A Moment for Two Deep Breaths

“These are the two natures of man,” she said. “Never forget them, because someday you will be King, and Kings grow to be great and tall – as tall as dragons in their ninth moltings.”

“Father isn’t great and tall,” objected Peter. Roland was, in fact, rather short and bowlegged…

Sasha smiled. “He is, though. Kings grow invisibly, Peter, and it happens all at once, as soon as they grasp the scepter and the crown is put on their heads . . . Kings grow most awfully big, and that’s why they have to be specially careful, for a very big person could crush smaller ones under his feet just taking a walk, or turning around, or sitting down quickly in the wrong place. Bad Kings do such things often. I think even good Kings cannot avoid doing them sometimes.”

– From The Eyes of the Dragon

A number of sensational allegations about some inappropriate behavior on the part of Herman Cain are floating around the Internet today. I’ve carefully avoided saying anything about this fracas until now but I find myself in at least partial disagreement with much of what has been said here and elsewhere on the subject thus far, so I thought I would throw in my $.02 USD, for whatever it is worth (adjusting for inflation).

The first thing I think it is necessary to say is that the general tenor of the allegations has moved beyond allegations of vague inappropriate comments and gestures to allegations that are considerably more serious. We are walking into territory now where the allegations, if true, would destroy Herman Cain publicly both as a candidate for President, and a candidate for any other office he might seek in the future, and furthermore as a prominent spokesman for the GOP. I find that the way these charges were reported by another prominent conservative website today was irresponsible and reckless. The story was written in such an intentionally vague way that it was possible for the reader to infer anything from a woman regretting a one night stand to an actual rape committed by Herman Cain. Later, after the damage had been done, this website posted corrections which changed significant details of the story at the bottom of the story and on the second page, where the casual reader would not see them unless they bothered to click the “Next” at the bottom of the screen. Given the nature of the allegations and the materiality of the corrections that were intentionally buried, I can only conclude that this piece was an intentional hatchet job and that its rollout was maliciously intended to cause the maximum political damage to Herman Cain.

This conclusion leads to some necessary things that I think need to be said about both the way we as conservatives treat our primary candidates and the particulars of Herman Cain’s alleged behavior. More below the fold…

First, I recognize that “politics ain’t beanbag.” Anyone who throws their hat into the ring of the most hotly contested political race in the country must know that intense scrutiny will follow from the media, other candidates, and Democrat candidates. If Herman Cain knew that these allegations were out there (and it is virtually inevitable that he did), then the possibility that they might surface should of course have entered into his calculus when deciding whether to run in the first place (furthermore, the fact that Cain did not get out in front of this before someone else had the chance to fire the shot for him is just one failure in Cain’s lamentable handling of this affair – a handling which may well show that he lacks the necessary political skill to win in the general).

All that having been said, I am discouraged at least to some extent by the glee with which some are receiving the news and then disseminating it as fact. At this point, we have no names, no statements that have been sourced by any identifiable person, and only thirdhand recollections of facts from anonymous people that have been sensationalized into a “story” and passed on unscrupulously. This is sufficient for us to conclude that a man’s entire political career and perhaps a significant portion of his personal life should be destroyed? A man who has, by all accounts, been a loyal advocate of conservative causes for years? If Barack Obama was behind these attacks I have no doubt that we would all rally to Cain’s defense and laugh at the flimsiness of this proof and mock the sensationalistic way in which it was being reported. But since there’s a primary going on, I guess it’s fair game. It’s depressing.

Here is an important question: What if no further proof is forthcoming and Herman Cain wins the nomination? Should we participate in the fatal wounding of the guy who is currently leading most primary polls on non-ideological grounds, based on this evidence? Or perhaps more realistically, are we prepared to hand the nomination over to Romney before we even know what the score is on these facts? As Rush would say, some of Cain’s enemies are eschewing the quality of the proof in favor of the seriousness of the allegations. I find this to be an unworthy tactic against a pretty conservative Republican.

It may well be that the charges leveled against Cain are true (although we are a long way from being able to say that with literally any degree of certainty). If so, I am not really sure what to make of them because for the most part, I don’t know what they are. According to some radio host in Iowa, Cain called one of his staffers “pretty” while his wife was absent. Pardon me for not fainting.

We also are told that two internal sexual harassment complaints were filed against Cain during his tenure at the NRA in the 90s. For those who don’t remember, in the wake of Anita Hill/Monica Lewinsky, workplace complaints of sexual harassment (and employers’ willingness to settle such claims quietly rather than risk litigating them) may have gone a little overboard. That is not to say that I am automatically dismissing either of these complaints – I would like to know something about the identity of the people making the complaints and the particulars of what Herman Cain is alleged to have done. It seems that at least that much information should be known before coming to a conclusion about how serious an issue this is for Herman Cain.

The one and only particular I have seen alleged is that on one occasion, Cain was out drinking socially with a number of subordinates, and afterwards singled out one of his female subordinates and asked her to return to his apartment with him for more drinks afterwards. If I have my facts straight (and at this point I might be forgiven if I don’t), we have been told this morning that this woman actually did get in a cab and accompany Cain to his apartment. The details of what allegedly occurred there vary depending on what update you are reading from the source that broke this story. However, if this is true – even if the woman didn’t come to his apartment at all – just the fact of Herman Cain making the request is troublesome to me.

Losing a job, especially as a professional, is a horrible and unsettling thing. No one should be put in a position where they worry about losing a job because of turning down amorous advances – male or female. I don’t really think it has anything to do with gender – it’s just wrong and it’s an abuse of power and it doesn’t speak well of the person who does it. It’s not something that should be tolerated in the workplace.

As a society, I can agree that perhaps we have gone too far in the direction of “watch what you say” in the workplace; however, if you’re out with a bunch of your subordinates having drinks and you single one of the opposite sex out and ask her to come back to your apartment, that is way over the line to me. Maybe that kind of behavior was tolerated in the past and I guess some people would still be okay with it, but not me. Part of being a supervisor is having the responsibility to realize that your employees are somewhat in terror of you for their livelihood, no matter how nice of a guy/gal you are. You HAVE to be more conscious than the ordinary schmo about how your interactions will be perceived by your subordinates – that is part of what you are paid for. If you can’t manage that level of responsibility to understand why it’s wrong to make amorous advances (or what will reasonably be perceived as amorous advances) on your subordinates, you should be fired. The end. This is part of what made it so horrifying that so many on the left saw no problem with the President of the United States making passes at a 22-year-old intern. And if this turns out to be true about Herman Cain, I will be significantly less likely to vote for him for President. And I do not agree with those who are likewise ruling out the possibility that these allegations could be true – if the women are credible and their allegations believable and consistent with the known facts, they deserve to be heard.
However, we are a long way from anything having been proven either way (except perhaps that Herman Cain’s ability to respond to a media crisis is… less than ideal). We are especially a long way away from anyone having proven that Herman Cain took advantage of someone and/or raped them (or had sex with them while they were passed out, which amounts essentially to the same thing) – which is an allegation that could not only stop his nomination but ruin him in perpetuity, even if untrue. Maybe, just maybe, we should pause for a couple deep breaths before we (yet again) end up with a nominee as uninspiring as McCain or a President as incompetent as Barack Obama.