Joe Paterno, Herman Cain Are Not The Victims in Their Scandals

Feel bad for the victims, not the perpetrators.

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If you can't trust Joe Paterno, whom can you trust?

The mighty false god of football fell with a clang on the American psyche, as disturbing news broke of alleged pedophilia—rape charges pressed against a trusted assistant coach—and a cover-up right under his nose. The sickening story unfolding at Penn State has left us, we of little faith, searching for a rock solid character in the public eye. Perhaps we can turn to Mississippi, which did something right—thank you—in voting against giving legal personhood to a zygote.

Certainly not to Herman Cain, the Republican pretender who would be president. Truly, he has delighted us long after his fifteen minutes are up.

[8 Politicos Who Survived Scandals]

Running for president is a serious proposition, not an extension of a high school talent show where he plays the jovial jester magician with three cards of 9-9-9 and sings, of all things. In the face of several accusations of sexual misconduct—including a settlement paid out by his former employer—he has not stood the storm well so far. He has showed a meaner side in his denials, lashing out at the Democratic party, the news media, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the lawyer of one accuser, Gloria Allred, whom his campaign described as a "Democrat donor"—meaning Democratic. It's a mistake Republican candidates and operatives often make.

Then came the predictable "troubled woman" dismissal of one story yesterday, before the dam breaks. Lest we forget, that page comes right from the playbook of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings 20 years ago, when the Supreme Court nominee faced serious allegations of sexual harassment from Anita Hill. She had worked for him in the federal agency meant to enforce sexual harassment laws on the books.

[Vote: Are the Herman Cain-Clarence Thomas Comparisons Fair?]

Cain raising a persecution complex is not a pretty sight, as he seems to feel that by raising his voice he can silence other people. Pundits urging him to come clean with the truth are misreading an egoist who appears to think that the truth is whatever he says it is. Well into his 60s, what we see is what we get. Cain changing his game, mind or public persona "ain't gonna happen," to quote him. Nor will he "go gentle into that good night," to quote Welsh bard Dylan Thomas.

The reason Cain won't fade out is because this game has been working well for him all his life, just as football has worked out pretty well for old Joe Paterno. Cain's brand of smarts and charm took him far and up the pinnacle of the primary polls. Cain's Republican supporters, men especially, are simply not that concerned with the truth of the sexual harassment allegations surfacing against him. That's a sad truth, but on the other hand, there's agreement among the conservative commentariat that if true, what we have heard so far makes the man an aggressive predator. I believe what we have heard so far and expect there will be more to come.

[Rick Newman: Why the Herman Cain Sex Scandal Is Good For America]

Women, girls, and boys get preyed on by powerful men all the time and the doers usually get away with it. Victims are shamed and fear they won't be believed, with a thousand variations on the theme. Now that we're sobered by this dark topic, let Paterno go with no tears about his "legacy," as if he were truly great. His character is clearly cut from ersatz marble. The fiery contender, Cain may go down (or stay up) fighting—his Republican brethren are best advised to beware him as a force in the race.

The fight "ain't" over yet.

  • Washington Whispers: Herman Cain Throws Mud on Accuser
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  • See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 GOP hopefuls.