The Washington Post

We were wrong about Herman Cain and sexual harassment

Remember when this guy ran things? Maybe this is the Clinton era policy we need. (AP Photo/Knopf) (AP)

They don’t seem to have hurt Cain at all. If anything, they’ve made him stronger. A Washington Post-ABC Poll found him still nearly tied with Romney in the polls — even after the allegations made news!

The Monday after they surfaced was a banner day for fundraising Cain. More than a million dollars of donations reportedly poured in. Maybe the Rick Perry staffer who so cleverly traveled back to the past to seed these allegations more than a decade ago should have thought harder. So far, they seem to be having the opposite of their expected effect.

“We were worried that ‘sexual harassment’ might be going too far,” someone murmurs in a bunker. “It’s a touchy subject. It’s not as clear-cut as an affair. It’s like pornography — you know it when you see it, and you try to keep it out of the office. But it turns out people enjoy a salacious sideline to their daily barrage of 2012 news.”

Currently, with no face or name attached to them beyond Cain's indignant protestations that he's the victim of some sort of high tech lynching (which, aside from how fraught the terms are, has always struck me as a contradiction in terms, like a high-tech drawing and quartering or a high-tech locking in an oubliette) the allegations have only bolstered Cain’s cred. He gets to take on the media — always a winning proposition — and meanwhile, the word “sex” appears in closer proximity to his name than it has in years.

They say that a presidential candidate complaining about the media is like a ship's captain complaining about the ocean. But voters are responding.

Besides, what great leader didn’t sexually harass someone from time to time? Sure, he’s denying it. But maybe he’d be more popular if he claimed he had done it after all. He’d be in good company.

Kennedy? Don't get me started. During JFK’s birthday, you couldn’t walk down the halls of the White House without being hit by dozens of nude women jumping out of cakes. Franklin Delano Roosevelt did it. And Clinton did it.

In fact, that may be the secret.

"Sexual harassment!” we gasp. “That was a Clinton-era policy we’ve since abandoned! Maybe that’s the magic key to fix everything!”

Everyone sighs. "God, we miss the Clinton era. There was prosperity everywhere.”

In terms of revived Clinton policies, ‘pursuing healthcare reform in a way that damages your political capital’ didn’t seem to work. Maybe ‘having a president who gets accused of sexual harassment’ will be a better answer.

This is another way of saying “Have we told you lately that we have no idea what to do about the economy?” But it sounds about as good as 9-9-9 — which happens to be the time-stamp on the harassment settlement! Maybe Cain was prescient. Whatever happened, happened for America. After all, that was why Newt Gingrich had his sex scandal — because he loved his country so much!

It’s worked so well to get Cain in the papers that Rick Santorum would try to manufacture a sex scandal, but his name went ahead and got involved in one without him.

The worst part of Cain’s sexual harassment scandal is that as far as he can remember all he told the women involved was that one of them was the same height as his wife. That’s hardly the stuff of legend. Maybe he can concoct something more exciting, preferably involving bald eagles, whipped cream, and a copy of the Constitution.

Still, it’s better than nothing.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences".


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