"Here we go again," Herman Cain told Wolf Blitzer yesterday, right after he denied having a 13-year-long affair with "acquaintance" Ginger White. Both Cain and political pundits are putting White's story under the same scandalous umbrella as those pesky sexual harassment charges, with Cain describing White's story as "accusations" and likening them to a "smear campaign." But let's get one thing straight: A steamy, consensual affair and a creepy, unwanted sexual advance are two different things. In fact, they're pretty much opposites.
On Atlanta's Fox 5 News last night, White made Cain look better than he has in months. "He made it very intriguing," White said of the alleged relationship. "It was fun. It was something that took me away from my humdrum life at the time. And it was exciting." According to her, Cain showered her with gifts and flew her to cities where he was speaking. He even called her 61 times over four months—not a bad commitment for a busy man. In an alternate universe, White's reveries of the tender affair could put him back in America's good graces. Sure, he may have sexually harassed his employees, but at least he's a good boyfriend.
It's likely that pundits and bloggers will continue to lump the Cain accusers together, even if Cain's lawyer takes pains to separate them. His attorney, Lin Wood, has issued a followup statement saying this is "not an accusation of harassment in the workplace—this is not an accusation of an assault—which are subject matters of legitimate inquiry to a political candidate." For once, his camp has gotten something right. Whether or not Cain had what appears to be a wholly consensual relationship should have little to no bearing on his ability to be president. Sexual harassment, on the other hand, is fair game.