Remember “bimbo eruptions?” Clinton political consultant Betsey Wright coined the term in 1992 to describe rumors of infidelity that had a tendency to crop up around then-candidate Bill Clinton. The campaign successfully dealt with them and Clinton won two terms in White House, (although the phenomenon of bimbo eruptions never totally went away and it eventually led to articles of impeachment.)
I’d always seen the term as sexist, but having been invented by a female, perhaps that is not the way to look at it. Anyway, it came up again Tuesday of this week in the Boston Herald:
“GOP presidential suitor Jon Huntsman lamented the latest “bimbo eruption” surrounding rival Herman Cain’s candidacy today saying the party should be talking about the serious, not the sensational.”
So Herman Cain is “reassessing” his candidacy in light of the latest in a parade of sometimes bizarre, interesting issues with his campaign and it looks like it may be time to stick a fork in his bid for the GOP nomination. Ironically, the main beneficiary of all this right now seems to be former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is picking up points in the polls even more quickly than Cain is losing them (which is VERY quickly.) It seems like perpetual Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney just can’t seem to catch a break.
Gingrich’s past indiscretions are well known, although perhaps he has settled down a bit at 68. And while we might miss Cain’s Wisconsin connection by way of his not-ready-for primetime chief of staff, Mark Block, all is not lost. Newt’s third wife, Callista, 45, hails from Whitehall. She was a former staffer in the office of Wisconsin GOP Congressman Steve Gunderson – also from Whitehall — who represented the 3rd District from 1981-1997.
Interestingly, Gunderson was outed on the House floor as a gay in 1994 by former California Congressman “B-1 Bob” Dornan – a self-described “defender of faith, family and freedom.” Gunderson won re-election in 1994, but decided not to run again in 1996. Callista Gingrich remained on Capitol Hill as a staffer until 2006. (And if all of this sounds like familiar recent history to you, then it’s only because you go back a ways with this stuff. There will be people eligible to vote for President in 2012 for whom the Gunderson-Dornan drama occurred before they were born.)
Gingrich is pulling a real Lazarus act to lead in the polls now, considering that his candidacy was all but written off when his campaign manager and a half dozen senior advisors quit last June. Democrats would be pleased to see him come through it all to win the nomination. He won’t – but he’s good television. He’s got a storyline.
We are in a period of time where being a candidate can be a very attractive occupation – and it’s apart from anything having to do with actually winning the office. Why else would there still be so many of them? Sarah Palin is the gold standard in this vocation and she has spent the past couple of years flogging books and making pricey appearances just for being a past and possible candidate. As she has proven in spades, it’s nice work, if you can get it. Palin even quit her regular job to keep doing it full time after the last presidential election. People fly you around in private jets, you eat well, you dress well and you get a lot of media attention. Maybe that hasn’t seemed so good for Cain lately, but it helped him to raise millions leading up to this point. Heck, it was even $100 a throw to catch him in Wausau at the Junior Achievement banquet earlier this year, which was more than a ticket at the Grand to see B.B. King.
Herman Cain “has made Clinton look like a choirboy,” says columnist Juan Gonzalez, in this morning’s New York Daily News. “In just a few short weeks, Cain has turned the Republican nominating contest into an X-rated circus of alleged horndog behavior.” (Doesn’t “horndog” sound like it could be a college team mascot or something you’d eat at the fair?)
My take is that this just an extension of the “Reality Television” genre that emerged in the 1990s. While the scripted, never-ending soap operas that began in radio are nearly a thing of the past, we’ve replaced them with Big Brother, Survivor and (appropriately) The Amazing Race. Even our own Congressman Sean Duffy and his wife are veterans of MTV’s Real World.
Meanwhile, the New York Times’ Robert Draper calls Mitt Romney – who appears to be the inevitable, eventual GOP nominee – “the world’s most boring superhero.”
Face it, America, we have very different ideas about what a good candidate is a year out from an election in comparison to what a good leader would be the day after the vote. We don’t want leaders; we want celebrities. Remember when some were lamenting that Arnold Schwarzenegger was foreign-born and therefore couldn’t run for president? And then there was the bimbo eruption.
Put it all together and it seems like we don’t really want to face the serious issues of war and peace, the economy, health care and the federal budget – at least not in the current context of the presidential campaign. All of that needs to be woven into the storyline at some point, but what we really want right now is to be entertained. We want someone who can keep up with the Kardashians. Herman Cain was able to do that for awhile and now Newt will give it a go.
The Brits figured this stuff out long ago. They have a royal family and they can all follow their antics in the tabloids while others do the actual governing. It’s the best of two worlds — and if you think that’s an expensive luxury, just try adding up what we spend to try to roll these things together in never-ending presidential campaigns here. They even throw in the position of titular head of the Church of England — “Defender of the Faith” — (because Henry VIII had a lot of bimbo eruptions.)
As for me, I’m not sure if I can come up with a compelling enough story to get into the game. (Of course, for the nostalgic, there’s always “Who shot J.R.?”)
Cain wreck: It’s official —
The Trump Debate: Today’s GOP presidential race coverage in the Hollywood Reporter —