There are a lot of people who have been wrongly accused of something -- sexual harassment, theft, spitting in the soup -- and for whom a surfacing accusation could be an embarassment. However, there is a significant difference between most of them and the former doyen of not terribly great pizzas -- if you ask them about it, in writing, ten days in advance they'll have a reasonable answer. Unless they're psychopaths, liars or figure that they have some sort of get out free card. Race, gender, national origin, religion or patriotism can all work here.
But, one thing that those either innocent or inadvertently at fault tend to do in these situations is fairly simple -- if accused of something foul, they remember the accusation vividly and they cringe inwardly, because any investigation is painful. I've been through a few on my side and have conducted many, and frankly, it's a terrible experience, especially in the case of the innocent or those who legitimately didn't realize that they were crossing a line. Hell, for most of us, if you remind us of some behavior flaw that isn't criminal, we'll remember it, shake our heads in dismay at our own stupidity, cupidity or lust, and willingly apologize. If we didn't do it, we'll suffer worse and the more ethical the person accused, the more they will suffer trying to remember and recall.
The snake in a suit however will operate from a totally different point of view. When cornered, they tend to attack, pontificate or look for someway to blame the victim while denying any responsibility. From everything we know of Herman Cain, we know that he was a hands on guy until he started his "I'm Herman Cain and I'm inspirational' business. I do not believe, for a second, that the National Restaurant Association would have done a settlement without an investigation. Cain went through an investigation based on the complaint. It either bothered him or it didn't; given his style thusfar in the campaign, does anyone believe that he didn't approve any settlement?
Are a lot of these things frivolous? Of course they are. If we had a reasonable social net and better unemployment insurance that actually worked we might not see so many of these. Do businesses settle as a matter of course -- yeah, they do. It's cheaper, quieter and there's less risk. Do they normally involve CEOs? No. However, regardless, the business will settle. I used to think that the amount of the settlement was an indication of the amount of truth involved, but have come to realize that because a lot of the suits are brought by personal injury lawyers working on speculation, the goal is to get a settlement. Many, if not most -- and I do not know why not all -- firms have business conduct insurance to cover this sort of thing, and the settlement that we've heard about sounds about like the norm.
Now, if someone rich sued the the organization and used a really good employment lawyer, they'd probably have been able to get a lot more simply because the risk of litigation, embarassment and higher penalties would have kicked in. However, this was a reasonable piece of change under the circumstances, I suspect.
So, AXE, what do you think? I think Cain probably crossed a line; I'm more troubled by his failure to remember it and his attempt to bully the reporter. Troubled is perhaps the wrong word -- that is, until I thought of the Joliet Jake defense. There were lots of things foreshadowing the confrontation between Belushi and Fisher in the Blues Brothers...yet, Jake remained oblivious to that stuck in his narcissistic vision of self as being on a mission from God...to save the penguin. When confronted, he talked his way out of it...as only a fictional character in a John Landis movie can.
I'm not comparing Herman Cain to Joliet Jake Blues. First of all, Jake had a rudimentary code of ethics and a fairly well developed sense of right and wrong. Cain doesn't even get arithmetic; he's a bully, and a self-righteous one at that. But, for a hardnosed businessman to flail like this is an indication that he can't find an explanation that works for him. He should take his Jake Abrahamoff cowboy hat and go back to handling snakes and singing gospel about pizzas...