Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hubris, Hubris, Hubris. Explaining Herman Cain's Downfall

Herman Cain is just the latest example of a politician's career imploding over a sex scandal. Such personal transgressions have sunk many a campaign since the days of the Roman Empire, so that's nothing new. But what's surprising, and inexplicable, is why someone with a walk-in-closet full of skeletons would run for high office, thereby putting at grave risk his family, career and reputation. The only answer that makes any sense is hubris. And a massive dose of it.

The dictionary defines hubris as excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance. But with Cain I'd take it even further and toss in narcissism and megalomania. Those two conditions are defined as inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity and a mania for great or grandiose performance respectively.

With Cain, here's a guy who's alleged to have sexually harassed (and possibly molested) several women and engaged in a long-term extramarital affair with at least one other. Knowing this, what on Earth was he thinking in running for president? Did he honestly believe that his past behavior, unlike that of Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer and countless others, would not become public fodder? Did he think he was above scrutiny? Does he feel entitled? Is he in utter denial? Does he think that his version of "I did not have sex with that woman!" is going to bury the story any more than it did for Clinton?

Cain walked into this campaign with high stature. With a solid business record as a former Godfather's Pizza CEO and as a very successful corporate motivational speaker. He also came with his 43-year marriage and his family in tact. And while he has yet to drop out of the race, he is sure to in the next few days. His political career is now dead as a doornail, and he will leave the campaign with his conservative supporters and donors angry, his marriage wrecked, a family who he's hurt terribly, and a business reputation that's severely damaged. Who the hell would hire him to motivate their corporate troops after this mess?

And the biggest display of his hubris yet is in his unequivocal denials of any wrongdoing. In fact, he claims, as he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Monday, that there's a conspiracy hellbent on "derailing the Cain train." No, the train just went into the wrong tunnels, Herm. But Mr. 9-9-9 takes no responsibility for any of it.

To be sure, we've seen D.C's version of this Greek tragedy played out a zillion times before. First comes the salacious accusations, then the vociferous, unequivocal denials, followed by an eventual humiliating public mea culpa, perhaps with the shell-shocked Mrs by your side, and then a shameful resignation. I suspect we are going to see all of this from Cain very soon. The main question though is, why did he think things would end any differently for him? Hubris, hubris, hubris...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Cain Mutiny

There's only one thing that can actually make Newt Gingrich's history of marital infidelity seem trite, and its name is Herman Cain. The man who gave us bad pizza and an even cheesier tax overhaul plan is once again at the center of a new sex scandal, accused of having a 13-year extramarital affair with Ginger White, a single mother from Atlanta whom he me while running the National Restaurant Association (clearly, his tenure as head of this trade organization in the 1990's has not served him well, sexual-scandal-wise). Seems like women all over America are jumping off the Good Ship 999.

White said she came forward because of the way Cain's been disparaging the various women who've accused him recently of sexual harassment.

"It bothered me that they were being demonized, sort of, they were treated as if they were automatically lying, and the burden of proof was on them. I felt bad for them."

Cain has strongly denied the accusation, but in a very curious manner. In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer Monday he confidently stated that he did not have a "13-year" affair as if inside he was giggling to himself saying "That's because it was a TWELVE AND A HALF YEAR affair!" Technically, he would not be lying, although that's a pretty pathetic defense. What's more, he issued his denial with the same sort of "I did not have sex with that woman!" arrogance of the 90's scandal-plagued Bill Clinton. And we know how that story ended.

It's hard to imagine Cain's campaign surviving this, especially on the heels of the harassment scandal. He's done. And it's a great day for Gingrich, who, by comparison, is starting to seem like an altar boy (not exactly hard to do in the Republican Party, where political, ethics and sexual scandals run rampant).

The GOP presidential pack is motley crew of misfits and miscreants. By default, Gingrich has found himself atop this garbage pile as he's watched the campaigns of Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and now Cain implode. His chief rival at the moment, Mitt Romney, is stuck at around 20% and is not liked by voters or GOP leadership. His reign at or near the top is misleading. It's not because voters want him there, it's because they've had no one else. That they've now jumped aboard the skeleton-filled NewtWagon is proof positive.

Newt may have cost himself much support among hardcore conservatives with his controversial amnesty-like position on immigration offered at the last GOP debate. Additionally, we've yet to see how his many past, well-documented political and personal indiscretions and transgressions will truly impact his campaign. They nearly sunk him once before. Gingrich is his own worst enemy. To be sure, his mouth, if not his past, will put him in the hot seat once again.

The question then is, who's next to lead this sorry pack? Is Jon Huntsman, the only Republican with the integrity, character and experience to be president, going to have his turn at the top? Will Romney win by default after Newt's next fall? One thing's for sure, the GOP campaign train wreck will surely provide more entertainment over the next several months.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My New Favorite Reality Show: "The Real Republicans of Washintgon"

I must confess: up until a couple of months ago I was addicted to Bravo's "Real Housewives" franchise. C'mon, what's more fun than watching Theresa Guidice in the kitchen with all her "ingrediences?" Or the Orange County and Beverly Hills ladies and their fake hair, teeth, boobs and plastic surgery claw at each other like a bunch of alley cats? But then I got sick of it all. Felt ashamed. Realized there's probably a million other things I can and should be doing with my time. Like watching the never-ending Republican presidential debates.

My new favorite reality show is "The Real Republicans of Washington." Who needs tough little Joe Guidice when we have the feistier-than-ever Newt Gingrich? Why waste time watching Camille Grammer embarrass herself when we can watch Michele Bachmann implode? Why listen to Kelly Bensimon say stupid things when we can watch Herman Cain take a week and a half to answer a question about Libya? Why listen to Texas airhead Gretchen Rossi when you can feast your ears on Texas airhead Rick Perry?

I'm telling ya, "Real Republicans" has more interesting stars, better catfights, more drama, more salacious scandals and airs weekly as well. There's sexual harassment, marital infidelity, botox, shameless hypocrisy, Mormons and libertarians (and who's nuttier than those guys, huh?). But maybe, just maybe, you might learn something about government in the process so it's not entirely a waste. Quick honey, wake up the kids....

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Is Gingrich Lying Over Freddie Mac Involvement?

Ya gotta give credit to Newt Gingrich. At least he's consistent in his colossal hypocrisy. Back in the 90's while he was crucifying Bill Clinton over the former president's sexual escapades with Monica Lewinsky, the then-House Speaker was simultaneously cheating on his wife. And now we learn from a Bloomberg News article, which cites former Freddie Mac officials, that while Gingrich was excoriating President Obama, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Democrats for their supposed roles in the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae housing and financial crisis he knew that he had earned upwards of $1.8-million on Freddie's payroll to lobby their cause to his influential Republican pals on Capitol Hill.

On the hot seat after soaring recently in the polls, Gingrich's defense of his actions is lame at best and unethical and duplicitous at worst. At a GOP debate last week he claimed to have made only $300,000 from the relationship and that he was paid as a "historian," giving the federally-backed home mortgage company "advice on precisely what they didn’t do,” which was to stop giving high-risk loans to borrowers with no or poor credit history. He later expanded his role to "strategic adviser."

"First of all, it wasn’t paid to me," he said this week. "Gingrich Group was a consulting firm that had lots of people doing things and we offered strategic advice." So, we're supposed to accept on face value that Gingrich does not personally profit from Gingrich Group revenue? Furthermore, the Freddie officials confirmed to Bloomberg that he never warned of a housing bubble and offered no criticism of the business model.

According to the Associated Press, Gingrich’s work with Freddie Mac started in 1999 after being brought in by the company’s top lobbyist, Mitchell Delk, to consult on legislative and regulatory issues, the company said at the time. He was paid approximately $30,000 a month into 2002. Freddie brought him back again four years later at $300,000 annually to help defend against attacks from conservatives.

So Gingrich appears to be lying, which is clearly such a pattern for him that it consistently and ultimately brings him down, as it is certain to do again now.

Back in 2008 Gingrich aggressively challenged Obama to distance himself from Freddie and Fannie by returning all campaign contributions. And at the recent debate, he arrogantly charged that those responsible for the housing crisis should be put in jail: "You ought to start with Barney Frank. Go back and look at the lobbyists he was close to at Freddie Mac." Perhaps what's good for the goose is good for the Gingrich...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

David Brooks is Wrong About the Penn State Rape

I have to take great issue with today's New York Times op-ed column by David Brooks. Titled Let's All Feel Superior, Brooks addresses the alleged Penn State rape of a 10-year-old boy by Jerry Sandusky, and the failure by assistant coach Mike McQueary, who witnessed this heinous act in the locker room shower in 2002, to intervene on the spot. His main supposition is that none of us truly knows what we would do in that very same situation until we're in "McQueary's shoes," and that it's easy for us to judge and condemn others when we might actually behave in the same manner.

Brooks calls this lack of action "Motivated Blindness," which he defines as "they don't see what is not in their interest to see." He then goes on to cite cases, such as the infamous Kitty Genovese murder in Queens, NY in 1964, where bystanders watched silently and did nothing as victims were beaten and killed. But what Brooks is doing here is not only over-intellectualizing McQueary's shameful behavior, but making broad and unfounded generalizations about society overall.

Contrary to Brooks' bizarre semi-excusing of McQueary's inaction, I suspect there are very, very few people who would witness a young boy of ten getting anally raped and not be compelled to immediately intervene, even with physical force. Speaking for myself, and as someone with four children, I am 1000% certain of what I would've done in that locker room. And there are few things in this world that I am as certain about. My reaction would've been visceral and swift. Without thought. Without thinking of any personal consequences or safety concerns. I would've ripped into Sandusky with everything I had and would've then attempted to detain him until police arrived. And I can't imagine any other decent, compassionate, caring human being acting differently. I simply cannot fathom anyone seeing this brutal act of savagery on a child and walking away, leaving a monster to continue his incomprehensible attack.

Sorry Brooks, I think your Motivated Blindness Club has very, very few members.

Monday, November 14, 2011

How Jon Huntsman Jr. Could Be the GOP Nominee

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and make an early prediction that Jon Huntsman Jr. is going to be the Republican nominee for president in 2012. By all accounts, the odds are I will be proven wrong. But I'm not so sure. I think the former Utah governor and Ambassador to China truly stands an excellent chance of winning.

To be sure, the GOP pack right now is in a state of disarray. Voters on the right are switching their allegiances as often as I cut my hair (about every four weeks). First they showed the love for Donald Trump, then Michelle Bachmann, then Rick Perry, then Mitt Romney, then Herman Cain and now the object of their disaffection is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. A new CNN poll shows Mitt and Newt in a virtual tie for the lead, while Cain, embroiled in an embarrassing, campaign-killing sex scandal, has dropped from 25% to 14%. I suspect it's only gonna get worse for Cain.

But here's where it gets very interesting and wide-open. The current crop of Republican candidates are akin to the 'wild girls' you dated while single. They're fun, edgy and perhaps a bit more racy then the gal you plan to settle down with someday. But when it's time to walk down the aisle, you want someone mama will love. Hence, Huntsman.

Romney's problem is that he cannot break out of his 23% range because voters and the Republican establishment truly dislike him. He flip-flops so much that Birkenstock should name a sandal after him. And, he's a Mormon. Add all this up and you have serious voter apprehension, which explains his utterly stagnant campaign.

Gingrich, on the other hand, is the popular new "old" kid at the dance. He's got the momentum, and he's benefiting by the implosions of the Bachmann, Perry and Cain campaigns. But he's got more skeletons in his closet than a medical lab at Harvard. Let's not forget why his own campaign near-imploded early in the race. It's not that he's risen to the top, it's simply that the top has sunk below him. But those skeletons won't go away. He cannot be considered a serious candidate as a result. Too much personal baggage to overcome.

That leaves Romney, who is bound to stumble somewhere, somehow. But even if he doesn't, all it takes is for voters in New Hampshire to support Huntsman and he becomes the new front runner. And the rest, they say, could be history.

In the end, what it boils down to is this: will early primary and caucus voters ultimately dump the wild girls and bring a nice girl home to mama? Huntsman's smart, witty and squeaky-clean, and with his impeccable bi-partisan credentials, diplomatic and foreign policy expertise, and moderate positions he just may be the prom queen voters want to send up against President Obama next November. On paper, Huntsman certainly has the best chance of beating him.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Suspend Football at Penn State

For the past several days now I've been literally sickened by the Penn State sexual abuse scandal and all the horrific images that get conjured up as a result. Nothing short of criminal charges and jail time would be a just punishment for those involved. This pathetic group includes the legendary but now disgraced head coach Joe Paterno; Mike McQueary, the then-28-year-old graduate assistant coach who witnessed the rape of a 10-year-old boy; athletic director Tim Curley; university vice president Gary Schultz; university president Graham Spanier; and that filthy piece of perverted trash Jerry Sandusky, whose reign of sexual terror on young boys most likely spans several decades. They knew of the crime(s), chose to do nothing and, worse, built a protective wall of silence around it. That makes them as complicit as Sandusky.

First off, what kind of grown man (can we please stop referring to McQueary as a "kid?") walks in on another grown man ass-raping a child and doesn't run over and beat the living shit out of him? What kind of human being witnesses that kind of sick evil perpetrated on an innocent, helpless boy and simply turns and walks away? This piece of amoral garbage goes home instead and tells his daddy about it, as if he saw some kid harmlessly bullying another kid in a schoolyard. They then told Paterno, Curley and Schultz. All did nothing. And no one called the police. Their behavior is beyond unconscionable.

And the spin? The "details" of the incident might not have been properly portrayed by McQueary. That he may have told Paterno it was some kind of "horseplay" or that something "inappropriate" had taken place, and not made a specific reference to sodomy. But does that really matter? Was the fact that a 50+ year old man and a 10-year-old boy were both naked in a locker room shower not enough? Would the fact that they were simply alone in a locker room not enough to raise a serious eyebrow? But let's keep the proper perspective here. By McQueary's own account, he witnessed Sandusky ramming his dick into this poor kid's anus. That this crime got watered down on any fucking level is beyond comprehension. How he lives with himself, how he sleeps at night, is unfathomable.

And for what? Football. Football took priority over the savage brutality perpetrated on this young victim. It was more important to protect the venerable Penn State's prestige and reputation than to protect little children from a vicious sexual predator and rapist. Those in the power seats shamefully and selfishly used that power to maintain the status quo and the $70-million that the football program generates. So beyond the shame, beyond the firings, beyond the potential criminal charges and jail sentences, the last and perhaps most fitting form of punishment would be to suspend the school's NCAA football status for 10 years and force upon it the very moral, ethical and human decency priorities it so woefully failed to recognize on its own. At Penn State, this scandal was all about football. So there should be no more football at Penn State.

And as far as all the fuss about Paterno, and whether the God of coaching deserves better treatment here? Fuck him and his iconic status. What we'll remember him by now is not his illustrious five-decade career, but rather how he de facto sanctioned the rape of little boys and then let the rapist stand, with other little boys, victims for sure, on his sidelines watching more Penn State football games.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gingrich Rises From the Ashes

A funny thing is happening in the Republican race for president: Newt Gingrich, with all his political and personal warts, is starting to look good again to conservative voters. I'm not sure it says more about the former House Speaker's credentials and overall appeal as much as it's a vote of no-confidence for the rest of the lame GOP pack. When Newt becomes your Great White Hope, you know your party's in trouble.

At the outset of the campaign Gingrich had promise, and then he quickly imploded. Appearing in May on NBC's Meet the Press Gingrich was asked about Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to scrap Medicare. "I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering," Gingrich said. "I don't think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate." Though I think he was absolutely correct and rational in his thinking, he was widely criticized and attacked by Ryan, Rush Limbaugh and many others in the party. Two days later he back-peddled and disingenuously tried to spin his way out of it on On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.

Then came the Tiffany debt scandal and the staff defections. It appeared as though Gingrich's campaign was as dead as a doornail. And then the rest of the GOP pack started talking. And skeletons started falling out of closets. National polls now have Gingrich running third behind Herman Cain and Mitt Romney. But Cain, the faux frontrunner who never really had a believable shot at the nomination, is currently embroiled in a growing sex scandal which is sure to put the nail in his political coffin. Romney, the-frontrunner-who-no-one-really-wants, has several major obstacles to overcome: he's a Mormon, he's not liked and he's flip-flopped so much that Birkenstock should name a sandal after him. And Rick Perry, who was once the GOP's Boy Wonder, has been dying a painfully slow death. He's so in over his head he can't even remember all the government departments he hates and would immediately shut down. Wednesday night's colossal debate gaffe will probably be his campaign-ending moment. It's certainly gonna be something that poli-sci students study for years to come.

While Newt's opponents are floundering, the momentum is with him. He's a master-debater and his resilience seems to be paying off. And timing is everything. So it's not such a stretch that he could end up with the nomination, especially if something negative about Romney should surface, or if he should stumble on policy. Remember, it's usually not the early frontrunners who end up with the nomination. While the Republican Party spent much of this year seducing anyone who isn't Romney to run-- Chris Christie and Mitch Daniels among them--the answer might've been under their trunks all along. Everyone loves an underdog.

Monday, November 07, 2011

It's Not Because Cain is Black

It's because I'm black!, cries Republican presidential front runner Herman Cain. But the rampant racism which Herman Cain has recently said no longer exists in America but which he now claims is as the root of the sexual harassment allegations against him, has left other prominent black conservatives, including Michael Steele, Ron Christie, J.C. Watts, Alan Keyes, Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, unscathed. Funny how those folks don't seem to be the victims of the same sort of "high-tech lynching" Cain supporters claim he's facing.

Cain has been the target of accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior towards three female employees of the National Restaurant Association while he headed that trade organization in the late 1990's. The scandal threatens to derail what was a high-flying campaign which recently landed him in the lead over rivals Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. The Cain camp, and the candidate himself, has appeared utterly unprepared and woefully inept at handling the fallout. Cain has stumbled publicly, appearing frustrated and combative with reporters when pressed for details, and has defended himself with charges of smear campaigns and racism by opponents, the media and liberals.

But what is bringing Cain down isn't his color, but rather his off-color comments and gestures he's been accused of by women who've felt harassed and threatened by him, and frightened and angry enough to have filled out complaint reports against him. And if the $45,000 he paid to one accuser for her silence is any indicator of what really happened, I'd say where there's smoke there's generally a fire ablaze...

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Remembering Adrienne Shelly

Today marks the 5-year anniversary of the passing of my late wife, the actor, writer and director Adrienne Shelly. Adrienne was the victim of a brutal murderer, a young construction worker, who attacked her while she was writing in the West Village apartment she once lived in and had kept as an office. She was a beautiful wife, a loving mother, an adoring daughter, a much loved sister, a fiercely loyal friend, and a very unique, gifted actor and filmmaker.

On this day we celebrate Adrienne's life, her accomplishments and the legacy she's left behind. It is in her honor that I started the Adrienne Shelly Foundation with a singular mission: to support women filmmakers. Since 2007 we've awarded 25 grants and scholarships through our partners, who include the Sundance Institute, Tribeca Film Institute, American Film Institute, Columbia University, Boston University, IFP, Women in Film, Rooftop Films and the Nantucket Film Festival. We’re very proud of these grantees, and even have among them Cynthia Wade, 2008 Oscar winner for her documentary, Freeheld, which ASF helped fund.

Tonight we launch our 4th Annual Celebrity eBay auction at 7pm EST. It's our biggest source for raising funds. Items up for bidding can be viewed at our preview site. We're offering breakfasts and lunches with folks like Paul Rudd, Jon Hamm, Michelle Williams, Meredith Vieira, Bill Hader, Cheryl Hines, Susie Essman, Rosanna Arquette, Mark Cuban, Jonathan Tisch, Andrew Tisch, Gina Gershon, Alison Brie and Danny Pudi, Rachael Harris & Angela Kinsey, and many others.

The auction also includes walk-ons on Community, Hung and the upcoming film "You Remind Me of Me;" set visits to Pan Am, Drop Dead Diva, Wrap Up Show (plus Howard Stern studio tour), The Good Wife and Castle; a Today Show tour with Al Roker (w/on-air spot); NY Giants Owners Box tix, plus field passes and signed Eli Manning helmet; VIP tickets w/Meet & Greets at Rachael Ray, Martha Stewart, Hardball with Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, E! News, The Soup, Joan Rivers; and VIP tickets to Two and a Half Men, Ellen, Letterman, Colbert, Daily Show, Chelsea Handler, and Real Time with Bill Maher.

Tomorrow night, Nov 2nd, we're hosting the first annual Adrienne Shelly Foundation Woman of Vision Salute in conjunction with The Museum of Modern Art's Film Plus program. We're honoring filmmaker Nicole Holofcener (Walking and Talking, Lovely & Amazing, Friends with Money, Please Give). We'll be screening Lovely & Amazing, starring Catherine Keener. Following the film there'll be a discussion between Nicole and Catherine.

For Ticket information, or to make a donation, please visit