Measure everyone's behavior

Is this a case of the incorrigible force meeting the unreliable object?

You can’t tell without a program, it seems: Just when you think his accusers have presidential candidate Herman Cain looking like an incurable Lothario, you get a peek into their own lives – and you see chronic complainers and maybe even Sexual Harassment Lottery players.

Indeed, two women out of the four accusers that we now have names and faces for have their own baggage that gives a dispassionate observer pause.

Sharon Bialek, who claims Cain groped her and propositioned her in return for career help in 1997, “is a complete golddigger,” an alleged friend told the New York Post. “Most of her jobs ended in termination. It’s always the employer’s fault, not hers. This is a lady who lives off the system. She is hellbent on finding a way of never having to work and living the lifestyle she wants to live, a very affluent lifestyle.”

The other woman whose identity we know, Karen Kraushaar, received a cash settlement after complaining about Cain at the National Restaurant Association – and then “complained three years later at her next job about unfair treatment, saying she should be allowed to work from home after a serious car accident and accusing a manager of circulating a sexually charged e-mail,” the Associated Press reports.

One news report alleges that at that next job, Kraushaar demanded “thousands of dollars in payment, a reinstatement of leave she used after the accident earlier in 2002, promotion on the federal pay scale and a one-year fellowship to Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.”

Sounds like a Christmas wish list.

Her complaint at the Immigration and Naturalization Service where she worked was over her request to work from home after the accident – but she had also apparently requested a work-from-home deal before the accident. She also complained that an e-mail a manager had circulated – joking about how men and women are like computers – was sexually offensive.

So, she has a pattern of complaints, and an apparent hair-trigger.

This is not to suggest that either woman is lying about Cain. We simply don’t know. It’s just that, if his behavior is going to be measured, theirs must be too. And their own behaviors don’t enhance their credibility. It doesn’t help, either, that in post-Anita-Hill America, sexual harassment accusations have become trivialized by both their quantity and quality – awfully easy to make, and often quite unfair.

Still, the sheer number of accusers makes one wonder what’s afoot.

If you were on a civil jury hearing this case, you might be inclined toward the women’s side of things – but maybe not to the point of finding in their favor. Yet.

It has been suggested that Cain’s accusers ought to appear together in one press conference. That may be necessary if primary voters are to come to grips with whom they believe.

We hope that occurs quickly, though. There are too many crises nipping at our heels to dance around this issue much longer.

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