OK, here we go: A name, a face, a voice, and a visual.A week ago, I wrote that the Herman Cain sexual harassment story “could metastasize if any women came forward and put a face on the allegations.” And so now it has. Cain’s fans probably won’t care – his status remains strong within the credulous Republican base – but Sharon Bialek’s public statement makes a mockery of the candidate’s weekend announcement that the scandal story was over simply because he wished it to be.Quite the contrary, the story just got bigger. Maybe, finally, we will be able to fully vet this amateur.The money quote, and the visual: “He suddenly reached over and put his hand on my leg under my skirt and reached for my genitals. He also grabbed my head and pushed it toward his crotch.”So here’s where things stand: Cash settlements to two women who alleged sexual harassment. A third woman who claims the same behavior but declines to go public. And now, a fourth woman who steps fully into the public glare – and who is backed by sworn affidavits from two friends who say that she told them of the incident shortly after it allegedly occurred in 1997. Plus, we have Joel Bennett, a lawyer for one of the other accusers, who said yesterday that Bialek’s account is “very similar” to his client’s experience with Cain. (Meanwhile, a fifth woman is talking about how Cain likes to troll for chicks.)Until yesterday, some Cain defenders had been clinging to a very thin reed; witness, for instance, Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who said Sunday that “I just don’t see anonymous sources as fair against a candidate. I think if someone has a real concern, they should come out and say it.” Well, now someone has said it, directly into the camera lens – a woman who is a registered Republican and recent tea party rally attendee.
Nevertheless, some skeptics are asking whether Bialek is credible. But ask yourself this question: Is it really credible to think that a heretofore private woman would willingly expose herself to national ridicule from the usual suspects (Rush Limbaugh has already mocked her name as “Buy-a-Lick,” complete with slurping noises) unless she believed it was important to right a wrong? Why volunteer to be smeared by the British right-wing Daily Mail newspaper as someone “who has always lived above her station and will do anything to never have to work again,” and smeared on TV by Herman Cain himself, unless she was armed wth the truth?
And Cain has indeed smeared Bialek already. Talking last night on the Jimmy Kimmel show – yes, the Republican circus has devolved to the point where a front-runner is defending himself on the Jimmy Kimmel show – Cain trashed her professional credentials: “Let me put it this way, I can’t think of anything I would hire her to do.” (By the time Cain and his enablers are done trashing her, it will become abundantly clear why all those other women were afraid to run the gauntlet.)Cain is promising more denials at a press conference today. So much for his weekend attempts to stonewall the scandal in perpetuity. So much for campaign chief Mark Block’s remark to the press, “We’re just not going to play by your rules.” Actually, these are the rules of democratic politics. They’re otherwise known as vetting a candidate – particularly a candidate who has asked to be judged on the basis of his private sector “executive experience.”Republicans already have enough problems with female voters – the GOP typically draws only a minority of women in presidential elections – and Cain looms increasingly as an albatross. It’s noteworthy that Concerned Women for America, a key conservative activist group, has essentially sided with Bialek. In a statement yesterday, CWA leader Penny Nance said that Bialek’s account is “shocking” and that the “growing number of women who have accused Mr. Cain of inappropriate behavior gives me pause.”Nance added: “This woman is now the face of an issue that continues to grow and be a distraction for Mr. Cain’s campaign. Mr. Cain needs to address these new allegations head on. Unlike anonymous allegations, Miss Bialek appeared credible, and I was very disturbed by her characterization of what happened. Whoever Republican primary voters choose as president should be a man or woman of good moral character. We said when Bill Clinton was president that character counts, and we still believe that.”If the Republican primary electorate has any sense, they will throw Cain under the bus, if only because he ever won the nomination, he would be a disaster with the female suburban swing voters who are typically known as “soccer moms.” Indeed, the Republican gatekeepers in Iowa may become so unnerved by the weight of the allegations that they will view Cain as too much of a risk, and that his tally in the Republican caucuses will suffer as a result.If that were to happen, then registered Republican Sharon Bialek will have done her party a big favor.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1