The Salting of Herman Cain

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By Wallace Henley, Special to CP
November 15, 2011|10:28 am

No leader is worth his or her salt who has not been salted.

Anyone who aspires to leadership must be prepared for the sodium sting. Candidates must not be stunned at accusations, stutter in an attempt at hasty dismissal, or succumb to brain-freeze.

The corollary: Anyone not prepared for the sting of the salting is not ready to lead. It is the salting that qualifies a man or woman for leadership.

Become fresh meat for the grinders of public opinion, and you have set up yourself for the salting. The stinging accusations stored up for years finally come out of the dark places where the salt is preserved so it will not lose its zing.

The moment Herman Cain surged to the top of the polls he was plopped out for the salting. A quintet of women have dug out the stinging allegations, and are chafing them in like the guy at my favorite barbeque joint covering a slab of ribs with dry-rub.

If Herman Cain and his team weren’t ready for the salting they were not ready to lead the nation.

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The Nixon White House where I worked is a case in point. I was 29 when I became an aide to the President. Back in the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius, youth was the heroic ideal of the establishment elites. I spoke frequently for the administration on college campuses. “One-third of the Nixon White House staff is 30 or under!” I would trumpet. We were singing to the cadence of the mobs then shouting, “Don’t trust anyone over 30!”

My inference was that the nation was happy and secure because it was in the hands of the Great Untainted. We were too fresh to have been corrupted by rancid Washington politics. We would bring the “greening of America” to the highest levels of government.

Actually, we were the Great Unsalted. We had not been seasoned by the fury of battle-fire. We were not salted by long experience in feeling the bite and learning to endure. We gave the nation the Watergate scandal that brought down a presidency. Old guys helped, but my eyes can see all the bright young faces ready to do whatever it took to keep us in power.

But there were other faces, too few of them. They bore the deep lines of people who had been through agonizing saltings. Harry S. Dent, my immediate boss at the White House, was one of them. Nixon trusted Harry so much that the masters of the White House wanted him fired. Nixon refused, but the Nixon inner circle pushed Harry out to its edge, and almost out the door.

The final straw for the inner team was when Harry was asked to perform a “dirty trick” against an opposing candidate. There was nothing illegal about the assignment. However, it was stupid, and Harry was seasoned enough to know it. He refused, warning it would embarrass the President, which it did. The masters couldn’t demote Harry in position because Nixon wouldn’t allow it, but they could demote Harry in location. We lost our fancy suite in the White House proper, and were banished to the Old Executive Office Building, next to the presidential mansion.

“Harry Dent is too much of a ‘Boy Scout,’” one of Nixon’s senior aides told someone. Harry would be excluded from many of the senior meetings where the web of the Watergate cover-up was woven.

Harry Dent had spent more than a decade as a senior Senate staffer. He had felt the fiery salt in his politically-ripped wounds and scars many times. Because he was thoroughly salted, Harry was qualified to give wise counsel to the President – advice that might have saved Nixon. But the Great Unsalted did all possible to limit his access to the President.

Along the way, Harry made a serious commitment of his life to Christ. He transitioned from being a “socially expedient” Christian to being a serious disciple of Jesus Christ. Harry would finish his career as director of the Billy Graham Lay Center in Asheville, N.C.

“You are the salt of the earth,” Jesus told His disciples. Harry was “salt” in the White House. He proved the point Herman Cain and all the rest have learned, are learning, and will learn: No leader is worth his or her salt who has not been salted.

Wallace Henley, a former Birmingham News staff writer, was an aide in the Nixon White House, and congressional chief of staff. He is a teaching pastor at Second Baptist Church, Houston, Texas.
 

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