Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Ladykiller

Finally, something we Americans can understand: a good, old-fashioned sex scandal. None of that exhaustingly complex financial lingo to comprehend; no "credit default swaps" or "CDOs" to try to wrap your brain around. No elaborate timelines or spiderwebs of interconnected parties at various levels of government and business to follow. No globe-decimating repercussions that reach down into the lives of each and every one of us. Just one boorish guy accused of possibly trying to sleep with a bunch of women who weren't his wife. It's titillating, easy to understand, and generally the way things ought to be -- what the American mind at the beginning of the 21st century was made for.

I've been reluctant to even get into the sexual harassment scandal currently sucking Herman Cain up into its vortex for a number of reasons, the most obvious being that it doesn't matter one bit -- the scandal, I mean. Yesterday a GOP operative and former National Restaurant Association worker said he personally witnessed Cain harassing a woman during the latter's time as head of the NRA and that if the details of that encounter came out, it would spell "the end Cain's campaign." Except that Cain's campaign doesn't need a crude interaction with a woman -- or even three, as has been accused -- to spell the end of his campaign. The damn thing was over about three seconds after the words "I'm running for president" came tumbling out of Cain's big, undisciplined mouth. While Vanity Fair calls Cain's instantly doomed run a "tiresome national distraction," I'll be a little more characteristically blunt: Scarlett Johansson will sit on my face and piss morphine into my mouth before Herman Cain becomes the Republican nominee for President of the United States. It's never gonna happen. Period.

A better story, of course, is how quickly and viciously the candidates who make up the GOP 2012 Presidential Candidate Clown Car continued their proud tradition of immediately turning on each other once Cain wound up in the media crosshairs. Cain's camp, led by cigarette-smoking weirdo Mark Block, quickly faulted floundering drunk Rick Perry for leaking the story to the press, continuing another proud tradition in Republican politics: blaming the person who ostensibly rats out the bad behavior rather than the one who actually engages in it. Whether the Perry camp really did have anything to do with the media getting hold of the story, who knows, and again it hardly matters. Since day one Cain has been his own worst enemy -- a walking punchline -- and his fade-back-into-obscurity or embarrassing public implosion was always just a matter of time.

There is, however, one genuinely fascinating aspect to this whole scandal -- and that's the predictable left-versus-right reaction to it. If you figured the whole debate over what constitutes sexual harassment -- in all of its uncomfortable detail -- had been mercifully killed off and buried in the immediate wake of the Clarence Thomas saga, its zombiefied remains crawled out of the grave just in time for Halloween. And apparently when it comes to sexual politics not a damn thing has changed in twenty years. The right still believes that women in the workplace, by and large, need to grow thicker skin, and the left still thinks that it's entirely the prerogative of the person claiming harassment to decide what exactly constitutes that harassment. As usual, the realistic approach is somewhere between the two ends.

Only a Neanderthal would think that sexually harassing a peer or subordinate in the workplace is acceptable, but the nebulous nature of sexual harassment can easily get a well-intentioned schlub inadvertently lumped in with the obnoxious overgrown frat-boy set. I get that this is why so many working environments have adopted draconian policies against sexually suggestive talk of any kind, but let's be honest: How many offices really exist in some kind of politically correct Utopian bubble where nobody ever makes an offhand comment, questionable joke or ill-advised advance? We're people, not robots -- each of us is different and looks at the world in a unique way, and when you get a bunch of us together there's going to be tension, no matter what safeguards are put in place in the futile hope of making all of us equals (the great irony to our claims of valuing a diverse workforce, by the way). What's perfectly acceptable to one person is entirely offensive to someone else.

Where the usual suspects on the right are correct in their indignation is when they argue that it's wrong to turn workplaces into witch hunts every time some poor jackass makes a comment that his or her coworker finds objectionable. Harassment is actually in the eye of the beholder, and there's not a damn thing wrong with recognizing the potential predicament that can lead to. You're not a Philistine for admitting that each person will likely see an undefined issue differently. Likewise, no one should lose his or her job for saying something intended innocently but interpreted offensively; that intent should actually be taken into consideration. Again, where the Laura Ingrahams of the world, as generally abhorrent as they are, are right on this is when they say that a woman who's on the receiving end of an unwanted comment or advance shouldn't make immediately reporting the dingbat behind it a matter of policy. Yes, if somebody says something to you that pisses you off, you should actually let that person know what he's done before running and trying to get him officially disciplined. He does it again, he's been warned -- and all bets are off.

Where the talking heads on the left are correct in this whole debate is when they say that a system has to be in place designed to protect women in particular from serial leches. The arrogant assholes who regularly use their authority to try to pressure their peers and underlings into compromising positions and who believe that they can do so with impunity. If the reports about him turn out to be true, that's exactly the group Herman Cain will seem to fall into. He won't be some average doof who's made an untoward but relatively harmless comment to a coworker over the copier; he'll be an incorrigible lothario who thinks his position of power grants him the right to try to bed anyone he chooses and, seemingly, to shame them if they refuse him and then fight back. It'll make him a despicable piece of shit.

And it'll mean that he'll never be President of the United States.

But he was never going to be anyway.


nicole473 said...

Damn it, Chez. You are such a fine writer.

Mart said...

Guy at work had an annual backyard party for the whole office, bosses down to schlubs. One woman in her sixties never came to the party, which were in a weird way fun. One day he asks her if she is coming, and she says no. So then he jokes - come on, we all play naked volleyball, it's a blast. That was it. Instant triple secret probation, third party consoling, and months of meetings with management to be sure he was successfully working through his issues.

It was all so much bullshit. In a normal world the bosses would have said stay the hell away from her you dumbass, you know how she is.

Chez said...

Bingo. Know your audience.

Matt said...

Seriously,knowing the audience is key. Our office can get downright rude, crude, and offensive. The innuendos fly right and left and the woman can be some of the crudest. The funny thing is that we've never had much problem with harassment because everyone realizes that it's just joking around and we all have a pretty thick skin. The one creepy guy who didn't get it caused some problems, but that was cured by a "knock it off jackass". Of course, we don't act the same way when there are "outsiders" around, but that's just common freaking sense.

Edgar said...

Thanks Chez, now I can't get the image of Scarlett Johansson out of my head!

namron said...

Here's what pisses me off: You're right, Chez, that no one who made it through second grade could honestly believe that Clarence Thomas' dumber brother could be Prez. Yet, the media devote half of their airtime to Cain stories. Yeah, it sells ads. I know. But Greece default, the OWS issues, the looming Super Committe results, and the chemical composition of Scarlett's urine all have greater importance to the well being of the Republic. For my own fucking good, fer crissakes, bore me with some of that shit for a change.

Chez said...

You really think this is the paper of record or something?

littlebitoffeisty said...

I am telling you - as a "professional woman" - if the PC police showed up in my office ALL of us, from mgmt down (and a couple of VP’s also), would be hauled off to jail for sexual innuendo.

As I always say, I live right on the edge of the gutter and it doesn’t take much to push me over…..

Anonymous said...

Uh, let's see, the economy is in the dumps, unemployment remains high, and Herman Cain, a man who worked his way up through the business ranks of the world working for Coca-Cola and others, and as CEO of Godfather's Pizza and a national trade association, who one might conclude has a fairly thorough understanding of business economics in America is called Clarence Thomas' dumber brother...

Based on what evidence is that - that being a professional in the business world and working your way up through the ranks of the corporate world - that makes you dumb?

Hello - is there logic in there someplace?

Chez said...

Where are you getting the idea that I called him dumb?

Anonymouse said...

None of this matters. The simple fact is the position of President is fucking pointless.

What every Cain could do as president would not surprise or disappointment me nearly as much as President Obama has considering everything he promised.

I know it sets you off Chez when people point out anything disagreeable about Obama, but in the grand scheme of things, who has done more damage to this country? At the end of the day, Cain will go away. I get to live with the PATRIOT ACT indefinitely, the stain of Gitmo on our collective conscious, the continued corruption on Wall Street...etc, etc, fucking mind blowing depressing etc.

Do not get me wrong. He has done a lot...just in the most half assed manner possible. I just find it utterly frustrating to see his presidency basically fumble from one crisis to another. And I get that its NOT his or his people's fault. But there are major, MAJOR fucking issues that he is basically punting on. Fucking Timothy Geithner.

Ref said...

Anon 7:15, Cain obviously isn't "dumb" but he is also obviously someone who doesn't function well in the political arena. He's arrogant, thin-skinned, and used to being obeyed. None of those work in politics, except, maybe, for the arrogant part. Government is not a business. It never has been and never will be. The biggest canard in American politics is the idea that being successful in business qualifies one to govern. They are different fields.

Steven D Skelton said...

Well written and thought out Chez. And since I really can't disagree with the premise, I'm gonna nitpick.

William Jefferson Clinton

Being a lecherous asshole and abusing power over women didn't stop him from being president.

I'm just sayin'.

Chez said...

Aninymouse, I'm sure you're a nice guy and believe me this has nothing to do with your disapproval of the overall job Obama is doing, but I swear I'm not sure anyone here leaves comments as generally pissy and kind of pointless as yours.

Go back and read what you wrote: The president doesn't matter and he's basically powerless. Obama hasn't been able to do every single thing he promised. He's faced a lot of crises. I'm frustrated even though it's not always his fault. Geithner.


Anonymouse said...

I apologize...I guess I shouldn't read and comment on your site?

But you are right, I did an absolute terrible job in expressing myself and it comes off as confusing.

What I meant by President not being important is that the day to day lives of Americans we are not affected for the most part. We have seen this in how even with the murder of presidents, America just doesn't shut down. Therefore I cannot buy into the notion that if somehow the wrong idiot gets into power, the entire system will crash.

But Obama specifically ran as a game changer. It would be akin if Bush the second ran on the platform of never getting the US involved overseas...then he did...and denied he did that the entire time. The Obama presidency was supposed to be about an open government, where the lobbyist and the money men wouldn't have quick access to the White House. Corruption was supposed to have a spot light on it. And obviously this hasn't happened. I mention Geithner primarily because I...and I am sure the vast majority of Americans, cannot tell the difference between him an Paulson. Both the Bush and the Obama presidency has done nothing to investigate the major crimes that occurred on Wall Street. THIS is a MAJOR issue that should have people in the streets (which in some places it sort of does). To me, it appears that Republicans tell me its poor people's fault, Democrats say infrastructure jobs will fix it, and neither want the underlying problem to be even considered.

Right now the net worth of Congress is over $2 billion. Basically our leaders, while the rest of the US had a down turn, got richer. I'm not just frustrated by President Obama. The whole damn thing makes me sick.

I realize that I do not express myself very well (hell, I am a mechanical engineering student which means by default my writing skills are terrible), but I think that the vast majority of Americans feel similar to me...a lot of pent up frustration directed, either justly or not, at the White House.

Mart said...

SDS - Gary Hart? Also too, Clinton was dragged through endless media mud and impeached; but for the most part people did not care. Cain has the same opportunity to make people not care.

Chez said...

I actually do appreciate your commenting, Anonymouse. But your legitimate indignation is pointed in the wrong direction and even you seem to know that. Hence why I commented that you're pointlessly talking in circles.

No one's saying you shouldn't be frustrated and that the president can't bear some of the blame. But much more of that blame belongs in other places.

Bill Orvis White said...

I'm mad as heck: First off, where was the liberal press when Bubba Clinton attacked a woman and bit her lip instead of his own? Where was the liberal press when Hussein Obama was joking around with racist Rev. Wright, terrorist Bill Ayres and Father Pfleger? Why isn't the libtard media asking questions about Fast and Furious and incompetent Eric Holder? WHERE ARE THEY? I know: They're spending hours and hours and days and days tearing a man apart because he's a black Christian conservative man, pure and simple. Everyone has lust in their pants (yes, pants-that dumb Jimmah Carter said he felt it in his heart-WRONG, the feeling is between your legs!)Now, with that fact stated here on this lefty blog, so what? Herman's a good clean Christian man with a rich baritone voice that sings the praises of the Lord Almighty. So what if he feels a little blood rush to his private parts when he sees a beautiful woman? THIS IS WHAT REAL MEN DO! SO WHAT!THERE'S NO STORY HERE, MOVE ON, LIBTARD PRESS! GOOD NIGHT! Love, Bill

Vermillion said...

First Naomi Watts, now Scarlett? You are such a whore, Chez. Great taste in providers of morphine piss (hey oh!), but a total slutbag.

But on a more serious note, Cain has only two real flaws that prevent him from being President:

1) He has no earthly idea what the job means and what he has to do to get it, and he has no respect for the position at all.

2) He doesn't care about #1.

For every serious presidential candidate that has ever existed, they had to look at themselves and acknowledge one or both of the above. Regardless of party, regardless of policy, regardless of all the bullshit that modern politics entails, I think we can agree that any candidate that goes for any office should at least have some knowledge and respect for that position before they throw their hat into the ring and their foot into their mouths. Even Bush, who cultivated the image of a humble everyman who voters could drink a beer with, had enough savvy to project some form of political competence.

Cain isn't dumb but, for lack of a better phrase, he just doesn't give a fuck. He saw the "aw, shucks" personas other candidates adopted and said "I can out-shuck them all! I'll shuck the HELL outta ya!" That is great Daily Show material, not so great election material. He knows the things to say, but has no idea what they really mean to a voting public, which leads to his constant faux pas.

Chez is right; the guy is simply never going to be a serious contender. This guy is simply the 2012 version of Ross Perot: a guy with too much money, too much time, and too little political self-awareness to be even a remote possibility.