There was an interesting article in The Atlantic a couple months ago about the epidemic of sex scandals among politicians. (Male politicians, that is... anyone else notice how much better women are at keeping their hands to themselves? Or, at minimum, not getting caught?) The news of the past week about Herman Cain is just further evidence of how riotously inept humans tend to be at conducting themselves with any sense of decorum. Memo to the vast majority of these politicians who invoke a personal religious faith: Martin Luther's comment to "sin boldly" was NOT meant to be taken as a license to ill.
Herman Cain's behavior, if proven -- and there seems to be some pretty serious evidence gathering -- is inexcusable. Sex scandals are damaging to all concerned because they cheapen the value of our most private relationships, but even more troubling is the reality that such attempts to engage in improper behavior and assume one will get away with it demonstrate an alarming level of hubris. How could a person seriously think they could undertake such actions and get away with them? That no member of the relentlessly investigative American media would find out? What does this demonstrate about a candidate's fitness to make principled and above-board decisions on important matters of state?
Some on the right appear to be dismissing these allegations as nothing more than smears. This smacks of hypocrisy given how doggedly conservatives assailed politicians such as Bill Clinton for his picadillos, which were serious and wrong (albeit consensual). If wrong is wrong, improper behavior cannot be tolerated on either side of the political aisle. If we condemn John Edwards and Anthony Weiner for what they did, we cannot exempt Cain, should these allegations prove to have foundations.
An additional note: I have seen arguments to the effect that Cain is being victimized because he is a black man and the identified victim claimant is a white woman. Racially motivated allegations have a long and tremendously tragic history in the United States. Many innocent people have died because of the prevalence of inexcusable prejudices about the supposed depravity of black males. The people making these claims, however, are some of the very same individuals who have cast a shadow upon Obama's citizenship and denigrated his right to govern... using racially tinged arguments. We must pay heed to the tragedies of past experience, but we cannot pick and choose the context of our racialism. American citizens deserve better. Racism is always wrong, should always be fought, and should never be used selectively to justify or condemn. It is simply too serious a crime.