Suzanne Fields

The mere accusation, whether proved or not, is worth a "settlement" rather than an expensive and messy trial, as one of the cases against Herman Cain suggests. The lawyers call it "damage control." Any CEO would tell you that "settling," even when he believes the accused party is innocent, is usually the easy way out. That's what his lawyers are telling him, too.

"Harassment" has taken a permanent place in the vocabulary of both work life and private life, filtering down to the conversations of schoolchildren. Substantial money is spent teaching the young about harassment and abusive relationships. Batteries of counselors enter even the early grades to conduct "exercises" in identifying harassment in abusive relationships, even among children in their early teens.

The Los Angeles Times reports an exercise where students had to decide what constitutes reasons for ending a bad relationship. In one script, a girl pinches a boy for looking at another girl. Is that a relationship-breaker? Such an exercise may be verging on the ridiculous, but it's nevertheless typical. There's a push to put such programs like this in schools across the country.

It may seem a reach to go from the accusations against Herman Cain to issues of harassment among teenagers, but we've trivialized and sexualized the meaning of responsible behavior between teenagers and adults alike that nobody knows what's permissible and what's not.

We don't know all the facts of the accusations against Cain, and the early story lacks vital specifics. If he's telling the truth, and it sounds like he is, given his "recollections," we've diverted public attention from more serious issues in an important presidential campaign. These were, after all, accusations that the parties involved thought they had laid to rest more than a decade ago. The early indications are that the accusations are taken more seriously in the newsrooms of Washington than in Iowa, where the citizen caucuses will finally replace the Pundit Primary on Jan. 3.

Gloria Cain, Herman's wife of 43 years, mother of their two grown children and grandmother of three, will sit down with her husband for a rare interview on Fox News on Friday night. Maybe we'll learn if she should have pinched her man.

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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