No need to jump to conclusions about Herman Cain

The story from Politico broke just a couple of days ago. Two unnamed women accused Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain of inappropriate behavior. The women complained of “sexually suggestive behavior by Cain,” but no one was providing specific details.

We tend to both embellish and denigrate our politicians. As would be expected, the truth about our politicians probably lies somewhere in between. Herman Cain may well be guilty of sexual harassment (a term that has not yet been officially applied to his conduct), but we need to be careful to allow for a fair investigation and possibly judicial process regarding Mr. Cain’s alleged actions before we throw him on the heap of discarded 2012 Republican candidates for president.

Virtually all Americans subscribe to the judicial tenet that an individual is innocent until proven guilty. The problem occurs when a group within our society does not want to be “confused by the facts.” They jump to conclusions, often based on inaccurate information, and then relentlessly vilify a public official.

I think that it would be wise for progressives to exercise restraint in condemning Herman Cain about these alleged allegations. Restraint is not to be confused with either a dismissal of pending accusations or acceptance of improper behavior by Cain.

If we vilify Herman Cain prior to more detailed information coming to light, we will be acting in a way similar to the “birthers” who insist that President Barack Obama is not an American citizen because in their mind he was born in Kenya. The accusation is obviously false, but “birthers” are so intent on destroying Barack Obama’s reputation and his political viability that they will go to virtually any extreme to damage him. It doesn’t matter whether the assertions are true or false. The same applies to the thoroughly unsubstantiated assertions that Barack Obama is a Muslim. As fair-minded people know, this “charge” is particularly odious because, so what if he was. Like everyone else, he is entitled to his choice of religion, or no religion, so long as he personally does not harm others in the name of religion.

I accept the contention that Republicans and all Americans are entitled to the implementation of an expeditious process to investigate any charges that may be brought against Herman Cain. He is running for president of the United States,  and we’re just two months away from the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.

Time frequently, but not always, sorts these things out. Two very odd cases come to mind. Former North Carolina Senator and Vice-Presidential nominee John Edwards was accused of carrying on an affair while running for president in 2008. There were, and still are, questions about whether or not he used campaign funds to carry on his dalliance and related expenses. As it turns out, the truth did come out and he ultimately confessed to the affair. Interestingly, the bulk of the investigation was done by the National Enquirer.

Sixteen years previously, the Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Senator Joe Biden as well as the entire U.S. Senate could not “get it right,” as the National Enquirer did in 2008 about Edwards. After President George H.W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, serious doubts were raised about Thomas’ qualifications. They ranged from his non-answers to a variety of questions posed by Senators to substantiated allegations by University of Oklahoma Law Professor Anita Hill that Thomas had harassed her and others while working as chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.

In front of a national television audience a “he said – she said” drama played out between Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill. Recognizing that, at times when there is a lack of physical evidence or witnesses, such a case must rely on a judgment as to who is telling the truth, the Senate Judiciary Committee did what the National Enquirer did not do with Edwards. They got it wrong. It was clear to neutral observers that Anita Hill and her character witnesses were telling the truth, and Thomas as well as his supporters were denying what had happened.

There were no women on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the “old boys network” provided enough solidarity for the male nominee to secure the recommendation of the committee. Then the full Senate, with more than reasonable doubts, confirmed Thomas by a vote of 52-48. For eighteen years, our judicial system has been tainted by interpretations of the constitution, of statutes, and of case facts by Clarence Thomas. Things will get only worse as Thomas refuses to recuse himself from a case involving work by his wife on behalf of Republican candidates.

The Senate Judiciary Committee should hold its head in shame when they could not even measure up to the standards of veracity set by the National Enquirer.

At this point it’s unclear as to who, if anyone, will investigate the suspicions about Herman Cain. He is entitled to scrutiny by either fair media outlets or a non-biased judicial entity. It’s important that we as citizens do not rush to judgment about Herman Cain. This is not only for his benefit but also for the women who may officially level charges about him. They deserve substantiation in order to ensure their credibility and reputations.

You may or you may not like Herman Cain’s policies or his general qualifications to be president. However, when it comes to charges from unnamed and unsubstantiated sources, he deserves our patience and fairness.