November 10th, 2011 14:06 EST
Judging Cain: President or Godfather? Truth, Spin, and Sexual Harassment
Judging Cain: President or Godfather? Truth, Spin, and Sexual Harassment.
We Americans talk a lot about sex. All of our forms of entertainment tease and tantalize us with sex. Sex is a marketing tool to sell products we neither really want nor need. The pharmaceutical companies make substantial profits from sex. If you don`t believe me, just watch any national evening news broadcast. What most Americans don`t like about sex is when it creeps into politics. I think we tolerate dishonesty more than we do sex in politics.
Hugh Sidey was a reporter for Time magazine. A gracious man, he covered the White House, hobnobbing with presidents for almost fifty years. He liked people "he was as comfortable with the power players in D.C. as he was with the ordinary citizen " and people liked him in return. A fair-minded and trustworthy man, he enjoyed hearing and telling stories. Fifteen years ago, we were attending a meeting at the invitation of President Gerald Ford. Hugh was on the panel and I was seated in the audience.
At one point, we were seated together, then went off to chat. We were discussing the role of the news media in covering the public and private lives of political leaders. In the course of our conversation on character in politics, our attention turned to President Kennedy. Hugh had known Kennedy for six years. The two respected one another, and were friends. Kennedy often gave him a knowing glance or a nod, a visual message when he wanted Hugh to record something. There were things Hugh didn`t record. He acknowledged that he and others in the press turned a blind eye to Kennedy`s philandering. "The press doesn`t let you get away with that type of behavior anymore," he said. We were both thinking of a scandal that was unfolding in Washington at the time.
I don`t know about you, but I found myself thinking about John Kennedy and Bill Clinton while listening to Herman Cain deny the accusations of sexual harassment. French President FranÃ§ois Mitterrand also crossed my mind. President from 1981-1995, Mitterrand introduced political and economic reforms, including nationalizing the financial institutions and increasing welfare benefits and the minimum wage. He was married to Danielle Gouze. Together they had two sons. His mistress was Anne Pingeot an art historian with whom he had a daughter. Both Mitterrand`s wife and his mistress attended his funeral.
Herman Cain is no FranÃ§ois Mitterrand. He is not living in the time of Jack Kennedy when the press could ignore his conduct. Even a dapper gentleman like Hugh Sidey would be taking a measure of the man, judging Cain`s character, whether there is a difference between the public persona Cain projects and the private person.
I am struck by the fury of Cain`s campaign`s denial of the lurid details of Sharon Bialek`s account of sexual harassment. "I have never acted inappropriately with anyone. Period," Cain said, adding, "I don`t even know who this woman is." His campaign has investigated Bialek`s financial background and used the information to discredit her. Bialek`s financial history has nothing to do with her accusations.
Cain cannot brush away the fact that four different women have claimed he has acted inappropriately towards them. If his conduct was appropriate, why make payments to silence these women? There are echoes of another sordid news story here, one from the late 1990s, involving a president that resulted in impeachment proceedings.
Sex is a part of the sideshow of American politics. You may disagree with me about this, but if a married politician is involved in a committed relationship outside of the marriage it is none of my business. An affair or relationship becomes my business when a public figure lies about it. That reveals more about character than the relationship. Jackie Kennedy knew about her husband`s philandering. Danielle knew about Anne. These were uneasy truces between spouses, I suppose. Some spouses are more accepting of their partner`s love for another person. Sexual harassment, however, is an entirely different matter. It is just plain wrong.
There is a lot of smoke around the Cain campaign. His handling of the situation should raise questions about his character. Will he assume responsibility for his administration`s failures or will he blame others, as he has in this situation by pointing to the "Democratic machine"? Is Karen Kraushaar part of this conspiracy against him? How will Cain explain away her accusations of sexual harassment and the financial settlement given to her?
Personally, I am not impressed with Herman Cain. His 999 proposal is, as various economists have pointed out, misleading, and does nothing for the middle and lower class except add to their tax burden. His plan does even less to revive the economy. As a nation, we will be facing severe tests both in domestic and foreign policies because of economic and political instability on the international scene. I don`t know about you but after four years of an inexperienced person in the Oval Office, I`m ready for some real change and hope. Those of you who either know your history or remember Kennedy recall that he had to contend with an obstinate and lethargic Congress. In the current polluted atmosphere of Washington and Wall Street, voters need to ask if any politically inexperienced person "regardless of gender, race, religion, or political party "entering the Oval Office under a cloud of suspicion can deal with a major crisis while distracted by litigation over sexual harassment.
Should Cain resign from the contest for the Republican nomination? I think he should stick to the race if he wants. He has the right to run. However, we should keep in mind the difference between spinning the truth and telling the truth. Let Cain and the rest of us bear in mind there is a difference between a Godfather and a president.
Note: The author of this article is no longer affiliated with theSOP.