Networks can't get enough of this Herman Cain scandal

As Chris Cillizza just tweeted, “Sometimes picking the ‘Worst Week in Washington’ winner is tough. This is not one of those weeks.” Since Sunday night, when Politico broke the 12-year-old news that two women accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment during his tenure at the helm of the National Restaurant Association, Cain has had it rough (that is, unless you look at his fundraising numbers).

True, Cain complicated matters for himself by not handling the scandal with the consistent aplomb this kind of hit requires. His evasions and revisions provided plenty of fodder for media outlets starved for a “GOP idiot” story. Still, it’s surprising the drip-drip of developments — a political consultant who backs up the claims here, an Iowa radio host who adds his own complaints there — has sustained as much coverage as it has. Networks have hit the story 50 times in just four days, according to a report from the Media Research Center.

Just for fun, the MRC compares that coverage to the attention the MSM gave to the Clinton sex scandals in the early 1990s. Bet you can guess what the results were:

In comparison, over a similar three-day period these same programs were far less interested in charges against Democrat Bill Clinton. After Paula Jones held a public press conference in February of 1994, there was only one report on her allegations.

Following Kathleen Willey’s July 1997 claims of being groped by the President, there were a mere three reports. For Juanita Broaddrick, who came forward in February 1999 to say Clinton raped her, only three stories followed charges appearing in the Wall Street Journal.

It should also be pointed out that all these women offered their names. They weren’t anonymous. Additionally, the accusations of assault and rape go far beyond what’s being mentioned with the Cain scandal.

This chart says it all:Herman Cain, Bill Clinton, news coverage of sex scandals

More recently, my anecdotal remembrance of Weinergate suggests the MSM didn’t warm to that story so quickly, either.

So, what’s the deal? Why are the MSM so fixated on this? Hint: It has nothing to do with Herman Cain. Every minute that’s dedicated to these accusations is a minute that’s not dedicated to today’s disappointing jobs numbers or Obama’s shrill harping of the AJA. Every minute that’s dedicated to these accusations is a minute that’s not dedicated to Obama’s low approval numbers or his wife’s startlingly angry advance campaigning. Every minute that’s dedicated to these accusations is a minute that’s not dedicated to the impending implosion in Europe or China’s ever-extending credit line.

Sure, it’s interesting to speculate who might have planted the story, whether it was a GOP rival or someone on the left. Yes, it’s amusing — after a fashion — to parse Cain’s responses and to predict how this scandal might affect his positive intensity scores and overall polling numbers. Fine, I’ll concede, it’s fascinating to observe Cain’s fundraising numbers go up as the scandal unfolds.

But, yesterday, Allah asked the exit question: “Know who this helps?” Maybe it does help Mitt Romney somewhat. But it helps Barack Obama more.

The surest way to beat Obama in 2012 is to make the election a referendum on the policies he’s pursued. But won’t it be automatically, you ask? Not if the MSM succeeds in making it about the GOP nominee, whoever he or she might be. If the media can paint the Republican candidate as extreme — or maybe even just scandal-plagued personally — undecided voters will fixate on that and will fail to examine Obama’s record.

Believe me, I think character counts in a leader — and I don’t find it the slightest bit appealing that Cain has faced sexual harassment charges in the past. So, let’s factor in the accusations and the Cain campaign’s bumbling response to the drop of this story into our selection of a GOP nominee, but let’s not let it all dominate our news cycle such that it sinks Obama’s failures into oblivion.