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...

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