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Herman Cain To Pull Off a Bill Clinton: For the Good of the Country I Hope Not

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 Republican Herman Cain remains at the center of a political firestorm.  Washington news website Politico reported two weeks ago that at least two women had complained of sexual harassment while he was head of a lobby group, the National Restaurant Association, in the 1990s. A third woman emerged a few days later with similar allegations. Now, there is a fourth woman who has issued an allegation of Cain’s sexual herman cain misconduct-- Sharon Bialek, a former employee of a restaurant lobby group, said Mr. Cain had reached up her skirt and pulled her head towards his crotch.

Throughout the series of these sordid events, it appears that Herman Cain is borrowing the playbook from a man who faced his own series of sexual harassment scandals on the path to political greatness in the 1990’s---Bill Clinton, who, like Cain, vehemently denied all sexual allegations.

Here is a brief summary of Clinton’s alleged misconduct during the 1990’s.

First, there was Gennifer Flowers, who claimed during the 1992 presidential campaign season that she had carried on a 12-year affair with Bill Clinton. To counter the allegations, Clinton appeared on CBS's "60 Minutes" with his wife immediately following the Super Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26. With 50 million Americans tuned in, the Clintons tried to shake off the charges. It apparently worked-- Clinton was able to contain the damage caused by the Flowers frenzy and his presidential ship stayed afloat.

Then came Paula Jones, who alleged that Clinton sexually harassed her in an Arkansas hotel room in 1991. Jones was an Arkansas state employee, making Governor Clinton her boss. Clinton settled for $850,000. The case, like the Watergate Scandal, reinforced the axiom that the cover-up is always worse than the crime because the false statements Clinton made during his depositions in the Jones case paved the way for his impeachment.

Last was Juanita Broaddrick, the nursing home employee who alleged in 1998 that Clinton had forcibly raped her two decades earlier while he was the Arkansas attorney general. Her credibility was a huge issue because she waited so long to come forward with the allegations and she could not recall the date or even the month of the alleged assault.

Though Clinton was able to weather the storm of these scandals—he was elected President twice after all—they came at a horrible price.

Conservatives never forgave the president and continued to search for more evidence to hammer away at the former President. Right-wing radio provided more than enough smoke to convince a sizeable portion of the country that a fire was raging somewhere in Clinton pants. Later tales of cigars, stains on a blue dress, and White House interns made Jones and Broaddrick seem more credible, not less.

The nation became so divided, so hyper-partisan. Liberals were so willing to dissociate Clinton’s immoral behavior with his job approval and viewed much of the news about Clinton’s past as “a vast right-wing conspiracy”. On the other hand, the other half of America believed that the nation elected a rapist to be their president.

Now it appears that the roles are reversed. Liberals are now saying that Cain is unfit for public office, while many conservatives are willing to stomach the accusations in order to give the GOP nomination to a “real” conservative, unlike Mitt Romney. Other conservatives see the attack on Cain as an example of liberal media bias. Some conservatives have even solidified their support for Cain in the face of sexual charges.

Well at least one conservative sees this partisan hypocrisy.  William Bennett wrote a piece on the CNN website demanding Cain stop trying to evade the issue and instead fully address all the charges.

Bennett’s decision to speak out is significant not just because he is an influential Republican thinker and radio host but because he wrote the seminal account of the Bill Clinton sex scandal. Bennett’s The Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals refutes the idea that public leaders’ “private misdeeds” had no impact on their ability to govern.

Bennett demonstrates that private misconduct had to be taken seriously and how Clinton’s cavalier approach to morals was unacceptable. What’s more, he also instructed an unwilling American public that a willingness to be judgmental about the immorality was a sign of a healthy democracy.

If Cain continues to refuse to address the accusations in a candid manner and if conservatives approve of his stonewalling, what we will have is another “death of outrage” that will be no different from the pass Democrats gave Bill Clinton.

I’m sure there will be even more stories of women’s tales of women being sexually harassed by Cain. More allegations will only add to the dark storm clouds circling the Cain candidacy. To say that Herman Cain can’t afford this sort of cloud hanging over him is not the point. As illustrated by the Clinton sexual saga in the 1990’s, America can’t afford it.

Photo Credit: AP

Contact Erik Uliasz at euliasz@philly2philly.com

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