Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sexual Harassment and Herman Cain

Sexual harassment is a bad thing. It's just as evil as sexual misconduct such as adultery, because we can expect that the harasser intends to do more than just harass unless the effort is rebuffed. However, falsely accusing someone of doing wrong is just as evil as sexual harassment.

Often in the case of sexual harassment, only the individuals involved know the truth. The public can examine the character of the individuals, but that can only improve our odds of correctly guessing who's telling the truth. If one person is notoriously corrupt and the other is famous for good character, that gives us the best odds, but if both people seem to have roughly equal records, that gives us the worst odds.

A long time ago I learned that any human is capable of just about any failure. I'd like to favor the accusers when it comes to accusations of sexual harassment, but unfortunately, some people are just as capable of making false accusations as others are of committing sexual harassment. I can believe that Herman Cain is blameless regarding the current accusations, or I can believe that though he is a man of generally high moral character, there could have been a time in his life when he succumbed to sexual temptations. If he committed these crimes, he may remember them well but have too much pride to acknowledge them, or his mind may have walled off those memories so well that he's convinced himself he never did them. Never underestimate the ability of people rationalize their failures, to misshape their memories, or to deceive themselves.

Likewise, I can believe that the women who have accused him are wrong. If they are all wrong, the ones who are purported to have "felt uncomfortable" at some of the things they claim he said are probably motivated very differently from the woman who's accused Cain of physically groping her. The former could easily have been based on a misunderstanding, perhaps exacerbated by their personal circumstances at the time. I know a coworker of mine grossly misinterpreted something I said once, and it led to a major blowup between us. My coworker took very serious offense to something I said because she thought it revealed that I thought very poorly of her. Nothing could have been further from the truth: I had tremendous admiration for her skills and capabilities, but she didn't perceive my attitude or motivation correctly. Based on that experience, I feel sure that every day there are people in the working world who make similar mistakes where they think sexual issues are involved.

The woman who has accused Cain of groping, Sharon Bialek, can have no such misunderstanding. She's either lying or telling the truth, and he either groped her or he didn't. She could be telling the truth, and it could have been very difficult for her personally to come forward. Or she could be lying for any number of reasons, from simply hating something about him, to seeking notoriety and profit.

As for Mr. Cain's candidacy for the Republican nomination, I've studied him and his major positions a bit, and I like him. I also admire him for many things. But if someone comes up with proof that he committed sexual harassment or worse, my overall respect for him will decline substantially. Unfortunately, proof either way is unlikely unless someone comes up with explicit photos, audio recordings, or a DNA-stained dress.

I'm puzzled by Gloria Allred's claim that Ms. Bialek has two corroborating witnesses from the year when she claims she was groped, but that she hasn't released those statements. Those statements wouldn't constitute proof, but depending on the witnesses' own character, plus what they said and when they said it, the statements could significantly increase the odds of the public being able to correctly guess if Bialek is telling the truth. As long as they're not made public, they're obviously useless to the public. The fact that Allred hasn't released them makes me suspect they may not lend much credibility, but unless they release them, we'll never know.

So, will I stop supporting Herman Cain? Not yet. Where there's smoke, there's fire, but that doesn't tell you whether or not it was arson. Based on some leftist blogs I've read, there seem to be people who hate Cain so much they might recruit women to make false claims against him, hoping that the more accusers there are, the more people will doubt his innocence. On the other hand, maybe Cain's almost as bad as Bill Clinton when it comes to sexual misdeeds. I don't know. What I do know is that I will presume innocence until I see proof or overwhelming, high-quality evidence. I actually don't like presuming innocence, but I like presuming guilt even less.

If such proof or evidence comes to light against Cain, I'll shift to my very close second choice: Newt Gingrich. I don't like Newt, because I already know he has a lousy sexual track record. For those of you who don't know, Mr. Gingrich was committing adultery against his second wife while she was battling cancer, and then he divorced wife #2 and married the woman he was committing adultery with. On the other hand, Newt is much smarter than anyone else running, including Obama. Obama's pretty smart, but if there's ever a debate between Gingrich and Obama, I expect Obama will end up looking like the Great Pretender. So, -1 on Gingrich for poor personal character, +1 for dominant intellect. Newt also gets +1 for being down-to-earth (as much as any Presidential contender can be), and another +1 for his political skills while in office. The most important of those skills, in my view, was when he lead the House and he successfully worked with Bill Clinton to accomplish a lot of great things. I'd have taken President Clinton with Speaker Gingrich over Bush Jr. or Obama any day of the week.

By the way, today is election day, and I VOTED.

UPDATE December 1, 2011:
Since this original post, Ginger White has claimed she had an on-again-off-again affair with Cain over a 13 year period. It's been only 3 days, but so far she has provided no evidence of an affair. She's provided evidence of a relationship, but not of an affair, so that leaves us with guessing about character again. I've discussed Cain above, so here's some potentially relevant information about White: She filed a sexual harassment claim against an employer in 2001, which was settled. She's had several eviction notices over the last 6 years, although she claims she's never actually been evicted. A former business partner of White's sought a restraining order against her for "repeated emails/texts threatening lawsuit and defamation of character," and that was followed by a libel suit against White, which she lost by not showing up in court. Further, on Good Morning America, she said of Cain, “I honestly do not think that he is, in my opinion, would make a good president as far as I’m concerned.” Those are characteristics that would be consistent with a person who would make false allegations for a political purpose. Whether she is lying or not, we can only guess, unless she provides evidence of an actual affair.