Politics: Controversy over Herman Cain

Have very mixed feelings at this point.

If the charges against Herman Cain are true, I would be very troubled and disappointed.

This interview on CNN would lend support to at least one of the accusers.

When charges were leveled against then candidate Bill Clinton and eventually President Bill Clinton, I was troubled and disappointed by his possible behavior.

These kind of charges sometime sank candidates (Gary Hart and John Edwards in recent election cycles).

But, historically, many of our Presidents have not been paragons of virtue in their personal lives and yet, many of them were effective Presidents.

Thus, there is the problem:  the charges, even if all true, against Herman Cain are probably no worse than some of the things done by past Presidents.

What should we expect from our political leaders?

Do we want a brilliant brain surgeon who is a jerk removing brain tumors from people or a genial mediocre one?

JFK is regarded highly by many in both parties.  Yet, would JFK have been elected in today's news environment?

In Europe, their political leaders often have complicated personal situations and they are rather open about it and their voters don't seem to care.  As such, Europeans view American pre-occupation with scandals of a personal nature as a reflection of American "puritanical" attitudes.

So what should we expect from our political leaders?

I want more from our leaders but realistically understand that people are flawed especially those with the ambition to rise to such levels.  Think of your circle of friends:  do any of them want to be President?  People who run and make it to this level are in many ways automatically not "normal" in some ways!

In an ideal world, I want a candidate for President to have policies that are good for the nation, inspirational leadership qualities, demonstrated some experience in running a governmental entity (running a business isn't like running a government) and personal virtue.

The question for voters like me is what degree of failure in personal virtue (we all have weaknesses) is disqualifying.

Disclaimer:  I didn't vote for Clinton in 1992 or 1996 for various reasons.  In examining the field of GOP candidates for 2012, as appealing as the idea is of an outsider business person running for President, I believe some familiarity with governance is helpful, hence my doubts about Cain prior to the current scandals.  The current scandal has added to my doubts.

UPDATE:  Goldberg at NR put it this way.  Excerpt:  My own view is that Cain has other shortcomings that are more substantive disqualifiers for the job of president, but if these charges are true then they are relevant and troubling in their own right.

UPDATE:  CNN.com has this item that describes how companies often settle to make the problem go away.  Excerpt: Employment lawyers are accustomed to meeting with CEO clients who are initially defiant and determined to resist a false claim of sexual harassment. They want their reputations and integrity preserved. But when a high-ranking executive is involved, the company rumor vine begins to grow. Depositions are taken. Employees are pulled out of the workplace to back one side or the other. Sterling reputations begin to bleed under the slash of a thousand paper cuts.

And of course, the litigation process is expensive for the company. Knowing this, experienced lawyers often urge even the innocent accused executive to agree to mediate claims informally and avoid the possibility of a very public and very embarrassing federal lawsuit. Legitimate victims are also urged to settle rather than risk losing at trial.

Once mediation begins, the parties are told that public humiliation and legal costs can be avoided with a quiet, confidential settlement. Both plaintiff and defendant are simultaneously silenced by the agreement's penalty provisions. The truth of the claims will never be tested in any public forum.


Anonymous said…
I think most people missed the point: his acts towards these women alone are not what necessarily disqualified him as a presidential candidate. It was his handling of the allegations if they are true, which most of us assume are given the multiple accusers and settlements. He could have quieted the criticism by just admitting to and apologizing for them. Something like saying "I was young and foolish and I apologize for my inappropriate actions" would have been sufficient.

The broader problem with most of the Republican presidential candidates, at least for the frontrunners now, is that they do not stand up to scrutiny. We are not looking for a perfect president but one with integrity.