Believing the unbelievable

Tuesday morning on “AirTalk,” we reported on GOP Presidential candidate Herman Cain’s conference call with aides in which he seemed to pave the way toward dropping out of the race.  This followed Monday’s claim from an Atlanta woman that she and Cain had, until just before the campaign was launched, been romantically involved for 13 years.

I find this whole story unbelievable.  I don’t mean that I disbelieve either person’s account.  What doesn’t make sense to me is that if Cain and the woman were in a relationship, why he didn’t figure out how to deal with it first.  By the same token, I don’t see any reason why a woman who’s known Cain for 13 years would falsely claim they were lovers.  Neither scenario makes sense.

The nature of their friendship or relationship may never be known.  However, the allegation is almost certain to hurt an already reeling campaign.  As you read this, Cain may have already dropped out.  If so, it’s another example of the power of allegations of sexual behavior to determine many a political fate.

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It's especially important to give thanks in difficult times

This Thanksgiving season couldn’t come at a better time, as our government drives us to fury and our economy drives us to…well, name your coping mechanism.  This is the most negativity I’ve sensed from the American public in my adult lifetime.  Folks are struggling, angry, and don’t have a lot of hope about what’s going to pull us out of partisan standoffs and economic malaise.  Even back in my childhood and teen years of the Vietnam War and race riots, there was a sense of hopefulness amid the rancor.  People really believed the war would eventually end and that racial equality would one day arrive.

However, this time around, I don’t hear many hopeful words about government problem solving nor economic resurgence.  We’re in the dumps with nothing to look forward to but uncertainty.

So why is this a great time for Thanksgiving?  Because, in the aggregate, things are rarely as bad or as good as we perceive them.  We’re down now not just because of objectively tough times, but because we’re angry, frustrated, and getting burned out, too.  Thanksgiving gives us a chance to briefly stand back from the accident scene and be thankful we’ve survived.  This is also our chance to remember that life is about more than the economy and government.

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Where does Occupy go from here?

At least for now, there won’t be any tents at the park where Occupy Wall Street has been protesting for two months.  Other sites are being considered, but it’s not clear what form the protests will now take.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck says he’s moving toward shutting down the City Hall camp.  The future of local protests will, similarly, be in doubt.

For me, the bigger question is whether this movement can connect with the larger portion of the “99-percent,” who don’t find the Occupy movement culturally familiar or attractive.  A huge portion of the country shares the anger, frustration, and critique provided by Occupy, but sees it as a liberal, not populist, movement.  If Occupy is going to catch fire, I think it needs to tap into that populist sensibility.

However, it’s not clear to me that participants in Occupy have a cultural affinity for, or knowledge of, working class residents in the heartland.  Those are the voters who decided the elections in favor of both Bush and Obama.  They weren’t comfortable with John Kerry, but responded to Barack Obama’s message of hope.  They’re angry with Washington, don’t feel they have a voice, and will most likely again decide next year’s election. Once we better know the demands of the Occupy movement, we’ll also have an idea whether they coincide with fixes that significant numbers of Americans will support. 

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The power of mental images

Monday morning on “AirTalk,” we opened with the non-detailed allegations by three unidentified women that GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain had sexually harassed them during the time he headed the National Restaurant Association trade and lobbying group. 

Our focus was on how, despite the reports and Cain’s initially poorly prepared response, he was still getting significant support in polls of GOP voters.  This didn’t seem surprising to me, given the vagueness of the allegations and the range in seriousness the claims could represent, even if they were true.

However, this morning’s news conference with Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred and her client, Sharon Bialek of Chicago, significantly raises the challenge for Cain.  Regardless of the truth of her claim, her specific recounting of his alleged effort to grope her and push her head onto his lap now creates a mental picture that the other allegations didn’t.

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Internet dependency

If you’re like me, you’ve asked yourself many times how we functioned before the Internet.  It’s true that some things were better before we became tethered to the online world.  Nevertheless, most of our jobs are constructed in a way that now requires digital contact at all times.

I was reminded of this Wednesday morning when KPCC’s Internet connection was lost just minutes before “AirTalk” began.  Not only did we lose our ability to gather important last-minute information on our guests and topics, but we also lost the ability to create our daily “AirTalk” page that features each of our segments.  Without the updated page, we had no ability to take listener comments or questions, apart from phone calls.

Though our online component for listeners started just a couple of years ago, I felt as though I’d lost an important way of connecting with listeners.  It is funny how quickly we not only adapt to a new normal, but how that loss hits us.

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