Smoke Screen

It wasn’t too long after I stated that I favored Herman Cain that his campaign started taking the big hits. Women started coming out of the woodwork, talking about what a terrible cad he had been to them. And after the first rumors came out, more emerged, until this week’s announcement by a woman who claims that she had a 13-year affair with Cain.


The cumulative effect has been devastating to the Cain campaign. He’s now “re-evaluating” his entire campaign, and the whole “where there’s this much smoke, there has to be a fire somewhere” theme has now made the actual charges superfluous; the harm has been done.


But as Robert Stacy McCain pointed out this morning, none of the individual charges stand up by themselves as conclusive. And Ann Coulter noted something rather odd about all the prior accusers — they all had ties to Chicago, a city where Cain has never lived or worked — but is President Obama’s power base.


Now, normally I’m more suspicious of political figures and scandals. My motto — with only slight exaggeration — “guilty until proven innocent, and then probably deserve punishment anyway.” But in this case, Cain isn’t a career politician, and these charges came out of left field. Unlike Bill Clinton, Cain doesn’t have a reputation for tomcatting around.


To a lot of people, the number and seriousness of the accusations serve to reinforce their credibility. Like the classic Fasces, the bundle of sticks that hold far more strength together than they do individually.

To me, though, things don’t work that way. Accusations like these have to stand — or fail — on their own merits. And I’m not convinced.


I’m not saying the accusations are false, just that I’m not convinced.


The other thing people are running down Cain for the way he’s reacted to the accusations. He’s not handled them “properly,” as in “the way we expect career politicians to react.” He’s been unrehearsed, unscripted, flustered, and somewhat inconsistent.


In other words, he’s reacted like an average person. I don’t see the drawback there.


And in the latest one, the accusation of the affair (versus harassment), Cain has admitted to having a relationship with the accuser, but insists it was not sexual and not improper. My first thought was that Cain is an ordained minister — and his response was pretty much the kind of thing one would expect if he had not a romantic, but a pastoral relationship with her — along with all the constraints of confidentiality it imposes on him.


So, am I convinced Cain didn’t harass these women, and didn’t have an affair with Ms. White? Hell, no. Am I convinced that he didn’t? Again, no — leaning, but not convinced.
But extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and the proof in these cases is sorely lacking.


However, that may prove to be irrelevant. The accusations alone are doing plenty of damage themselves.

Watering The Tree
Story Update: Woman gets her refund.