Trump: Herman Cain is withdrawing from Fed consideration; Update: Here's why, says Cain

Just two weeks ago, notes reporter Bryan Lowry, Cain sounded completely committed to the Fed confirmation process. “You think I’m going to get intimidated by a bunch of yahoos trying to embarrass me?” he said of the members of the Senate Banking Committee (which of course is controlled by Republicans). “They’re the ones that are going to be embarrassed.”

As of today he’s no long a candidate for the position.

Here’s another reason why Romney doesn’t need to feud with Trump on Twitter. He can always get back at him by borking his nominees instead.

I’m surprised. As of Thursday Cain seemed gung ho to proceed with the nomination, appearing on Fox Business to try to drum up support among Trump loyalists and publishing an op-ed in the WSJ insisting that the Fed needed fewer academics and more businessmen. Four days later he’s out. Presumably the White House spent the weekend feeling out the four Republican senators opposed to Cain, one of whom is Romney, to see if anything might change their minds. When the answers came back no, they decided not to press ahead. Especially with stories like this beginning to dribble out:

A woman who has accused Herman Cain of having a long-term consensual affair threatened on Thursday to describe “certain parts” of his body to the Senate Banking Committee “to corroborate her testimony” if he doesn’t withdraw his name from consideration for the Federal Reserve Board…

Allred said on Thursday that both [Ginger] White and [Sharon] Bialek are willing to testify under oath about their allegations.

“Ginger, if asked at the United States Senate Banking Committee hearing, will also be willing to identify certain parts of Mr. Cain’s body to corroborate her testimony,” she continued.

Several women have accused Cain of workplace harassment but White merely claims an affair. I would have liked to see Bill Clinton’s party try to rationalize calling her as a witness and leading her through embarrassing public testimony about consensual sex. Either way, Cain surely knew as of four days ago that Democrats would go dumpster-diving into his personal life to try to block him and embarrass Trump. If anyone here suddenly got cold feet about advancing the nomination, it’s more likely to be the White House than him.

Is this good news or bad news for Trump’s other unconventional Fed pick, former Club for Growth chief Stephen Moore? Some thought the controversy around Cain would be a boon to Moore’s nomination by giving Senate Republicans an outlet for their skepticism of Trump’s picks. Maybe they’d bork one but confirm the other as a compromise with Trump, the argument went. Now that Cain’s out, that leaves Moore looking better — in theory. In practice, he’s taken as many shots as Cain has.

In a CNN appearance, Moore claimed he had never been in favor of the gold standard, where every dollar is backed by some gold. But the network proceeded to play clips from three different speech where Moore clearly supported the policy, which Cain also endorses.

Moore also called for interest rates to rise in the midst of the financial crisis, a policy that many believe would have caused the country more harm. Moore started calling for a cut in interest rates once Trump took office. Recently, Moore has said there is deflation in the United States, even though government statistics and the White House Council of Economic Advisers all say inflation is rising at about 2 percent a year…

Moore has faced similar criticisms about a lack of qualifications and past personal issues, including his failure to pay his ex-wife child support and alimony in 2013.

There’s also a $75,000 tax lien pending against him, which he’s contesting, but the bulk of his confirmation hearing is destined to be consumed with questions about cronyism and his more unorthodox pronouncements on monetary policy, starting with raising rates during the recession. (Less than three years ago he conceded that he’s not an expert on monetary policy.) In the meantime his critics’ strategy seems to be to kill him with a thousand cuts, like this new CNN piece describing columns Moore wrote years ago complaining about “the feminization of basketball” and calling for women to be banned from refereeing men’s hoops games. What does that have to do with Fed policy? Nothing at all, but it raises the political cost incrementally to the White House of proceeding with Moore’s nomination to a full confirmation hearing. The steeper the cost gets, the more likely Trump is to say “forget it” and drop him.

The key point about Cain’s nomination is how predictable this outcome was. Here’s a paragraph from a post I wrote in January, when the rumors about Trump nominating him first began circulating:

Just tell me how he gets confirmed by the Senate. Remember what it was that finally drove him out of the 2012 GOP primaries? Democrats would tear Cain apart over sexual harassment during the confirmation hearings. He’d attract one Democratic vote, Joe Manchin’s, if he’s lucky. Realistically he’d get none, leaving McConnell to start with just 53 yays and faced with instant panic among the moderates in his caucus, most of whom already took a very tough #MeToo-related vote on Kavanaugh four months ago. Murkowski opposed Kavanaugh and would likely oppose Cain. Cory Gardner is fighting for his political life in Colorado and would try to protect himself by voting no as well. Susan Collins has already been marked for defeat by the left for her crucial yes vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination and would try to balance it by opposing Cain this time. If no Democrats vote yes, that’s 50 votes maximum to confirm. Any single remaining member of the GOP caucus could sink him.

I went two for three. Murkowski and Gardner are among the four Republicans who’ve vowed to oppose Cain (Romney and Kevin Cramer are the others), and although Collins has maintained strategic ambivalence, I’d bet good money that she’d have voted no on confirmation as well if forced. That is, Cain’s baggage was full public knowledge when this process began and the fact that it would end up leaving him unconfirmable was obvious even to rank amateurs like me. Yet he and Trump went forward. Why? If they were determined to call the Senate’s bluff, they should have made a pact about that from the start: We’re going to force McConnell’s caucus to vote on this no matter how much dirt comes out and how ugly it gets. You’ve got my back and I’ve got yours. Instead one of them broke that pact at the first signs of trouble. What was the point of floating Cain’s name, then? If all Trump wanted to do was show how mean and RINO-y Senate Republicans are, he should have at least demanded that they bork his nominee in a proper floor vote so that he could make hay of their opposition to his base. I don’t get it.

There’s probably no explanation beyond “Trump wanted Cain, decided to risk a backlash by nominating him, then changed his mind.” He changes his mind a lot. Why not here?

Update: Cain has a post up today explaining his withdrawal.

At the same time, I was told what the ethical restrictions would be. I would have to let go of most of my business interests. I could not serve on any boards. I could not do any paid speeches. I could not advocate on behalf of capitalism, host my radio show or make appearances on Fox Business. Without getting too specific about how big a pay cut this would be, let’s just say I’m pretty confident that if your boss told you to take a similar pay cut, you’d tell him where to go.

But I did like the idea of serving on the Fed! I was convinced I could make a positive difference advocating for better growth and monetary policies. As recently as last Monday I had told President Trump I was all in, and on Friday I was making plans to come to Washington and visit with the senators who were skeptical of my qualifications. Last week I published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that explained my beliefs on the issues the Fed deals with, and I was prepared to defend these beliefs in meetings with senators and in confirmation hearings.

But the cost of doing this started weighing on me over the weekend. I also started wondering if I’d be giving up too much influence to get a little bit of policy impact. With my current media activities, I can reach close to 4 million people a month with the ideas I believe in. If I gave that up for one seat on the Fed board, would that be a good trade-off?

Giving up a radio show to help set monetary policy for the entire world seems like it would be a good trade-off, especially when you’ve already made money from business and spent years in conservative media. And it’s hard to believe Cain just realized months into this process that a Fed seat would require him not only to divest but to take a pay cut and to end most of his political activities. The whole point of the Fed’s board — and a key knock against him in all this — is that it’s supposed to be insulated from partisan politics. What did he think he was getting into?