We don’t know what may have transpired between Herman Cain and his colleagues at the National Restaurant Association back in the 1990s. We don’t know who’s making the allegations that he may have done or said some untoward things to a couple of women who then complained.
But we do know that, once made into a national story, the allegations better be backed up with evidence – or there should be hell to pay for those making them.
We also know that the story on the website Politico.com plays right into the hands of those who want the Barack Obama presidency preserved, whatever it does to the nation and its future. And it fulfills the prediction we made that the media would attack any and all Republican candidates personally and relentlessly. Did you see anything like this surrounding the candidacy of Barack Obama in 2008?
And we know that, unless there are shocking new details regarding the ambiguous allegations, Cain’s behavior doesn’t even approach that of the sitting president of the 1990s – after which we were all told that personal conduct has nothing to do with public office. What’s changed, except the political party of the person in question?
We also know that, while true sexual harassment is repugnant and a serious matter, the state of sexual harassment law since Anita Hill is essentially that it’s anything an alleged victim says it is. And anyone can allege anything. Perhaps if the allegations against Mr. Cain result in anything positive, it will be a public discussion of that standard.
Mr. Cain says the allegations are baseless. If he’s shown to be wrong, that will end his candidacy. He’s already rightly earned criticism for failing to respond to the charges coherently and compactly.
But a Politico.com spokesman Monday tried to pretend as if the website could just throw this story out there – using anonymous sources with no details or concrete evidence – and be able to just step away and not claim responsibility for it. Indeed, Politico joined in the chorus of criticism of Cain Tuesday for his response. Sorry, Politico, it’s not that simple. You made the allegations, now you’d better have some evidence. Anyone in journalism for any amount of time knows that one’s anonymous sources had better be impeccable and unimpeachable.
It’s up to Politico to prove the allegations true, not for Cain to prove them false. If Politico fails and the allegations are ultimately perceived as yet another cheap shot at a conservative candidate – as the media took at John McCain a few years ago, while trying to ignore an actual love-child scandal involving Democrat John Edwards – then it may only invigorate and grow Cain’s supporters.
And again, even if Cain is found to have said some off-color things some 15 or 20 years ago, that would hardly rise to the level of what actually occurred in the White House at about the same time.
Regardless of this story’s disposition, it is yet another distraction from what we ought to be talking about, which is the state this country is in and what to do about it. As long as we’re parsing what everyone said or did 20 years ago in some search for the perfect human being, we’ll never get the economy moving again and get the nation back to a position of strength.
We’re a couple hundred years old. When are we going to grow up?