Friday, November 4, 2011

Herr Herman the Harasser?

Doubtful, I say.  News broke last week that a Repub. presidential hopeful, Herman Cain, was alleged to have committed sexual harassment multiple times throughout the 1990s.  One of the times was in 1999, while he served as head of the National Restaurant Association.  According to, one accuser had reported to her attorney that she was subjected to several "inappropriate behaviors and unwanted advances from" the Association's CEO.  Of course, the first two accusers agreed to a substantial monetary settlement (five figures), thereby resolving their complaints.  The third accuser stated that, despite the sexual harassment, she had decided against filing a formal complaint, according to HuffPost.  A variety of prominent GOP-associated ideologues came to Cain's defense: Donald Trump and Fred Thompson, among others, registered their concerns about the allegations and media's treatment of Cain.

A natural question reveals itself: why now?  That is to say, why are these eleven year old complaints presenting themselves at this stage of the campaign?  I think both Trump and Thompson are correct when they assert that Cain's month long surge in the polls, with its accompanying media interest, has prompted an effort to derail his campaign.  I am sadly reminded of Clarence Thomas' confirmation hearings in 1991, when Anita Hill accused the then-nominated Supreme Court justice of sexual harassment, while both were employed at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  Those hearings are now infamous and for good reason.  Members of Congress subjected Thomas to an undignified (read: hostile) attack; Hill's allegations contributed to the environment of Congressional ire.  Of course, little came of the allegations, and Thomas was eventually confirmed.

I should note that I am not a fan of Herman Cain.  His "9-9-9 Plan" leaves much to be desired, and I am not warm to his service at (or, really, to) the Kansas City FED.  He is mostly a distraction, but his treatment by the political establishment, following these allegations, deserves wide-spread condemnation.  A monetary settlement, short of a full investigation, is not an admission of guilt.  If Cain did commit sexual harassment, he should be rightly investigated and appropriately disciplined.  The evidence is lacking, but the fallout could be great.

In our politically correct society, the charge of "sexual harassment" is particularly acidic.  The accuser is often given the benefit of the doubt, as great scrutiny is dispatched onto the accused.  Thomas was able to avoid the stain and it appears that Cain, too, may be able to withstand the charges, given that his current standing in the polls has not diminished.

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted this week has Romney in the lead at 24% and Cain closely behind at 23%.  A Rasmussen poll, also conducted this week, found that, among likely Republican voters, 26% would vote for Cain, while 23% would vote for Romney.  Of course, these polls are focused on GOP voters, so it is difficult to determine if Cain has broad-spectrum appeal.

To be sure, Cain and his camp have to marginalize these resurgent allegations before they morph into a national campaign that derails his candidacy.  Cain, with calm determination, has to strike at the heart of the claims.

Herman's political opponents are going for maximum political return on these charges, and the Godfather must, for the wellbeing of his own campaign, stop the momentum.  If not, Hermann may be forced to add another title to his collection: that of harasser.  

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