I think I understand why the audience at Wednesday’s CNBC debate booed Maria Bartiromo’s question to Herman Cain about sexual-harassment allegations. They don’t believe there is any truth to them. They suspect, along with the candidate, that the women concerned are part of a liberal lynch mob out to smear another strong, conservative, black man. They know that accusations of sexual harassment are often nebulous and PC. If I guess correctly, they also believe — with considerable justification — that the press is less interested in the dry details of policy than in salacious tales of misbehavior. They resent being dragged into another smutty distraction.
Yes, but. As someone who was well-disposed toward Herman Cain as a public figure (if not as a potential president), I cannot help recalling the response of Democrats to revelations about Bill Clinton. “We know all about it,” one exasperated reader wrote to Newsweek magazine, “and WE DON’T CARE.” In fact, the majority of Americans did not care — and it was not our finest moment as a nation. Liberals, who professed to be appalled by the one accusation against Clarence Thomas (just one non-contemporaneous accusation — not four or five), dismissed Bill Clinton’s behavior as no big deal. Stuart Taylor noted at the time that even if everything Anita Hill said about Clarence Thomas were true, it would not be nearly as serious as the allegations against Bill Clinton. Conservatives argued at the time that character mattered. Liberals replied, in effect, that it didn’t.
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