Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Herman Cain Harassment Kerfuffle (Update: Bialek & Kraushaar)

The political news of the last couple days has been dominated by the accusations of now three unidentified women, that Herman Cain made inappropriate comments or gestures to them in the 1990s while Cain was president of the National Restaurant Association.  To deal with these accusations, two of the women were granted cash settlements (both amounting to less than $100K), and now a third is said to have considered making a claim, but backed off . . . until now.

As for the actual claims, my gut instinct is that the allegations are groundless.  The settlements are low and amount to a strategy of a corporation paying someone to go away rather than paying higher costs for going to court to achieve a likely finding of not guilty.  It is a tried and true strategy on the part of trial lawyers that is au courant to this day and is nothing more than a shake down.  (There were a rash of claims of this sort then.  Some of you may remember the feeding frenzy that was taking place at that time around the Tailhook witch hunt.  This attached story only touches the surface of that political pogrom, and its contribution to the current sexual siege mentality.)

This story still relies on unnamed accusers through unnamed sources involving unspecified claims, and has every appearance of a smear campaign egged on by a media addicted to shallow glitz, no matter what the harm or lack of substance.

A side story has overtaken the initial narrative though, and that is the haphazard and bumbling manner that the Cain campaign has shown in trying to address these claims. Cain initially professed ignorance of the story, first floated in Politico, and then broadened his response later in the day to include some estimation of the settlement that the women received, that it was "five figures" and probably amounted to some two or three months' pay.  Maybe he became more aware of the facts and circumstances as the day wore on, but it gave the appearance of changing his story.  Cain later said that the campaign had been notified “some ten days” before that Politico would be running the story, but he decided to ignore their inquiries because of the amorphous nature of the sources and the accusations, again calling into question his initial claim of ignorance.  Upon reflection, Cain has admitted that he regrets that strategy.

Once the story broke, the Cain campaign accused Perry of harbouring the source.  Mark Block, Cain’s campaign manager, made appearances throughout the day yesterday accusing political consultant Curt Anderson as the source of the news.  Anderson previously worked on Cain’s failed senatorial race in Georgia in 2004, and has recently hired on to the Perry campaign.  Cain said that then he had briefed Anderson on the incident(s) and his innocence during his campaign in case the subject came up, but that again calls into question Cain’s initial claim of ignorance of the story.  Glossed over so far is the fact that Anderson hired onto the Perry campaign on 24 October, several days after Politico notified Cain of the upcoming story.

Curt Anderson appeared on several news shows this morning and politely insisted that he was completely unaware of the story until he read it on Politico, and he also went on to state that he holds Cain in the highest regard.  If he had been aware of the accusations, he said that he would not have shared them because it would be unethical to betray a confidence, which carried with it the idea that it would be highly unprofessional as well, since among other things it would render him unemployable for any campaign work in the future.  Shortly thereafter, Block retracted his accusation:

I will stand behind what we said yesterday and was, again, thrilled that Mr. Anderson said it didn't come from him. . . . Until we get all the facts, you know, I'm just going to say that we accept what Mr. Anderson had said, and we want to move on with the campaign.
Cain, though, continued this afternoon with the claim that it was Perry’s campaign that was at fault, but strangely could not come up with a reason why:
I don't see another way it could've come out. . . . There aren't enough bread crumbs that we can lay down that leads us anywhere else at this point in time.
The story now has become not so much the original allegations by the women, but the ineffective way that Cain has handled the story.  And what of the source?  My first thought in the matter is that it does not have to come from a campaign per se.  Claims of sexual harassment were rampant in the 1990s and have declined now only due to the sense of fear of the Political Correctness Gestapo in the workplace. 

Then there is the question of why would a woman put herself through this ordeal if the story weren't true?  Someone can have an axe to grind or can make a good return on their investment from the tabloids, or even pursue a career as a professional victim in the media, sell a book, garner awards from feminist groups, and command some five-figure honoraria from speaking engagements (q.v.: Anita Hill).

And if the source is a campaign?  Who would most likely benefit?  Again, I would say that would be Mitt Romney.  He can watch from a distance as Cain and Perry go after each other over the accusations, though Perry, to his benefit, is largely ignoring the story after denying any connection with it.  Romney is doing very little in the press at the moment, allowing the media the opportunity to devote whatever time they want to cover the story without Romney’s interference.

Where would Romney have come up with the story?  Among other possibilities, that would be Richard E Marriott, past President of the National Restaurant Association before Cain and prominent Mormon, who has close ties with Mitt Romney.  Romney sat on the board of Marriott International (“It is the only corporate board Romney sits on, according to adviser Eric Fehrnstrom.”) from 1992 to 2002, when he resigned to run for governor.  He rejoined the board in 2009 and then resigned again in January 2011 in preparation for his second presidential run.  Mitt Romney’s first name is actually Willard, and he is named after J Willard Marriott, Richard’s father and a close personal friend of Romney’s father George.

There is also Steven C Anderson, who succeeded Cain at the NRA and is a Romney contributor.
“There are blog postings around as well … discussing that Cain’s successor at the restaurant association is a big Romney donor and some of the board members,” said [Perry Communications Director Ray] Sullivan.  “There are much closer connections between the restaurant association, Cain, and the Romney camp than there are with us.”

According to FEC records, Steven C. Anderson, Cain’s successor as the CEO the National Restaurant Association donated $1,000 to Romney earlier this year. He also contributed the same amount, in two $500 installments, to Cain’s failed Senate bid in 2004.
So basically I expect that the original allegations, if they ever come out, will be essentially meritless, with Cain being the victim of someone who wants to interpret his naturally sanguine manner in a way that will be financially remunerative.  Meanwhile, the Cain campaign can benefit by accusing Perry, his closest rival politically, if only Cain and his people can get their act together.  Romney benefits the most by having two of his rivals wasting time arguing with each other.  This is not unlike Romney.  If you disagree, then maybe Fred Thompson might add to the discussion.

Update:  Sharon Bialek of Chicago has swept upon the scene with allegations of sexual improprieties against Herman Cain, while she stands attached at the hip with famed shyster-to-the-stars Gloria Allred (which alone is an indication of which way this is going).

Now one of the initial accusers, one who was paid in a settlement, has come forward after being released from the confidentiality agreement.  Karen Kraushaar has confirmed her identity, but little else.

As for Bialek, there are a number of items in her background that gives pause to one seeking a clear understanding of whatever can be gleaned from this 14-year-old ‘he said/she said’ accusation, replete with innuendo.  Bialek and Allred insist that there is no money involved in the accusations, but that would include the lawyerly rendering of the definition of ‘is’.  Bialek has filed for bankruptcy twice, in 1991 and 2001, and that ten-year mark has just been passed again, with an opportunity to become financially stable once more.  Coincidence?

This story is quickly becoming a mainstay of tabloids and ‘Hollywood Entertainment’ sorts of television drivel.  I will say for the interim that there are better stories to which I should dedicate myself, and I will let this sort itself out after all the chum has been tossed into the feeding frenzy.  I still stand by my initial assessments, and I expect that all the due diligence and deference of the MSM shown to Obama, Bill Clinton, Edwards, Weiner, and the like will be shown.

Who am I kidding?  Mr Cain, have your campaign staff call Clarence Thomas.

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