The Three Arguments Republicans Are Using to Defend Herman Cain

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Nov. 2 2011 9:45 PM

Leave Herman Cain Alone!

The three arguments Republicans are using to defend him.

(Continued from Page 1)

“He was on message, and that’s as it should be,” said Rep. Andy Harris, a freshman from Maryland. “What we ought to be concentrating on is not wasting that time paying attention to issues other than the economy and how we’re going to get out of this mess we’re in.”

That’s what Newt Gingrich is saying, too. Shame on the media for asking about this! “He’s out there trying to help a country that’s in desperate trouble,” Gingrich said. “And he has gotten more coverage over the last few days over gossip.” If Gingrich had wanted to, he could have looked at some right-wing blogs, which have taken this ball and spiked it. (Speaking of which: Did you know that one of the Politico reporters behind the scoop is sort of vaguely connected to George Soros?)

It’s fun, and it’s familiar, but how does it help Cain? This isn’t a case of a media outlet formulating a story out of nothing. This was a story that multiple organizations had heard inklings about, that Politico did the work on, and that its reporters backed up with primary documents.

Effectiveness level: Limited, because the media isn’t the problem.

Advertisement

Argument No. 3: There’s No Such Thing as Sexual Harassment

This one took a while to come out. It’s a hard conversation to start. Conservatives don’t like to admit it. But hell, time to say it: They just don’t think that the stuff Cain was accused of was all that bad. Sexual harassment claims are overblown. When he says the charges are false, they believe him. The lawyer and pundit Kurt Schlichter summed it up in a widely circulated op-ed: “In the world of sexual-harassment law, the accusations are bad enough.”

As they gripped and grabbed with Cain on Wednesday, Republicans said the same thing. Maybe the women in question were a little bit nutty, or a little bit—hey, you know the rest. “It’s unfortunate,” said Rep. Glenn Thompson after the health care meeting. “But during campaign time there are certain individuals who will raise half-truths and mis-portray things. Sometimes they do that because they’re desperate in their own campaigns. I guess I’m not surprised this type of thing is brought forward.”

Steve King, among Cain’s most vocal defenders, took me back to his days running his construction company and working with the Iowa Land Improvement Contractors' Association. Sexual harassment training was a pain, an insult. After he and colleagues had to watch a 45-minute how-not-to video, he stood up and said, “I am insulted that you would burn up our time with something that could be replaced by the two words ‘common courtesy.’” The only woman in the room, he said, applauded.

“It’s a terrible concept,” said King, “to define an action by the perception of the perceived victim.”

Let’s say that Cain has bungled away the nondisclosure agreements that the National Restaurant Association put away in the 1990s. The women in question come out and speak. At that point it’ll be their word against his. All those doubts about the very idea of sexual harassment settlements, all those doubts about whether this stuff can be trusted—that will come in handy.

Effectiveness level: It’s the best he’s got.

TODAY IN SLATE

War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The One National Holiday Republicans Hope You Forget

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.

Doublex

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

Use Facebook to Reconnect With Old Friends, Share Photos, and Serve People With Legal Papers

  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 23 2014 6:40 PM Coalition of the Presentable Don’t believe the official version. Meet America’s real allies in the fight against ISIS.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Outward
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would a Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 8:38 PM “No One in This World” Is One of Kutiman’s Best, Most Impressive Songs
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 23 2014 4:33 PM Who Deserves Those 4 Inches of Airplane Seat Space? An investigation into the economics of reclining.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 23 2014 7:27 PM You’re Fired, Roger Goodell If the commissioner gets the ax, the NFL would still need a better justice system. What would that look like?