It didn’t take long for the vultures who circle the fields of American politics to pounce on Herman Cain, with undocumented allegations that are drawn right from the playbook of dirty tricks. Clearly, if Cain was not perceived as a threat and a viable candidate, he would not merit such attention. And while attention for the leak has focused on the Rick Perry campaign (the old “staffer” leak), no one knows the provenance of the initial information – perhaps even from another campaign or even another party.
Two questions present: what if the allegations are false? And what if the allegations are true?
To date, the anonymous accusations boil down to what, at worse, is boorishness, and at best, a lack of chivalry. Even for the sexual harassment industry – and it is an industry – this is quite tame. Every decent person can recognize that unwanted physical contact between a male and a female is, and should be, a crime, and that persistent verbal harassment – pathetic attempts at humor or seduction – should be actionable. One can even subscribe to the notion that a “hostile work environment” can be created that justifies the involvement of the justice system.
But a one-time joke, or a spurned offer of romance, neither of which affects job performance, promotions, salaries or standing? It is easy to see why those are distasteful and objectionable, but much harder to see how the courts and lawyers should be involved. Attorneys are quite familiar with two notions – nuisance settlements and deep pockets – that are both inducements to litigation. For most cases and clients, especially when the allegations are mild and certainly when they are false but relatively innocuous, it is fiscally prudent to just settle for a small amount of money than to litigate – and even prevail – while paying a much greater amount in legal fees. It is just more cost effective to settle. (Back in the day, I represented a number of people who were innocent but pleaded guilty to non-criminal offenses and paid a fine, rather than pay a substantial amount to a lawyer – to wit: me – to defend them to the great moral victory. It simply made no sense to miss endless days of work and pay legal fees when the stakes were not that great.) A similar dynamic occurs in negligence cases, where insurance companies routinely settle “nuisance” claims when the cost of litigation is excessive. It is sad that the system works like that, but it does.
And businesses, like insurance companies, usually have deep pockets, which is the reason that they are sued for idle comments that bear a randy message and not your average construction worker whose random comments are far more lascivious but who lacks money to pay.
Fabricated sexual harassment claims in the business world are as common as fabricated sexual molestation charges are in divorce cases. They both have the advantage that the accusation is tantamount to a conviction, and the accused bears a presumption of guilt, not innocence. They are powerful weapons to wield, and the only inhibition is decency, a quality that is not as widely dispersed across society as we would like. An aggrieved spouse, like a disgruntled employee, can fire this arrow, and once it crosses the barest threshold of credibility – i.e., the accuser is not a raving lunatic – the accusations must be dealt with, defended, depositions taken, trials held or, most likely, settlements reached.
These Cain cases, settled as they were for incredibly small sums, fit this pattern well, with one additional wrinkle. The settlements are always accompanied by non-disclosure clauses, binding each side to silence. That is the point of the money – to make the case go away. It is therefore fascinating that allegedly, one of the alleged victims, has now offered to tell her story publicly, which she should, once she returns the money, with interest, to the National Restaurant Association that paid her.
All of the above assumes that the charges and claims are frivolous. What if they are not – what if each allegation is true and Cain is guilty of…we know not what but it certainly made some women “uncomfortable”?
I am not sure it means much of anything, although the sordid events tell their own side story. Clearly, a double standard exists in politics, wherein Republicans and conservatives are judged harshly for this type of misconduct, and Democrats and liberals are given a pass. Two words suffice, Bill Clinton, but some elaboration is necessary. Today’s news reported that the first three days of the Cain business generated some 50 stories from the major networks compared to just seven stories, total, for candidate Clinton’s three crude accounts in 1992 in their first three days. And Clinton’s accusers had names and faces. Senator Bob Packwood (R) was driven from the Senate because of his uncontrollable kissing disease; Senator Ted Kennedy (D) was re-elected to the Senate numerous times, and became a presidential candidate, after leaving a woman in his car to die, or something worse than that.
Of course, I don’t really mind the double standard, except when the accusers carve out an exemption for themselves. Then, their pursuit of moral excellence is expedient and hypocritical. And it is good to know that the accusations presuppose some moral norms, whose violation triggers some reaction. But it is still phony. Anyone can be sued for anything, and the story remains, even if dismissed, certainly if settled. There is no harm in suing, because in America, the loser is rarely assessed the costs of the other side, as is common in the rest of the world.
Assuming there was no physical contact, no groping, no intimidation, and no serial harassment – as the facts that have emerged to date reveal – then do these allegations (making some women “uncomfortable”) disqualify Herman Cain from the presidency ? It is hard to see why. This whole narrative challenges many of the feminist shibboleths, especially the equality of men and women. “Equal” is a poor term; men and women are different, not equal. One would laugh, out loud, at a man who claimed to be offended (and sued) because someone made him “uncomfortable.” In a normal world, whoever doesn’t like a joke, is allowed to say “that is not funny” and walk away, and whoever is crudely asked to a hotel room by a man not her husband is allowed to say, “Not if you were the last man on earth.” Those putdowns should end the discussion, and if there are no further consequences, should never give rise to litigation. That, of course, is in a normal world.
Our word is not normal, is exceedingly litigious, and many Americans have used lawsuits to enrich themselves or shield themselves from the consequences of their own actions. For example, an employee about to be fired can inoculate himself (or herself) from termination by making the appropriate charges. At worst, you can buy yourself a nice severance package and save your pride. It happens.
That is not to say that one’s private life should be off-limits when running for a public position. One’s private life often sheds light on one’s values and true personality. Those who discounted, for example, Bill Clinton’s cheatin’-lyin’ ways behind closed doors should not be surprised that he outright lied to PM Netanyahu (first term) when he promised Netanyahu that if he came to Wye and an agreement was reached, he could take Jonathan Pollard back with him to Israel. Clinton simply lied (this, first-hand knowledge, from a participant at Wye). A lying private life eventually maneuvers its way into one’s public dealings as well. And Clinton remains quite popular.
It is sad, but you could see this coming a mile away. It is one reason why many people – sensible people – eschew politics altogether. Because so much money and power is at stake, it often attracts people with character issues, and attacks from others with even greater character flaws. Cain has revealed himself to be, at best, a prudent businessman in settling and disposing these claims, and at worst, a lout, if not just a typical man. The first is his main qualification for the presidency, and the second is not at all a disqualification. The anti-Cain forces have come alive; but if he is to fail in his quest, let it be for his policies and experience, not for these piffles.

9 responses to “THE CAIN MUTINY

  1. I live on a planet where words have meanings. Have you seen documents ? Then what transcribed is undocumented. Was what transpired proven ? Then they are allegations. As I noted, a settlement proves nothing about guilt or innocence.
    And has sexual “assault” even been alleged ? Not to my knowledge, and yet you chose to use that phrase. Strange.
    Perhaps you should read twice before commenting – words matter.

  2. I think your assumptions about what I would have written – when I didn’t – says much more about your character than it does about mine.
    Face it – you oppose Cain because he is black. Therefore, you are a racist.
    How sad.


  3. Rabbi,
    If I understand you correctly, your position is as follows:
    1) The allegations are merely allegations, and are probably untrue.
    2) Even if they are true, this should not disqualify Cain from the presidency because such action is “typical” for men (or men in politics).

    1) does seem a little disingenuous, does it not? Honestly, if the media had reported that Obama had sexually harassed employees while he was a senator, I think you would be taking his guilt for granted.

    On 2), I’m very confused. Do you mean to say that you don’t at all mind having a president who has sexually harassed employees (and de facto, engaged in some manner of infidelity to his wife)? Do you think that we should be supportive of leaders who have displayed such character flaws? What kind of message does that send to our children? Would you feel the same way about, say, a potential candidate for a rabbinic position?
    Finally, even if you don’t think being a sexual harasser should be a complete bar to the presidency, wouldn’t you strongly prefer a candidate who has not sexually harassed employees? Unless you’re (very questionably) assuming that all the Republican candidates have engaged in sexual impropriety…

  4. So, you deleted comments, Rabbi? Hmmm.

    Why are you defending Cain so strongly? Maybe he is an immoral person and thus should not be president?

  5. The truth is that I have not, and do not endorse, candidates. It would be presumptuous to assume that my opinion matters. The Gemara (Yoma 22b) states that a leader should have some skeletons in his closet – but I find it incredibly distasteful that candidates are brought down this way. If only perfect people are sought, then we will wind up with the grossly imperfect – in politics, marriage, the Rabbinate, business, etc. And the double standard (Clinton ? Kennedy ?) grates, as well as the very notion that anonymous or (in today’s news) 20- years-too-late accusers come out of the woodwork and make their accusations, which, true or false, are impossible to defend.
    Interestingly, it is forbidden according to the Torah to accuse another person of something outside the context of a court case in which there are witnesses and credible evidence. Imagine if Cain responded: “Hey, I remember her. She came on to me when she begged for a job!” That would be something. Good movie plot. (It’s been done already.)
    That is why the matter reeks of unfairness. Add to that the general immorality of the American scene since the 60s, it would be surprising if other women with an agenda did not suddenly appear and accuse any candidate of being a cad, a bad date, or worse.
    Thus, press charges or shut up. Don’t settle for nuisance money, unless your real agenda is money. Watch for the anonymous women to sell their stories.
    On another matter, most of the Republican field appeals to me, but that is for another time.

  6. Clinton’s skeletons and woes were heavily pursued by the press in 1992 and beyond, but the electorate didn’t care enough so he still won. Maybe the same will happen to Cain but there is no double standard. The press brings down Democrats just as well as Republicans. Anthony Weiner, anyone?

  7. It doesn’t matter who appeals to you, Rabbi, it matters who gives us the best chance to beat Obama. Cain does not, esp. with the scandal, but even without the scandal. I don’t love Romney but he is the best of the sorry bunch that gives us a chance to beat Obama

    We don’t have a really good candidate unfortunately.

  8. Yaakov,

    I don’t know why this blog’s double standard surprises you. This blog is always quick to point out perceived double standards committed by the left but rarely if ever points out those committed by the right (creating a double double standard, or “triple standard”, if you will):

    ***This blog claims that Democrats are given a pass on sexual affairs, while Republicans are chastised. I seem to recall the Newt Gingrich-led House of Representatives making a federal case (literally, making a federal case) out of President Clinton’s extramarital affairs while Gingrich was carrying on an extramarital affair of his own. Not to mention the litany of Republican congressmen (off the top of my head: Foley, Haggard, Craig, Allen, but there were definitely others) who made chastising homosexuals and supporting legislation denying rights to their openly gay citizens a part of their political platform, all the while carrying on a homosexual lifestyle behind close doors.
    ***This blog has repeatedly chastised Obama and Democrats for “bankrupting the nation”, rarely, if ever, mentioning that it was a Republican administration and Congress that is responsible for the overwhelming majority of our nation’s current deficit
    ***This blog (and its author) are part of a larger movement that has attempted to re-define “pro-Israel” as pro-Likud/pro-settlements/pro-Greater Israel. This movement creates an absurd double standard wherein criticism of the Israeli government’s from the left is deemed to be anti-Israel and such critics labeled as hostile to Israel, or even anti-Semitic, whereas as critics of Israel from the right (be it of the Oslo accords, the disengagement from Gaza, the Shalit swap, or countless other examples) are courageous and loyal dissidents. If a Democrat suggests that maybe it is hypocritical and not in Israel’s long-term interests to build settlements on lands that Israel claims it will eventually cede as part of a Palestinian state, they are “throwing Israel under the bus.” However, if the Republican Congress votes to defund the PA against the wishes of the Israeli government, not a word is spoken.

    Which brings me to Cain. The blog contrasted Obama and Cain, suggesting that Obama has constantly blamed his struggles on his predecessor instead of accepting the blame on his own shoulders (and as an aside, anyone who thinks that between inheriting two wars and a recession, Obama wasn’t dealt a garbage hand is just lying to themselves), whereas Cain would never (or at least, would very likely not) be guilty of such behavior. Yet, in the weeks that followed, Cain has done nothing but blame others for the situation he currently finds himself in. As John Dickerson has written for Slate, Cain has blamed the following parties: the media, Rick Perry, the Republican establishment, disgruntled former colleagues, “a troubled woman,” the “machine that wants to keep a businessman out of the White House” and the Democratic machine. (This last assertion is particularly delusional, as a Cain nomination would almost certainly lead to an Obama landslide.) Cain has blamed everyone he could possibly think of for his predicament. Everyone except himself, that is. He gives himself a total pass. We don’t know yet for sure exactly what happened with each of these women, but the fact that there have been several accusations against him HAS to mean something. To borrow a line often linked to mythical “Rebbe stories”, it’s possible that not all of these accusations are 100% true, “but they don’t tell stories like that about you and me.”

  9. A Light weight. He can’t beat Obama

    Herman Cain’s ‘oops’ moment on Libya
    By Chris Moody | The Ticket – 15 hrs ago
    Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has struggled throughout the campaign with foreign affairs, but even after adding new foreign policy advisers, he’s still having trouble.
    During a videotaped discussion with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorial board, Cain flubbed a straightforward question about whether he agreed with President Barack Obama’s decision to devote American resources to the uprising in Libya. Cain paused for several seconds, but could not offer a clear answer.
    “President Obama supported the uprising correct? President Obama called for the removal of Gaddafi? Just want to make sure we’re talking about the same thing before I say yes, I agree or no, I didn’t agree,” Cain said. “I do not agree with the way he handled it for the following reasons. Nope that’s a different one. I gotta go back. I got all this stuff twirling around in my head. Specifically what are you asking me if I agree or don’t agree with President Obama?”
    Cain went on to criticize Obama for the way he “assessed the situation” in Libya, but said he “would have supported” the uprising against Moammar Gadhafi.