I am not a devoted supporter of Herman Cain although I do find him an appealing person, someone who seems to be a straight shooter when it comes to discussing the issues facing candidates these days. But I have not committed to him in part because there are others among the Republican lineup whose views I consider much better, e.g., Gary Johnson and Ron Paul.
But the current problems Cain faces seem to warrant a few observations about the matter of the onus of proof when it comes to such "He said, she said" situations. Plainly put, Cain is accused of having harassed some women some years ago who, however, let the matter go for one or another reason. No charges have ever been filed, from what the news reports say. In one case someone who complained quit her job and received severance pay that appears to have been based on the organization's wish not to deal with the situation any further than that. Over the years none of the women have pursued any grievance procedures until very recently when several have made claims of having been groped and such by Cain, claims that have not been proven true beyond any reasonable doubt beyond some friends of the women saying they heard them before.
Given that Mr. Cain appears to me, from his various public presentations and discussions, to be a decent and bright enough individual, given that his candidacy is likely to pose a serious obstacle to Mr. Obama's smooth reelection in 2012 and given the unprincipled conduct of many who support Mr. Obama — they proudly assert that they are pragmatists (who do not hold to any principles at all, thinking them all unfounded and unsupportable) — I admit to favoring Cain's side in this controversy. "Show me," as the state motto of Missouri states! Or "Where is the beef?" And consider some of the dubious sources involved in the charges, nearly all of them in the Obama camp.
But aside from my own sentiments, there is the more important issue of who has the onus of proof here and what such proof would have to amount to in order for it to be compelling. Eyewitnesses who can reasonably be taken to be impartial would work. Some kind of correspondence, emails or notes, telephone messages, etc. could strengthen the case against Mr. Cain but there are no such things in evidence here. It seems quite obviously no more than a case of some people who can reasonably be assumed to be opposed to Mr. Cain's politics and candidacy making unsubstantiated claims that Mr. Cain had behaved in ways that amount to sexual harassment.
So what is one who has some interest in this matter to believe? Based on the tradition of due process in American criminal law and the common sense idea that when people come forth with damaging claims against others they need to make a good case in order to be taken seriously, the sensible attitude now is to leave Mr. Cain to his campaigning activities and ignore those who keep harassing him with unfounded accusations. Never mind public opinion, which is very largely driven by partisanship in the face of no solid evidence in sight. If such evidence were to emerge, one's views may need to be updated. But not before then. For the time being, Mr. Herman Cain ought not to be regarded as being guilty of any wrongdoing of the kind he is being accused of by the women, anonymous or not.
Is my suspicion that some of this is motivated by politics unreasonable? May there be some echoes of the Clarence Thomas hearings here as well — meaning that the prospect of an intelligent, likable black conservative political figure irritates liberal democrats so much that at least some of them, the more opportunistic, pragmatic types, would be willing to resort to dirty tricks to discredit such an individual? You bet! But this is not very much more than speculation, an at least not-uneducated guess.