Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Herman Cain's Waterloo?

On Sunday night Politico released a story that Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, while he was president of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, sexually harassed two women. According to the story Cain and the association he headed made payments to the women as part of severance. When approached about the subject Cain first said he didn’t recall any sexual harassment allegations against him. A few hours later he admitted that there was at least one woman who received payment but not two.

According to Cain, the damnable evidence was that he compared one woman’s height to his wife’s. As he relayed it to Greta Van Susteren,

“She was in my office one day, and I made a gesture saying - and I was standing close to her - and I made a gesture saying you are the same height as my wife. . . . And I brought my hand up to my chin saying: ‘My wife comes up to my chin.’ And that was put in (the complaint) as something that made her uncomfortable.”

Asked by columnist Charles Krauthammer on Fox News whether the attacks were racially motivated, Cain agreed.

Late Wednesday afternoon Drudge reported that a third woman was harassed by Cain but didn’t bring any formal accusations.

Lexicographer Samuel Johnson said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” In recent years some have contended that a racist is someone winning an argument with a liberal. In both cases, those are the labels people run to in desperate times. Reaching for the race card, Herman Cain may be realizing that the clock is about to strike midnight on his Cinderella campaign.

Conservatives have run to his defense. If Cain’s side of the story is true then it looks he himself was a victim of a bogus lawsuit in an age of bogus lawsuits, although if that was the case we might expect him to have remembered it.

But if there had been only one allegation that would be one thing. There were at least two accusations independent of each other and Cain did not even have the story straight about the one he has admitted. This is not a Clarence Thomas redux.

As Quin Hillyer of The American Spectator noticed,

“The allegations against Thomas came out of the blue only after he was nominated to the Supreme Court, and even then they came rather late in the process -- making them far more likely to have been spurred by pure politics. . . .

“There was no way they were politically motivated, because Cain had never been a candidate for anything. Furthermore, the allegations came not just from one disgruntled employee, but from two separate women.”

This isn’t ancient history. It isn’t even the first controversy of Cain’s campaign.

Among the notable gaffes of Cain’s campaign: claims there will be no Muslims in his administration, complete ignorance on the basics of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, contradictory statements about the extra-judicial killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, about prisoner exchanges, about abortion (in the same interview no less), and an inability to speak beyond the basics of his tax plan.

If the argument against a second term for Barack Obama is that he is an amateur completely overwhelmed by the office, why should Americans nominate and elect another who is perhaps even more amateurish?

The crux of the Cain matter is not the allegations of sexual harassment. Even if Cain is innocent and the payments were only to make the allegations go away it doesn't change the fact that Cain is a lousy candidate who can't take a consistent position and can't explain anything, even regarding factual events in which he was, in one way or another, an active participant.

Herman Cain may be a decent man who is competent at running businesses and who may also have been hit with spurious sexual harassment allegations over a decade ago. But if the missteps, misstatements, and changed stories of the Cain campaign as well as the candidate’s ignorance portend anything, a Cain administration would be nothing short of a fiasco.

Addendum: See Thomas Fleming's latest in the UK Daily Mail, "High Tech Lynchings."

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