Would a man who says “Got all this stuff twirling around in my head” when asked about Libya and foreign policy be the right person for commander-in-chief??
HARD as it has been to watch, harder still to live through, the spectacle of Herman Cain’s dodging sexual harassment allegations is a real step up for the status of women. Their sexual treatment is now part of the open political process, rather than a smarmy rumor to be passed among cognoscenti in the dark. The fact that what several women have said might register in a presidential campaign — as if women’s sexual mistreatment at work might really matter — could be a potential game changer, even though the prevailing dynamics of sex, race and power that made sexual harassment so difficult to denounce in the first place are amply on display.
The firestorm surrounding Clarence Thomas’s defense to Anita F. Hill’s allegations in his confirmation hearing for the United States Supreme Court 20 years ago not only falsely set up race and gender as mutually exclusive and opposing forces, but also framed subsequent defenses to sexual harassment charges by Bill Clinton and others as mere personal peccadillo or political fodder. Predictably, in this latest remix, political intrigue and racial grandstanding, combined with vicious attacks on the accusers, have obscured the principal inquiry: the leadership potential of a presidential candidate. Sexual harassment is not a Democratic or Republican issue, a liberal or conservative issue, or a black or white one, although those politics can shape it. As a consequence, it does not present a test of group loyalty but a chance to evaluate the reported behavior of someone who seeks to govern.
Mr. Cain’s assertion that the public attention to these reports is “a high tech lynching” threatens to insulate his behavior from the deeper assessment it demands. Like Mr. Thomas, whose elevation to the Supreme Court was facilitated by this statement, Mr. Cain rides a wave of suspicion and empathy. It would be wrong to dismiss the appeal of his defense, given the common dimension of public sexual humiliation and how deeply “lynching” resonates as a metaphor for black men in the real context of the sexual politics of racial hierarchy.
But neither Mr. Cain nor Mr. Thomas stands in the shoes of those crucified for offenses against the powerful. No one was, or will be, killed and hung from a tree for defending the prerogatives of the top 1 percent. And it is germane that women of all races face a specific kind of public sexual humiliation for reporting their abuse at the hands of those with power over their employment. This is a major reason that so many, rather than speaking out, have opted for silence, and in overwhelming numbers still do. Simply put, women do not want to be pornography.
Remarkably but not atypically, Ms. Bialek’s Republicanism and her personal respect for Mr. Cain remain intact. Women who come out of the shadows, like Ms. Bialek and Ms. Hill before her, are not silenced as others can be, including by confidentiality agreements routinely forced on them by companies as the price of relief. These women want and expect the harasser to man up: acknowledge what he did, genuinely apologize, and change, meaning never do it again. And the failure of a candidate to do so should not be considered a winning political strategy but instead regarded as presumptive evidence of unfitness to lead. That would be a step toward real progress. Our leaders owe us nothing less.
Thoughts on this???
Peep the video above of your boy Herman “Black GOP” Cain getting all flustered when asked about Libya…
“Okay, Libya,” Cain said — then paused, looking downward. “President Obama supported the uprising — correct? President Obama called for the removal of Qaddafi. Just want to make sure we’re talking about the same thing before I say, yes I agreed, or no I didn’t agree.”
“I do not agree with the way he handled it, for the following reasons — No, that’s a different one. (Pauses) I gotta go back, see. (Pauses) Got all this stuff twirling around in my head. Specifically, what are you asking me, did I agree or not disagree (sic) with Obama?”
“I’m a much more deliberate decision-maker,” Cain said. “That is a point that I keep coming back to. Some people want to say, well, as President you’re supposed to know everything. No you don’t. I believe in having all of the information, as much of it as I possibly can, rather than making a decision or making a decision about whether I totally agreed, and didn’t agree, when I wasn’t privy to the entire situation. There might be some things that might cause me to feel differently.
“So I’m not trying to hedge on the questions. That’s just my nature as a businessman. I need to know the facts as much as possible. I need to hear all of the alternatives (takes a sip of water). For example, someone — you might have mentioned that even in the administration, there were different views. I would want to hear all of those views, look at all the information, and then I make the decision as the Commander-in-Chief. So this is the whole point I’m trying to make.”
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