Off The Record: On Religion, Politics & Equality
I was so looking forward to the pending Gingrich-Cain mano y mano debate next week in Texas. Two of the GOP field’s finest duking it out, brought to you by The Texas Tea Party. So, imagine my chagrin when I saw this headline on Politico this morning:
My first though was well that was bound to happen. The indignant, mean Herman Cain sexually harassing women? Not much of a leap – he is one of the meanest, uncaring candidates I have ever seen in my entire life – why not pile on degrading women to his resume? (And, I wondered what this could mean to what will be Gingrich – Cain crazy-off in Texas on November 5.)
This from the Politico piece:
The sources — which include the recollections of close associates and other documentation — describe episodes that left the women upset and offended. These incidents include conversations allegedly filled with innuendo or personal questions of a sexually suggestive nature, taking place at hotels during conferences, at other officially sanctioned restaurant association events and at the association’s offices. There were also descriptions of physical gestures that were not overtly sexual but that made women who experienced or witnessed them uncomfortable and that they regarded as improper in a professional relationship.
Cain issued his standard “I am so loathe to deal with the polity” f-you to questions about the allegations:
[On Meet the Press] Cain said he has “had thousands of people working for me” at different businesses over the years and could not comment “until I see some facts or some concrete evidence.” His campaign staff was given the name of one woman who complained last week, and it was repeated to Cain on Sunday. He responded, “I am not going to comment on that.”
He was then asked, “Have you ever been accused, sir, in your life of harassment by a woman?”
He breathed audibly, glared at the reporter and stayed silent for several seconds. After the question was repeated three times, he responded by asking the reporter, “Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?”
Suave. Perfectly qualified for role of Leader of the Free World.
My second thought: how long before the right wingery manages to write this off? How long before the media slandering of these women begin, a sacrifice upon the altar of male political greed of institutionalized patriarchy? I mean, the entire GOP field (with the possible exception of Ron Paul) are misogynistic creeps. Even Michele Bachmann submitting to the male headship of Marcus.
But then I started seeing things like this on the Twitter:
Wow, encouraging. This wacky group of right-wing women who spend their time boycotting Schweddy Balls ice cream and lobbying against gay marriage are standing up for the ladies:
CWA president Penny Nance told POLITICO: “I think Herman Cain needs to directly answer the question.”
“Early in my career I resigned from a trade association for the exact same reason and with no financial settlement. I simply found another job,” Nance said. “Therefore, I know in a very personal way that sexual harassment exists and that it’s demeaning and painful. It should never be tolerated in the workforce and certainly not the White House.”
This was promising. Nance telling it like it is, sharing her experience with sexual harassment in the work place. But then, came this:
She continued, though, saying the report of sexually suggestive behavior toward women was not “consistent with my experience with Herman Cain.”
“I have to say in all fairness that this characterization is completely contrary to the Herman Cain I know. Herman Cain has only been 100% respectful and deferential to me. I have never heard other women in conservative political circles complain of his behavior and they would complain loudly,” Nance said.
Ann Sleestack Coulter threw her attention starved hat into the right with this slice of brilliance:
“This is a high-tech lynching,” she said on Fox News Channel Sunday night and called the allegations a plant from liberals, who are “terrified” of the pizza magnate. “He is a strong, conservative black man … They are terrified of strong, conservative black men,” she said.
And worse she punched all women everywhere in the face with this:
“It’s not groping, it’s not touching, it’s not demanding sex, it’s that he had remarks they found inappropriate,” she said. “This isn’t dropping your pants and saying, ‘kiss it’. This is an outrageous attack on a black conservative who is doing extremely well and I think will be our vice president.”
Rush Limbaugh called the news a “racist hit job,” saying, “What’s next, folks? A cartoon on MSNBC showing Herman Cain with huge lips eating a watermelon?” My suggestion, why doesn’t Rush just remix the tape of “Barack the Magic Negro” to incorporate Herman Cain’s name and then we can all laugh and laugh and laugh.
With a GOP field so abhorrent and the right so desperate for a candidate, Cain may walk away from this unscathed like so many before him. Male politicians able to get away whatever they fancy – like fellow presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s questionable family values.
Already some of my extremely conservative acquaintances are trying to – some how – liken this to the Bill – Monica situation. One gentleman told me, “Well, I guess if it is true, we can go by the Clinton model.” Which of course made no sense to me.
As grody as the Bill – Monica situation was and no matter the implications Bill’s power as president had on young Monica, they were still two consenting adults. Suggesting they are like situations is the magical thinking of the right. Allowing that misconception to stand is harmful to women everywhere. When a woman is harassed in the workplace, we all suffer. When a woman has to face the person who harassed her everyday at her place of business, that is abuse. Getting the president off in the Oval Office will make us cringe but those two made a deal when they slung up. These woman who Cain allegedly harassed (allegedly is me being kind) did not have a choice until they finally had enough and spoke out.
Joan Didion wrote a piece about Newt Gingrich back in 1995 called Newt Gingrich: Superstar. Ms. Didion crafts a wonderful tale (as per usual) about the heyday of Newt, focusing in part in this piece on what created the man, what inspired him:
“Among the personalities and books and events that have “influenced” or “changed” or “left an indelible impression on” the thinking of the Honorable Newton Leroy Gingrich (R-GA) the Speaker of the House of Representatives and one of the leading beneficiaries of the nation’s cultural amnesia, are, by his own accounts….[laundry list of names starting with Abraham Lincoln}…an Omaha entrepreneur named Herman Cain (“who’s the head of Godfather’s Pizza, he’s an African-American who was born in Atlanta…).”
In the same year Didion wrote Superstar Cain went on to become a well paid lobbyist that Newt and Bob Dole appointed to a commission to review the realities of a flat tax. Granted politics is a small world of lobbyists, politicians and politicians and lobbyists but this kinda took me aback – that Cain left an “indelible impression on,” “influenced,” or “changed” Gingrich. Great philanderesr think alike? Perhaps Cain and Newty sketched out their 2012 strategy in advance – sell as many books as possible and jack those ever-loving speaking fees. I wouldn’t put it past either of them.
As far as what will happen with the Gingrich-Cain debates next week who knows. Would they consider canceling it amid the scandal? Would Cain’s people seek to push it back a bit until this thing starts to blow over? I mean, we are dealing with Texas here and the tea party no less. The thrice married Gingrich and accused sexual harasser Cain may be greeted with the honor typically reserved for returning war heroes under a canopy of palm fronds. And besides, Cain is a narcissist with tons of books to still sell. He would never walk away from a pubic appearance. And thanks to the mainstream and conservative media’s underreporting and flat-out lying about crime against women Cain will never have to. Just ask Clarence Thomas.