But there are exceptions. Democrat Gary Hart was hounded out of the 1988 presidential race (in which he was the frontrunner) because of his affair with Donna Rice. And some argue that President George H.W. Bush was given a pass in 1992. (I’m not so sure, because a friend of mine was falsely rumored to have had a dalliance with 41, but let’s assume for our purposes that this charge has at least some merit.) ***
It’s hard to argue that these are the exceptions are trivial. Some sort of dark matter seems to be at work, occasionally distorting the normal liberal bias of the MSM (though not of Joe Conason). What is it? Here’s a second theory: members of the MSM are Secret Patriots. They tell the public they’re pursuing the truth without fear or favor, but in reality they are also Americans who will act if necessary to protect the Republic. That’s especially true when someone they don’t trust with the powers of the Presidency actually gets close to exercising those powers. Edmund Muskie, the late David Broder told us, was widely considered too ill-tempered to have his finger on the nuclear button. So when he seemed to be crying in a 1972 New Hampshire storm, the MSM made a huge deal of it. Threat averted. Gary Hart just seemed weird–a judgment his post-campaign behavior has not tended to undermine. (He’s stayed married, for chrissake–how weird is that?) George H.W. Bush, on the other hand, seemed eminently presidential. If (hypothetically!) he had a discreet age-appropriate mistress on the side, it obviously wasn’t affecting his performance in office. The Patriots gave him a pass.
Herman Cain is widely perceived as a charismatic, intelligent leader who is nevertheless woefully unready for the Presidency. And yet … he was leading. Pundits thought voters would tire of him, but voters weren’t tiring of him. His tax plan got picked apart–and he kept on leading. His main rival, Mitt Romney, wasn’t going after him. It was becoming clearer and clearer that he wasn’t a joke and he wasn’t just promoting his book. He could really get the nomination, in which case he’d be running against a highly vulnerable incumbent. He might actually win. The first primaries were only a few weeks away. Somebody had to take him down.