He’ll make your television bleed and beg for mercy.”

One Republican operative familiar with the work of Perry’s new team expressed concern that the coming campaign could be so negative as to “jeopardize the general election.”

Anderson is one of the aides named in the piece. How interesting that Politico was looking ahead to Team Perry going nuclear on the opposition at the same time they were working on the big Cain harassment scoop. Having said that, a Perry spokesman denies that they had anything to do with it and instead is pointing the finger at Romney, although the only evidence they have is the fact that the guy who succeeded Cain at the NRA donated to Romney’s campaign this year. (He also donated to Cain’s Senate campaign in 2004.) All of which leaves us … I don’t know where.

Exit question: If Team Cain is looking to use this story to destroy a rival, shouldn’t they be aiming at Romney instead of the guy who’s now in single digits? Or is there some sort of informal alliance here against Perry?

Update: Via Mediaite, the “all-star panel” wasn’t impressed with Block’s performance.

Update: C’mon now. This story can’t possibly be this juicy:

According to a source who is friends with the Cain campaign, not only is the Rick Perry campaign involved but also the Mayor of Chicago and former Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is likely involved with the sexual harassment accuser attacks. A friend of the Cain campaign believes a National Restaurant Association (NRA) employee out of the Chicago office leaked the story to the Perry campaign via information and influence from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office.

Update: Just to make this a smidge murkier, the lawyer for one of Cain’s accusers said she won’t go public with her story — but does want to issue a statement through him, if the NRA will let her.

“She certainly wanted to say something counter to what Mr. Cain has been saying,” he said, adding that he hoped the statement would help restore her reputation and validate the claims she made at the time.

“As of now, my expectation is that it will not go into details about the incident. She does not want to do that,” he said. “This is a statement that she feels sets forth her position in a fair and honest way.”

Mr. Bennett said he would like to issue the statement tomorrow. He said if the association refused to grant permission, “I’ll be issuing a statement that the negotiations has failed and I hope the media will put pressure on them to change their position.”