Monday, October 31, 2011

"When did you stop beating your wife?"

There is an old game in political circles that asks how a candidate could credibly answer the question, "When did you stop beating your wife?" If the candidate answers by denying that he ever beat his wife, he gets accused of a coverup.

There is a philosophical truth that no one can prove a negative; yet, journalists expect candidates to do this all the time. Case in point: the airwaves are all atwitter with allegations that Herman Cain had engaged in some kind of "sexually suggestive behavior" to at least two female employees when he was the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.

Note the vagueness of the accusations, as reported by Fox News:

The report said the women signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them five-figure financial payouts to leave the association and barred them from discussing their departures. Neither woman was identified.

The report was based on anonymous sources and, in one case, what [the Politico website] said was a review of documentation that described the allegations and the resolution.
Queen Victoria (1837-1901),
the model of propriety
He say, she say. We do not even know for sure that there was any "documentation that described the allegation and the resolution." What we read is what the publication said was a review, etc.

And what is "sexually suggestive behavior"? Some people would consider "sexually suggestive" that a man wear a shirt with more than the collar button unbuttoned. Given the current state of sexual harassment law, "sexually suggestive" is what the most prudish woman in the workplace says it is. Maybe Mr. Cain just winked his eye at her.

I have at present no way of knowing whether the allegations against Herman Cain are valid. I know only two things: (1) They were obviously politically motivated, and (2) They are impossible to disprove, even if Mr. Cain was a virgin* at marriage and has been completely faithful to his wife ever since.
* A man can be a virgin in the sense of definition 4.

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