(As usual, the agreement with the syndicators means this column appears here a week after it's newspaper release which was just as all the sexual harassment hell broke loose)
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FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, NOV. 4, 2011
BY BOB FRANKEN
It’s a shame that Lewis Carroll isn’t around to write a modern-day “Through the Looking Glass,” because our current political wonderland would have provided even more bizarre material.
There are so many purveyors of reverse reality, and Herman Cain is just one of them. Here is a man who never wastes an opportunity to tell us how uniquely plain-spoken he is, and yet, as we discover time after time, he’s just another candidate who bullshoots from the lip.
Cain’s version of the events regarding his past sexual-harassment charges is ever-changing, a classic case of obfuscation. He grudgingly provides new details —after they are revealed by the media. And, of course, he accuses the same-said media of engaging in a “Witch Hunt.” That’s right out of the campaign I manual, and it goes over really well on the right, which is his election stumping ground.
A Washington Post poll taken after the initial POLITICO reports on all this show that seven out of 10 Republicans say the charges don’t matter.
Rush Limbaugh has rushed to his defense, characterizing the media frenzy as an “unconscionable, racially stereotypical attack.”
Now, remember, that’s from Rush Limbaugh, the grand dragon of radio, whose years broadcasting vitriol to his Ditto Heads frequently have included gratuitous bigoted rants. But there he is, suddenly playing the great emancipator.
And the arch-conservative wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has wasted no opportunity to exploit her husband’s bizarre confirmation hearings with his racially charged claim that he was the victim of a “high-tech lynching.”
Those hearings forced sexual harassment to the forefront, where it belonged. But what followed was the inevitable descent into the bureaucratic HR Hell of another reverse reality.
In far too many companies and organizations, bureaucrats and obstructionist lawyers have created such a tangle that, notwithstanding the sanctimonious stated policies of management, the environment at work is as “hostile” as ever. Human Resources departments are too often demonstrably INhuman. More material for the 21st-century Lewis Carroll.
Accountability becomes irrelevant. It is thwarted by a process that only serves the enforcers and not the victims. It also provides, as we’re witnessing, for the candidate who wants to avoid exposure until the controversy goes away.
If, as Cain claims, he did nothing wrong, why did he and the association he headed agree to pay off his accuser instead of doing battle over the merits? Oh, excuse me, he now acknowledges it was more than one accuser. That was after those evil reporters kept uncovering others.
Unfortunately, right and wrong can be incidental, secondary to a desire to avoid costly litigation and a way to bury embarrassment to either the alleged harasser or, frankly, an opportunistic claimant.
It’s not PC, but let it be said anyway: Justice is not served. In many cases, including this one, the truth is blotted out by the confusion of “he said, she said” no matter who makes what statement, no matter which supposed "clarification" that actually obscures.
This mess is just the latest verbal gamesmanship (and womanship) on just about every issue. And Cain is hardly the only one who engages in the semantic gymnastics. The lineup includes so many names: Romney, Perry, Gingrich, Bachmann — and yes-Obama. This is bi-partisan,
And the politicians are not alone. Not only are they surrounded by legions of sycophantic “spinners” who should pay a sin tax for their perverted syntax, but in everyday life, we are bombarded with confusing advertisements and product claims.
From the useless-information department, let’s note that the original “Through the Looking Glass” was published in 1872. Aficionados will recall the Jabberwocky, the nonsense verse. A hundred and thirty-nine years later, give or take, the nonsense is routinely inverse, words that mean the opposite of what they say. This looking glass reflects badly on our entire nation.