by Randolph T. Holhut
Chief of AR Correspondents
November 30, 2011
YOU CAN'T ARREST AN IDEA
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Is the Herman Cain boom, such as it was, finally over? Cain, the former CEO of the Godfather's Pizza chain and head of the National Restaurant Association (NRA), had been running neck-and-neck with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in many national polls for the Republican presidential nomination.
Then came the news of five complaints from women about inappropriate behavior and unwanted sexual advances by Cain, two of which resulted in a financial settlements.
One of them Sharon Bialek, a woman who asked him for help landing a job. She described an encounter in which she said Cain reached under her skirt and also grabbed her head, pushed it toward his crotch, and said, "You want a job, don't you?"
High-powered lawyer Gloria Allred is representing Bialek. Allred said her client is not filing a "lawsuit or claim" and had not been in touch with any of the other women who have accused Cain of personal misconduct.
You'd think that being accused of sexual assault might be enough to sink Cain's candidacy. But after Bialek came forward with her story, Cain received $250,000 in campaign contributions in a single day.
Why? To many conservative Republicans who hate Romney, Cain remains a viable alternative, even after the disturbing array of sexual harassment charges being leveled against him.
It also helps that Cain's campaign is fighting back in the usual way, by sliming the victim. Take this email they sent out to reporters last week entitled "Who Is Sharon Bialek?"
"The fact is that Ms. Bialek has had a long and troubled history, from the courts to personal finances - which may help explain why she has come forward 14 years after an alleged incident with Mr. Cain, powered by celebrity attorney and long term Democrat donor Gloria Allred.
Does this mean that people who are having money problems can't be trusted to tell the truth? That's what Cain and his camp seem to be implying.
Twenty years after Anita Hill, and nearly 15 years after Monica Lewinsky, political reporters are still missing this simple fact. Sexual harassment isn't about sex. It's about power - namely men, who have it, lording it over women, who don't.
Why are there laws against sexual harassment in the workplace? Because it's a form of discrimination, nearly always practiced by men that usually results in humiliation and thwarted careers for the women who are nearly always the targets.
A woman who is sexually harassed has no easy out, for every possible way of dealing with it is fraught with peril. Do you report the offender, and risk being labeled a complainer? Do you refuse the offender's sexual advances, and risk a grope turning into actual rape?
Do you go along because you feel so desperate and powerless and afraid that giving in is the only way you'll keep your job?
This is why sexual harassment is illegal. This is why these charges are being taken seriously as a glimpse into the character of a man who wants to be president.
If this is how Herman Cain treats women, do we really want a boor that gets off on humiliating his underlings in the White House?
Watch and listen to Cain, and it doesn't take long to see a self obsessed man who lacks self-control and has no interest in anything but himself. It's all about Herman, all the time.
Thankfully, there isn't a chance in hell that Herman Cain will win the Republican nomination, let alone the presidency. Like the other anti-Mitts before him -- such as Donald Trump, Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry -- Cain is reaching his expiration date.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich seems poised now to be the next anti-Mitt, until he similarly flames out.
Like or not, the Republicans are more or less stuck with Mitt Romney.
By virtue of being less insane, less boorish and less offensive than the rest of the field, he is the likely nominee. And Romney will likely lose by a wide margin to President Obama next November.
This is what happens when you let your political party get taken over by crazy people.
Chief of AR Correspondents Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 30 years. Holhut won his Master's Degree in Public Administration from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.