WHAT ARE THE THREE KEY QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER WHEN EVALUATING THE HERMAN CAIN HARASSMENT STORY?
- The original accusations of sexual harassment.
- The recent report by Politico that they occurred.
- The fallout.
1. Concerning the original charges. For now we don't have enough facts to fairly evaluate the case. We can’t judge the veracity of the accusations, or how they might reflect on Cain's suitability for office. Significant settlements were made, but sometimes parties settle just to stay out of court. Any statements about the merits of the case itself – by Cain's detractors or supporters - currently have no value.
2. Concerning the 10/31 Politico story reporting the charges. Stories like this are part of the territory of running for office. They aren’t “attacks” if they report an event that took place. It is fair for the public to be interested in the past legal entanglements of a presidential candidate, and the duty of the press to report on them. Politico is not a tabloid rag. They delivered this piece in a style consistent with all of their reporting. It included descriptions of the tone of the response they and others got from the Cain camp, but it was factual and sourced.
3. Concerning the fallout. Any one of us, let alone professional campaign staff, could have predicted how this would go. For better or worse, this is how we do it in this country. If you run for office, no stone in your life is left unturned. Cain and his crew should have been prepared with a defusing response before he even announced his run. After now-legendary bumbling on Cain’s part, his conservative media supporters didn't do him any favors with their bizarre commentary. They injected the question of racial victimization into a story about a candidate who has doggedly insisted that it “shouldn't always be about color.” They made a convoluted connection between points one and two above, suggesting that the accusations themselves, which occurred in the 90's, were part of a liberal conspiracy to destroy a presidential candidate in 2011.
We all know where this goes from here. It gets increasingly complicated, and sordid. We should take responsibility as citizens to keep carefully separating points one and two above. On the first point, we will inevitably hear more about the charges, and Republican voters can decide for themselves how they reflect on Herman Cain as a potential President. On the second point, all of us should pay attention to who in the media handles the story with integrity.