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Herman Cain: 9-9-9 Meets 1-2-3

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Who wants to be Paula Jones? Or Kathleen Willey or Anita Hill? All three women have accused political icons -- Bill Clinton, Bill Clinton and Clarence Thomas -- of sexually harassing them.

And what did they get for sticking out their necks? Jones squared off against skater Tonya Harding on "Celebrity Boxing." Willey and Hill wrote books. They can't prove their allegations, and for the rest of their lives, they will have to live with the consequences. They are not in an enviable position.

On Sunday, Politico reported that two women had accused GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain of "inappropriate behavior" in the 1990s, when Cain was head of the National Restaurant Association. Both women received five-figure severance packages. Tuesday, a lawyer for one of the women told the media that his client was seeking release from a confidentiality clause so that she could come forward.

Big mistake. It's "he said, she said." The burden always falls more heavily on the accuser, not the accused. The reported payouts are not so large as to spell out whether the association ponied up to atone for gross misbehavior or because settling was easier. No woman wins in this game.

I could go on about the double standard. Democrats who excoriated Thomas conveniently discarded their indignation during Clinton's many scandals. Because Cain, like Thomas, is African-American, supporters charge that the Politico story is another episode in what Thomas referred to as his 1991 "high-tech lynching."

The original Politico story was weak. As The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz wrote, "it is difficult to assess the potentially damaging allegations, as the article relies on unnamed sources, does not identify the women, and does not detail what is said to have happened." Because liberal pundits cannot even specify any misconduct, they have been reduced to writing that the real issue is Cain's evolving statements on the topic. It's the cover-up, they argue, not the alleged civil tort.

The thing is that it doesn't matter what Cain did or did not do during the Clinton years. Cain has no business running for president.

Cain's only political experience prior to 2011 was losing the primary for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia in 2004. Cain has a great personal success story. He also beat cancer, and he's usually good for a fine quote. But he never has had to deal with a hostile legislature, treacherous GOP allies or a foreign potentate.

As I write this, I see reports that a third woman has told The Associated Press that she considered filing a sexual harassment complaint against Cain. The next couple of news cycles are going to be too predictable. Partisans who like Cain will defend him. Those who don't won't. Facts won't matter.

Cain already had begun to lose some of his luster. He changed his 9-9-9 tax plan to a 9-by-9 model. He joked about his lack of foreign policy expertise by claiming he doesn't need to know the names of the leaders of flyspeck countries, such as "Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan." Cain told CNN's Wolf Blitzer he could see himself authorizing the release of all Guantanamo Bay detainees in exchange for one captive U.S. soldier. Then he said that he had spoken "in error."

Cain's presidential campaign always was going to tank. Now it's going to tank ugly.

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