With another week of fervent Republican primary campaigning flying by, allegations of sexual harassment from past years continue to plague the presidential campaign of Hermain Cain, the conservative businessman from Georgia whose platform revolves largely around reform of the United States tax code. Through its existence, Cain’s campaign has provided much fodder for the media at large: stories range from his boisterous speech-making and sometimes inconsistent views to these new allegations of sexual misconduct and their alleged roots in a smear effort by Rick Perry, a Republican candidate and former governor of Texas.
When I read about the allegations in “The New York Times,” they seemed rather run of the mill: as a corporate big-shot, Cain had allegedly mistreated female employees. Though the alleged misdemeanors occurred many years ago, the accusers are only now coming forward, after Cain has established himself as a presidential candidate with rising approval ratings. While I of course acknowledge the gravity of sexual harassment, I find it hard to take such allegations seriously, considering the circumstances under which they arrived in the public eye.
The allegations, nonetheless, should and must spark serious evaluation of Cain’s character as a candidate for President of the United States, a position undoubtedly defined by a great amount of power. Sexual harassment, however, calls into question Cain’s ability to respect the limitations of his power and to not overstep the limitations of his office.
Should it be proved that Cain truly did sexually harass these multiple women, I believe his image will be more tarnished by his inability to respect the limitations of his power than the actual criminality of his actions. By disregarding the limitations of his executive position at the time of the alleged sexual harassment and using this power to elicit sexual favors or make sexual advances on his employees, Cain set a precedent that makes him inherently unqualified to become President.
Take, for example, the ability of the President to act independently of the Congress. The President has the power to activate military forces or make certain diplomatic decisions without seeking the advice or opinion of the Congress—in this way, the President must dance with a fine line and understand that his (or her) power is limited. If the allegations prove true, Cain’s past would serve to demonstrate that he is liable to disregard the expected limitations to his power. In doing so, Cain has made it impossible for the conscientious voter to select Cain in either the Republican primaries or the November 2012 general election.
Despite the questionable circumstances under which he has been accused and despite the counter-accusations that the Perry campaign played some role in the accusations coming to light, Cain went up 5 points in the polls for the 2012 Ohio Republican Presidential Primary on Thursday. I find this fact more distressing than the allegations themselves.
Though the American voting public has been exposed to the deepest (alleged) secrets from Cain’s past, secrets that paint him both as a possible criminal and a renegade leader capable of abusing power, voters still see him as a viable candidate. In many ways, the platform of a candidate for president is secondary to his personal characteristics; holes in the character of a United States President reflect poorly on the country as a whole and, as in the case of the Nixon Watergate scandal, have an overall negative impact on the administration’s ability to govern.
In many ways, Cain’s situation and the reaction of the American public shows a problem in public thought. The American voter must consider not whether or not Cain is a criminal, but rather how allegations of this nature will effect his ability to govern this nation and represent the United States on the world stage.
Sam Green is a three-year Upper from New York, N.Y. and a Copy Associate for The Phillipian.