It is time for someone to write a mournful ballad for the presidential campaign of Herman Cain, a man who sought the highest office in the land only to be felled by sex scandals and allegations of affairs, just when his chances of becoming the Republican nominee for president were increasing exponentially.
He suspended his campaign on Saturday instead of ending it permanently, leaving open the option of re-entering the race if the public decides to forgive him his many alleged trespasses of moral character. Since the chances of that happening are basically nil, Cain's dreams of living in the White House are over.
The end of his campaign also signals an end to the era where politicians could shrug off their sexual escapades as innocent mistakes, or at least something which should be overlooked in the big picture. For more than 20 years, starting with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and continuing through President Bill Clinton, politicians and other public officials have been able to portray their personal failings as being irrelevant when placed in the context of everything else.
Cain's problem, mainly, was that there wasn't anything else. He was never a serious candidate for president in that he wasn't trying to get elected as much as he was trying to promote the brand of Herman Cain, conservative genius and best-selling pundit.
His much-hyped 9-9-9 tax plan was a gimmick designed to fool those who want a simple and fair tax code. It would have given massive tax breaks to millionaires and hit hard the wallets of working-class men and women.
His knowledge of foreign affairs was, putting it mildly, sparse at best. He never seemed certain where certain countries were located and what their problems were, much less how to go about resolving them.
More bizarrely, he kept attributing one of his favorite sayings, "Life can be a challenge, life can seem impossible, but it's never easy when there's so much on the line," to an unnamed poet. The words, in fact, are lyrics from a Donna Summer song featured in a Pokemon movie.
For commentators and comedians, Herman Cain was a gift that kept on giving. They, as much as his supporters, should mourn his exit from the campaign. More than Clinton or George W. Bush, Cain was custom-built to provide comedic material.
That's gone now, as is his campaign, which seemed as if it were built upon eggshells. It could withstand one allegation of sexual harassment, maybe even two. But when an alleged ex-mistress came out of the woodwork, his notions of morality offended even other degenerates and conservatives, not to mention the growing class of conservative degenerates.
It must be no less unsettling to Cain that other politicians had gotten amnesty for their affairs, including Newt Gingrich, who, in an odd turn of events, has become the de facto frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.
John F. Kennedy's compulsive acts of promiscuity were widely known but went unreported at the time, as have every other president's before and after him with the exception of Clinton. In fact, the only presidents since Kennedy about whom sexual misconduct hasn't been alleged are Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama. Make of that what you will.
For a while, Cain seemed to have escaped the persistent rumors of his affairs, but even he gave up trying to defend himself after a while. When asked if his last accuser's claims might not be disproved through credit card receipts and travel logs, he only said, "Let's not play detective."
That's a far cry from "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," the technically correct but misleading statement by Clinton. It's not even the non-denial denial of Thomas, who claimed he was the victim of a "high-tech lynching" during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing.
If anything, Cain's too-brief campaign was a lesson with several points. First, that while Republicans pride themselves on electing purposefully ignorant candidates, Cain's credentials combined with his sexual escapades were too much even for them.
It also proved that racial progress is such that a black candidate with no qualifications is equally likely as a white candidate with no qualifications to be the subject of ridicule.
Still, it's tempting to feel sorry for Cain. For a few moments, he was the leading Republican candidate for president. With fewer accusers and a little more luck, he might have made it.
Just as he approached the summit of his dreams, he slipped and fell all the way to the bottom.
Those are also the ingredients of minor-keyed, subdued folk ballads and maybe someday someone will write a suitable song for the lofty ambitions and shattered hopes of Herman Cain.