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A double standard remains

As the Cain candidacy makes clear, women are learning to speak up about harassment, but confidential settlements can get in the way.

November 16, 2011|Sandy Banks
  • Herman Cain, candidate for the Republican nomination for the 2012 presidential race, greets backers at a fundraising event.
Herman Cain, candidate for the Republican nomination for the 2012 presidential… (Mike Roemer, Associated…)

The conservative blogosphere was armed this week, as Gloria Allred took the stage with an obscure pediatrician about to take aim at Herman Cain's I did not touch that woman campaign.

The doctor, Victor Zuckerman, is the ex-boyfriend of Sharon Bialek, the first woman to go public with an account of being sexually groped by Cain. He confirmed Bialek's account at the news conference: She was "upset" back then when she told him that "Mr. Cain had touched her in an inappropriate manner," he said.

But Zuckerman — according to legal records — is also a losing gambler and failed day-trader who sold his pediatric practice and filed bankruptcy a year ago.

That's music to the ears of Cain acolytes, like the crowd posting on the message board at the website Free Republic:

He's now got a Botox clinic — just another scam.

OK, who can get this information to the press conference in the next 30 minutes?... I've zapped it to Drudge and hope he'll send it on or post it.

If any of you can get this to the Cain camp hands to look into, Please do. … if true this is huge.

"Huge" because it's a way to intimidate anyone who dares to weigh in with even meager support for those pesky harassment allegations that Cain hasn't been able to shake.

After Bialek went public last week, the Cain campaign sent out an email detailing her financial woes. The implication is she's trying to cash in on a lie. Bialek filed for bankruptcy in 2001, which she blames on expenses tied to her mother's death and a costly custody battle.

The next day, a second woman talked. Karen Kraushaar had complained of a "series" of incidents involving Cain and received a $45,000 settlement from their employer. But she couldn't be believed, Cain supporters said, because she had filed a complaint against another employer.

This time, Zuckerman and Allred were ready.

"I wish to get ahead of any parties who feel the need to discredit me," Zuckerman read from his five-page statement. He offered up his medical credentials and confessed to flaws in his finances. He's a Republican, he said, with no criminal record or malpractice claims. And he's not being paid to say anything.

Maybe it's because I've already decided which side I'm on, but this "scorched earth campaign," as Allred calls it, is beginning to seem almost as tawdry as the reaching-under-the-skirt thing.

::

For the record, I don't believe Cain's denials. But then I think the candidate is a buffoon; Donald Trump with less hair and a better barber.

There are lots of theories to explain his popularity. As I write this, Cain is still perched at the top, in some polls, of a motley Republican bunch.

There's the simple lure of 9-9-9 in these frightening economic times; his charming Big Daddy manner of speech, all aphorisms and exclamation points; and an up-from-the-trenches life story that suggests the man is smart and tough.

But I see his appeal through a different lens: It's the soft bigotry of low expectations — to borrow a line that worked so well for the last Republican who won.

We ding Mitt Romney for flip-flopping and condemn Michele Bachmann for misspeaking. Newt Gingrich's arrogance feels repulsive. Rick Perry flubs a debate and we think he's dumb.

But Cain has displayed all of those flaws, and he just keeps rolling along.

The viral video of Cain bumbling through a basic question about Libya made Perry's stumble in the debate look like a harmless senior moment.

Cain's like the kid who doesn't bother to do his homework and tries to talk around the answer when the teacher puts him on the spot.

You can admire his perseverance. "As far as these accusations causing me to back off and maybe withdraw from this presidential primary race — ain't gonna happen," Cain said last week.

But it's time for a reality check. As far as being president — ain't gonna happen,Herminator.

::

Polls show the harassment allegations seem to be cutting into Cain's support. He's "trending down," as the experts say, and his "unfavorability" rating is way up. The biggest drop has been among women.

His candidacy has been a spectacle of double standards. That women's claims can have an impact is evidence of how far we've come since Anita Hill was tossed on the public trash heap when she dared complain about Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearing for the U.S. Supreme Court.

But it also demonstrates how far we have yet to go.

This is not one woman's story, but the claims of several over years. Two were deemed credible enough to draw settlements from an employer, which I presume is not in the business of handing out money to a woman simply because her boss — Cain — pointed to his chin and told her she was the same height as his wife.

That's his story and he's sticking to it. Feelings about Cain aside, if you weigh the claims against his denial, why are the women presumed to be liars?

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