Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg: The Herman Cain and Penn State Stories Have Surprising Parallels with Alexander Hamilton's DownfallRoundup: Historians' Take
Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg are Professors of History at Louisiana State University and coauthors of "Madison and Jefferson." (Random House, 2010).
You’ll find lurking in every media-maximized sex scandal a man who feels himself in one way or another above the law. Look up “smug” in the political dictionary, and if the first entry isn’t Herman Cain, it will probably say Newt Gingrich, who eagerly pursued Bill Clinton concerning morals charges that may have paled in comparison to his own contemporaneous straying problem. Oops.
Now, let’s compare the other headline-grabbing sex shocker of the week: the concealment by Penn State University of Jerry Sandusky’s alleged fifteen-year rampage, in sexually abusing young boys. There is a common thread between the sordid Sandusky business and Herman Cain’s outrageous behavior when confronted with charges of serial sexual harassment: Power and the belief in one’s invincibility make for a dangerous elixir.
The question that these stories of sexual misconduct raise is a peculiarly American one: Why do our people handle such episodes so badly? The answer lies in the public’s inability to reconcile an admiration for powerful men and powerful institutions with its inevitable consequence of corruption. Blind trust and unalloyed admiration create the atmosphere for abuses of power, for covering up misconduct, and even excusing it when it is revealed.
Herman Cain is merely the most recent in a long list of defiant politicians accused of sexual misconduct. Abraham Lincoln didn’t live long enough for consorting with prostitutes to tar his reputation. James Buchanan lived too soon to be presumed gay, though he pulled a Joe Paterno in protecting his close associate Dan Sickles, adulterous congressman and later Union general, who traveled to London on state business accompanied by his favorite prostitute....
comments powered by Disqus
- Rubio Surges Into Second In New Hampshire
- Branstad Says Cruz Ran ‘Unethical’ Campaign
- Christie Highlights Santorum’s Endorsement of Rubio
- Portman Comes Out Against Trade Deal
- Megyn Kelly Gets a Book Deal
- A Big List of the Bad Things Clinton Has Done
- An Unambiguous Sign Sanders Won Last Night’s Debate
- Still Friends at the End
- Quote of the Day
- Trump Still Leads as Clinton Slips
- Clinton Can’t Shake Image as Wall Street’s Friend
- Maddow Doesn’t See Sanders Winning
- Why Does the Media Still Shield Chelsea Clinton?
- Bush Jokes His Mother May Have Abused Him
- Rubio Closes the Gap in New Hampshire
- Humans Hard-Wired to Teach, Anthropologist Says
- Parents outraged after students shown ‘white guilt’ cartoon for Black History Month
- Maryland is once again considering retiring its state song
- One of the last remaining Nazis goes on trial in Germany
- Inside story finally told of the young US diplomat who cracked the case of the murder of 4 nuns in El Salvador in 1980
- Historian at the center of Sanders-Clinton debate
- James Loewen Says Additional Baltimore Confederate Statues Should be Removed
- NYT History Book Reviews: Who Got Noticed this Week?
- A historian’s advice to students thinking of getting a PhD in a tough economic climate
- German historian Heinz Richter cleared of charges