Close Readings: Herman Cain’s preemptive denial

Not pictured: lower half of Herman Cain

LL Cool H, you guys: Ladies Love Cool Herman. More specifically, they love coolly accusing him of sexual misconduct. Last night, Cain told Wolf Blitzer that soon, someone somewhere would “accuse me of an affair for an extended period of time.” He meant the affair lasted for an extended period of time, but it will probably work the way he said it, too. As you can see, claiming that Cain grabbed your boob or dated you for 15 years or whatever in order to derail his otherwise perfect presidential campaign has become a real fad. You know what else is a fad? Lying. It’s so popular that people don’t even realize they’re doing it anymore, the way you had to tell your friend that he was saying smokin’!  too much in 1994. In last night’s preemptive denial of whatever thing he absolutely did not do with the lady he knew was about to accuse him of something, Cain forgot that not everyone has just watched The Mask. Quote after the jump.

Here’s Cain going on CNN to tell us that we’re going to be hearing a lot of crazy stuff about him soon, but don’t worry—everything is okay:

I don’t want to specify because I don’t know what’s in the story…We will address these when they come out, but at this point, I just wanted to give you a heads up. I don’t have anything to hide and we will address the details as we know them.

“Let’s tell the truth,” your girlfriend says when she comes home from her business trip. “You go first.” Cain’s assertion that he will reveal the details of his own relations with Ginger White once he knows them sounds kind of weird if you proceed from the assumption that everyone is speaking honestly. He doesn’t have anything to hide, but he’s also not going to say what happened until she does. The explanation that it’s because “I don’t know what’s in the story” seems odd from a man whose official position is that he’s about to counteract a lie with the truth. Later. Just as soon as he knows the details of what, um, he really did.

His remarks make more sense if you proceed from the assumption that everyone—White, Cain, probably Blitzer—is lying. I’ll bet there is something kind of weird about candidate Cain’s fifteen-year friendship with a woman his wife has never met. I’ll also bet that “affair” doesn’t quite capture it. What is a 13-year affair, anyway? Does that mean they hook up whenever Mrs. Cain leaves for the annual Patient Lady Convention? Did they go on vacation, say, three or four times over a 13-year period? You can’t be having an affair all the time. “Affair” is an emergent property, which is why most people prefer factual information about events to, for example, vague denials of things other people haven’t said yet.

Here’s a fact: if you send Herman Cain a text message from Ginger White’s phone, he will call you right back. He will do that even after you have publicly accused him of having an affair with you. The moment Cain calls back is a detail of both the Slate and Washington Post stories, and both neglect to tell us what he says next. Probably it’s less “hey baby” and more “this is William Saletan, isn’t it?” We don’t know, which again forces us to A) issue a big old Fuck You to contemporary journalism and B) turn to facts. Here’s another one: White has produced phone records that show texts and calls between herself and Herman Cain every other day for the past two years.

That’s not necessarily an affair, because what is an affair anyway? Cain has nothing to hide, even though he’s not going to tell us what he’s not hiding until he knows what he needs to deny. And besides, the things he doesn’t need to hide are none of our business, anyway. All the things he didn’t do are perfectly fine, as his lawyer pointed out in a separate statement to CNN. “[T]his appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults—a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public,” wrote L. Lin Wood, whom Cain hired the first time he was accused of sexual harassment this year. It does appear to be an accusation of alleged private consensual conduct, or a [so she says][I’m not saying he did it][none of your business][okay anyway,] to use the terms of art. Cain is against gay marriage, by the way.

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  1. Reading this post, specifically the paragraph after the block quote, is the closest I’ve ever come to caring whether a politician lies about his sex life. Still not quite there, but it almost seems like it matters.

  2. Ginger White had several eviction notices field against her in the past few years and is bankrupt. Why? A former employer secured a judgment against her for stalking and sending threatening messages. She also has a history of filing sexual harrassment claims. Does the fact that her bio reads like that of a total psycho bother the liberal media? Does it make her any less credible?

    Sharon Bialek was fired from tha National Restaurant Assocation for poor performance as a fund raiser. A few months later, she accuses Herman Cain of sexual assault. She too has a long history of financial troubles. Is she credible?

    Five women (two unnamed) with allegations and no proof.

    By proof, I mean there is no smoking gun. It is “he said, she said.” But this time the allegations are so specific that someone on either side ought to be able to prove them true or false. I don’t think this can go on much longer. The current woman, Ginger White, says she has “proof” in text messages and a phone log. Okay. Where is the proof? White claims she has the text messages, but hasn’t shown them to the media.

    So far it’s been: “Where there is smoke there must be fire, right?” No, sometimes people just blow smoke. Why haven’t the text messages been published? In 13 years, there is no smoking gun to prove the affair.

    First, how do you carry on a 13-year affair as the CEO of a major corporation and keep it hidden? Granted it’s more difficult for Herman Cain to prove a negative. But if there is no proof that a sexual affair took place, then we have to wonder how that is even possible to go on for so long with no proof whatsoever (if we are honest, that is).

    Second, what is the motivation if these women are lying? It’s purely political. They came forward only to derail the Cain campaign. That much is certain. Whether the allegations are true or untrue, the women only came forward when Cain began to lead in the polls. The only ones who came forward are women with a history of financial problems and who have a pattern of pressing sexual harrassment charges. The motivation for coming forward was political.

    Third, if this IS truly a smear campaign, what does this say about American culture and politics? It is possible to destroy a political candidate based on vicious lies. Why do Barney Frank (his gay lover ran a male prostitution ring out of his apartment) and Bill Clinton (was charged with sexual assault and settled out of court) get a pass, but a Republican candidate can suffer shipwreck to an entire political career over unfounded allegations?

    It’s simply because conservatives care more about character and ideas, while liberals will promote lies whenever it suits them. It’s an uneven playing field. Granted, it’s not a black and white distinction. There are conservative nutjobs who claim Obama is a Muslim who was born in Kenya or Indonesia, but in liberal circles, confabulation is mainstream. The truth simply does not matter as long as they can win. Since most liberals are postmodernists, they don’t believe there is a real difference between perception and reality.

    In any case, with Herman Cain, the truth will come out. Either he is the victim of an orchestrated smear campaign, or he is a pathological liar. There is no neutral ground since he claims he never acted inappropriately with any woman.

    If it is shown that this is candidate whose career was ruined by a sexual scandal, then that is nothing new. But if it’s shown that any of these woman are lying, then it’s one of the greatest injustices in the history of American politics.

  3. How does the CEO of a corporation keep his affair a secret? Really? My first thought was “much more easily than the average person, given a CEO’s ability to jet-set, hector subordinates, and generally be in a role (corporate CEO) where affairs don’t exclude you from influence or power (like the genteel men of plantation society, they likely are seen as badges of honor and possibly even agreed to by the spouses so long as they don’t embarrass said spouse).

    Bill Clinton was impeached after being grilled about his sex life (yes, he lied under that grilling). For Republicans not affected terribly by their scandals, see Larry Craig (who finished his term before deciding not to run again), David Vitter (currently still in office), not to mention the wonderful uncontroversial and apparently unimportant assaults against the institution of marriage and Puritan rectitude perpetrated by Newt Gingrich (current front-runner), John McCain (most recent nominee), and Rudy Guiliani (who is thankfully no longer taken seriously). Also, the ascendant blowhard who passes as a family values, moral rectitude policeman, Bill O’Reilly seems not to have been harmed at all by his own sex scandal.

    Sorry Jay, your comments make almost no sense. One of the greatest injustices in the history of American politics? The ruining of a novelty candidate (yes, he’s a novelty…pizza CEO even beats out hilariously camp Mr. Universe/Action Star in the novelty department) is only a historic injustice if you know almost zero about history.

  4. Damn, Jay Rogers going Fox News! style on Dan. My favorite quote:

    “It’s simply because conservatives care more about character and ideas, while liberals will promote lies whenever it suits them.”

    I can’t think of one lie conservatives have invented and promulgated, not for the life of me. And if you really think Clinton was able to “get a pass” then you truly have a superb piece revisionist history prancing through your head this holiday season.

    I’m also a fan of deciding a person’s innocence based on the accuser’s motivation. This would save quite a bit of legal fees since we could abolish our court system completely. We would only need the bank account figures of the accuser and the accusee, insert the greater than/less than sign appropriately, and, viola, the verdict is rendered, justice is served.

    My advice: Work on your theatrics, add a few more grammatical miscues, and take your place as the new Glenn Beck. You’ll be the perfect lead in to Herman’s new show starting in the fall of 2012.

  5. I suspect that women who pursue sexual harassment claims against wealthy, powerful men are, indeed, more likely to be fired, unemployed, and in financial difficulties.

    They might even be so desperate as to carry on no future, long term “friendships” with jackasses.

    What I like about today’s news is that Cain is also preemptively hanging the future demise of his campaign on his wife: ie It will continue as long as she supports it. Sort of sounds like his “friendship” with Ms. White.

  6. Damn it.

    Had you guys heard of this Jay Rogers guy before now? Cause I hadn’t. His bio is pretty special:

    My favorite part is where he becomes a Christian at 23. Before somebody flips, let me explain: I would hope that someone who decides on a life theme in their early twenties, after a college education and assumed life experiences (meeting lots of people, responsibilities, mistakes), they would become an even-keeled, well-tempered person where their new life theme is simply a part of who they are. In my experience, however, they usually become hyper-active, over-reaching, and known for shoving their new favorite thing in everybody’s face.

    That being said, his argument is hugely entertaining. It is much more logical to believe that several women have been cajoled to falsely accuse this poor guy to ruin his chances in a contest that he has no chance of winning. There’s no way that a man of power and influence was grabbing some ass on the side and now that he is under closer scrutiny this is coming to light.

    Your argument sir, is full of the thinking that allows rape to go unpunished. How Christian of you.

  7. Is there any chance that Combat! veers into postmodernism and delivers a close reading of a certain pseudo-intellectual blowhard’s comments regarding today’s post? That, I think, would be a hilarious/depressing/thoughtful examination of the Christian right’s love affair with cognitive dissonance. Clearly, we’re dealing with someone who has built a narrative in his head and will manipulate all evidence contrary to that narrative as needed.

    And, if we assume Jay’s biography on Forerunner is remotely accurate (to be fair, I bet it’s more factually accurate than much of his above post), his English and Psychology degrees will come in very handy; he’ll be able to understand, oh, at least fifty percent of what’s terribly wrong with his comments.

  8. “[W]hat is the motivation if these women are lying? It’s purely political.”

    I doubt five women decided they love Obama/Romney/Huntsman/etc so much that they want to accuse Cain of harassment, thereby opening themselves to intense scrutiny and mudslinging. Also, I’m not sure why Mr. Rogers assumes all political motivations behind these accusations come from those darn Democrat liberals; it seems just as plausible a rival Republican campaign would be behind a smear.

    Enough about Mr. Rogers. The Mask trailer was painful to watch. I can’t believe how long Americans’ attention spans must have been back in 1994.

  9. “Since most liberals are postmodernists, they don’t believe there is a real difference between perception and reality.”

    Come on, guys. You know that’s true. (If there were such a thing as truth, of course.)

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