- The Washington Times - Friday, November 4, 2011

Liberals are determined to destroy Herman Cain. The Republican presidential candidate is tied or ahead of the presumptive front-runner, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. He has been run- ning an anti-establishment, insurgent campaign that champions sweeping tax reform and a pro-growth agenda. He is a Southern populist who touts his private-sector experience. He also is an authentic black conservative. For this, he is being politically lynched by liberals in the media. All that’s missing is the noose and the tree.

It started several weeks ago. Bill Maher, along with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and Thomas Friedman, a columnist at the New York Times, mocked Mr. Cain on HBO for being “too dumb” and “stupid” to be taken seriously. MSNBC host Martin Bashr, a virulent British leftist, asked on his program whether Mr. Cain even knows “how to spell Iraq.” Mr. Cain has indeed made mistakes on the campaign trail, such as stumbling on abortion and failing so far to articulate a coherent foreign policy. Yet he is a successful businessman, who also had a popular radio talk show and writes a syndicated column. He certainly is not stupid. The left is deliberately promoting a vicious racist smear: The black man has nothing between his ears.

The latest assault, however, is the allegation that Mr. Cain sexually harassed two female employees while he was president of the National Restaurant Association (NRA) during the 1990s. The story was first published in Politico, a left-leaning news website. Politico claimed that Mr. Cain was accused of engaging in “sexually suggestive behavior” that made the women feel “uncomfortable” or “awkward.” The story said the NRA reached a separation agreement with the women and that one accepted a “five-figure” settlement. Both signed a confidentiality clause. Hence, the women remain anonymous, and the exact nature of the alleged harassment is still murky. Apparently, a third woman has come forward anonymously as well. The media report that one of the complaints accused Mr. Cain of inviting a female subordinate at an event-sponsored conference to go up to his “corporate suite.” So far, there is no conclusive proof that he sexually harassed his subordinates. Yet the Politico story has cast a cloud of suspicion over Mr. Cain’s candidacy.

The political establishment is obsessed with how poorly Mr. Cain’s staff has dealt with the accusations. The more important story, however, is liberalism’s hatred for black conservatives. The hypocrisy and double standards are surreal, even Orwellian. When Clarence Thomas was nominated to the Supreme Court by then-President George H.W. Bush, liberals insisted he was unfit to sit on the high court. This was because Anita Hill, a former female subordinate, accused him of “sexual harassment.” The core of her complaint was that Mr. Thomas on several occasions had made sexually inappropriate comments to her. For Democratic leftists, this was the ultimate disqualifier: a dirty mouth.

Yet when President Clinton was in office, the same liberals excused far more egregious - and criminal - behavior. Mr. Clinton was accused of exposing himself to Paula Jones, threatening her with losing her job if she didn’t perform sexual acts. Kathleen Willey alleged that Mr. Clinton had sexually assaulted her in the Oval Office. In the Wall Street Journal, Juanita Broaddrick accused - in painful detail - Mr. Clinton of having raped her. The president engaged in oral sex with Monica Lewinsky in the White House and then lied under oath, suborned perjury and abused his office to cover it up. Mr. Clinton was a sexual predator who presided over the most lawless, scandal-ridden administration in memory. But Mr. Clinton was and remains a liberal icon - a charming rogue who just can’t seem to keep his hands off the ladies. The bar is different for black conservatives, such as Justice Thomas and Mr. Cain. They are demonized - and discredited - by liberals for allegedly doing things many Democrats - from the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy to Al Gore to Rep. Barney Frank - would consider tame.

In addition, when then-candidate Sen. Barack Obama ran in 2008, Politico, along with its liberal media allies, refused to thoroughly investigate his radical past - his ties to terrorists, such as Bill Ayers; his 20-year affiliation with an anti-American, anti-Semitic and black nationalist pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright; the allegations that Mr. Obama’s cocaine use was more widespread and lasted longer than previously admitted; and his Muslim upbringing as a youth in Indonesia. Even as Mr. Obama sits in the Oval Office, Politico refuses to demand that the president unseal his academic, medical and health records. Hard-hitting reporting stops at the edge of the White House.

The reason for the double standard is that Mr. Cain poses a mortal threat to the Democratic coalition. For decades, blacks have been the electoral linchpin of the Democratic Party. Take away the party’s stranglehold, and it would be reduced to a minority rump. If Mr. Cain wins the GOP nomination, he could easily peel away one-third to half of the black vote. That would strike at the very heart of the liberal regime. It would show blacks a way out of the liberal plantation marked by the welfare state, affirmative action and grievance-mongering. They finally would leave the Democratic ghetto.

If Mr. Cain is proved to have sexually harassed these women, then he does not deserve to be the Republican standard-bearer. The party of family values must defend moral standards and civilized decency - it is the Democrats, after all, who champion sex and socialism. But it will - and should - take more than politically motivated Democratic hacks posing as journalists to reduce to rubble a man’s reputation simply because he has the wrong politics with the wrong skin color.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute.