In 1926, the British lawyer and novelist John Galsworthy wrote, “Between ‘everybody knows’ and ‘somebody tells’ is a great gap fixed.” Last week, Herman Cain was floating within that gap. Now he’s crossed over into the “somebody tells” territory.
Having worked in places where sexual funny business between male managers and female employees was par for the course, I believe Herman Cain honestly thinks he didn’t do anything wrong. But I predict he’s about to learn differently.
Let’s face it, guys like Cain rise to the top because they’re aggressively ambitious and can get people under their control to do what they want. I think it’s a fundamental part of their personalities, not something that can be “learned” in a leadership seminar.
Or to put it another way, when it comes to their employees, guys like Cain don’t take “no” for an answer. However, without strong self-control, that attitude can easily spill over to relations with female employees. “Mad Men” behavior didn’t magically end when the Sixties did.
I’m saying this because I’ve run into some folks (men mostly) who believe the harassment charges are phony; the women at the National Restaurant Association brought claims just as a way to get paid off, etc. Maybe, maybe not — who knows?
Sadly, the Cain campaign seems to be opting for the “nutty and slutty” response à la Clinton 1992. (Remember Gennifer Flowers?)
But that didn’t work for Clinton. What worked was when America saw Bill and Hillary hold hands during their “60 Minutes” interview. Check it out for yourself here (if you can endure Hillary’s Arkansas accent!).
Instead of coming up with dirty tricks conspiracy theories, Cain should resist channeling his inner Nixon. He would be better served by having other female former employees come forward and state for the record that Cain was a perfect gentleman. Herman, you don’t need more male defenders at this moment.
And where is Mrs. Cain? The longer she remains invisible, the worse it is for Herman Cain.
The Clinton example demonstrates that sexual harassment/marital fidelity issues need not short-circuit a campaign, but a candidate can only overcome these sorts of issues if voters believe he and his wife have a strong, stable relationship.
Notably, the Clinton campaign waited until just before the New Hampshire primary to decisively deal with the Gennifer Flowers issue. However, in today’s highly volatile political environment, Cain doesn’t have the luxury of time.
Complaints about fairness, worries about conspiracies — Herman Cain needs to get past all that, despite how helpful it is for juicing up his money bombs.
Just as Bill and Hillary did in January 1992, Cain has a unique opportunity to set the record straight. But Cain will succeed only if he speaks directly to the hearts of the American people and does so before yet more somebodies emerge to “tell.”