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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Saving Herman Cain

Without a doubt, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain can still survive and thrive even after old sexual harassment allegations surfaced Sunday.

Allegations and even settlements do not equate to behavior which makes one unfit to be President. The only "problem" here is a charismatic personality which, frankly, many people find attractive. Some people get envious or jealous because they cannot attract the attention of their desired target, and can lash back out of revenge. Harassment claims, aided by a legal culture and society which affords a presumption of credibility to the accuser (flipping the legal presumption of an accused's innocence on its head), are among the easiest means to achieve this.

While bonafide sexual harassment is reprehensible, it is a pathetic fact that many harassment claims (sexual or otherwise) are bogus.  Many claimants know that harassment claims are toxic when made, and as the perfect hit-and-run strategy to inflict permanent, if not necessarily major, damage upon a target, make an excellent tool for extracting money through blackmail (or more appropriately, "greenmail") or litigation (derided as legal blackmail).

Another point that bears emphasizing is that harassment claims are by their nature subjective and defined by the mind, and sensitivity, of the accuser.  A standard that an accuser's "discomfort" is enough to validate a harassment claim is shocking -- and ridiculous.  Just decades ago, many public places were still segregated -- in fact if not under the law -- because whites felt "discomfort" around blacks.  Current feminist harassment theory would have made all blacks the victimizers if applied equally.  It is time for mature people in society, the opinion leaders at all levels, to blow the nonsense whistle on this theory.  There is a segment of society, many of whom are borderline mentally ill or socially challenged, whose purported discomfort is more a function of their deficiencies than anyone else's behavior.  It is time to stop passing the accountability buck on this issue. 

It should also be explained that harassment is a subjective term which is defined in the mind -- or delusion -- of the person claiming victimization. The danger of false accusations is everpresent. The potency of such accusations is greater, given that such claims often lead to the imputation of the most vile personal traits and motives upon the named accused.

The existence of settlements is also easily explained away. A settlement may save the company -- the restaurant association -- money and the association is the driver behind the settlement. In fact, the executive who objects to a settlement in such cases can be sued by his own company, for failing to abide by fiduciary duties. In other words, someone like Cain could have been sued for failing to take one for the team.

The danger in these allegations is the potential to encourage any spurned or rejected woman to try to destroy her target's financial or political career, with no proof of actual wrongdoing and purely out of spite. We should demand a much higher standard of proof from accusers before we rush to make potentially catastrophic, disqualifying judgments.

As for Mr. Cain, this controversy is eminently survivable.  However, discipline, fortitude and candor are all needed to address this issue and quell the questions and doubts.  I believe Mr. Cain will come out of this stronger.

Eric Dixon is a New York election lawyer who handles crisis legal matters and legal stress management.  He has not been retained by or on behalf of the Cain campaign.

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