In 1980, Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill said something similar to "it is not the evidence, but the seriousness of the charges," when referring to why Congress needed to investigate the totally factitious original "October Surprise."
The original October Surprise allegation was that while Ronald Reagan was campaigning for President, Vice President nominee George H.W. Bush flew on an SR-71 to Iran to negotiate the release of our embassy personnel being held hostage.
An SR-71 only holds one person, has few instruments and virtually no VFR flight capability; the pilot uses a peep hole in the floor to see the runway. In short, it was impossible.
Although Tip O'Neill was brilliant, who knew he would be so prophetic.
Tip O'Neill's concept would come back again and again. We saw it with the nominations of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. It appeared again with the campaigns of Presidents Bush the elder and younger. Now, it is on full display with Coach Joe Paterno and Herman Cain.
My wife used to live in the Happy Valley area of Pennsylvania. While she is not particularly a sports fan, she is a huge devotee of Coach Joe Paterno.
What do we know? Coach Paterno was bigger than Penn State. The coach had been at Penn State longer than any other college coach at any other American college anywhere and was resented by some of the school administration.
We know that in the 1990s, one assistant coach saw another assistant coach sexually assaulting a boy. This was reported to Coach Paterno, who in turn, reported it to his superiors at Penn State as the law required. Both the assistant coach and Coach Paterno did as the law required. We don't know whether or not Coach Paterno had any reason to believe or disbelieve the allegation.
We also know that a criminal investigation was opened. We know this because the news media have mentioned that the prosecutor who was investigating these allegations has disappeared, is presumed dead and his laptop computer was found in a river with the hard drive missing. The news has never said how the investigation was started, but we know that Coach Paterno is not a target in any criminal investigation.
Penn State fired Coach Paterno and the school president. The assistant coach who witnessed the attack, but failed to stop it, is on administrative leave.
What else did Coach Paterno do? What did he fail to do? We don't know.
Coach hasn't said anything as, most likely, his attorney has advised. How does Coach Paterno prove that he didn't fail to do the right thing? How do you prove what you didn't do?
After Herman Cain left the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, a female employee complained of sexual harassment. She never filed a complaint with the EEOC. She never filed a lawsuit. She was paid approximately $30,000, much less than what the restaurant association would have paid to defend a suit. With this settlement, she left her employment. The others who are now making allegations never even complained to their superiors.
Now, there is a woman claiming to have had a 13-year adulterous relationship with Mr. Cain. There are some 70 text messages and telephone calls between them in the past 30 days. However, 60 of those texts and calls were made by her. The texts and calls made by Mr. Cain were all in response to her attempts to contact him. There should be pretty conclusive proof somewhere of a 13-year adultery if it is true. At the moment, the only evidence is texts and telephone calls.
Where there is smoke, there is fire. Or could it be smoke and mirrors? After all, people would never make false accusations against a political candidate to sway an election.
How does Herman Cain prove what he did not do? Unlike Coach Paterno, Herman Cain has made public denials and even stated he would take a lie detector test. Moreover, the CBS television affiliate in Atlanta hired a voice stress analysis expert who ran the unedited statements of Cain and the one public accuse through his computer software. The analysis showed that Cain was telling the truth and the accuser was lying. This software was accurate when run on one of the affiliate reporters.
In a court of law, unlike the court of public opinion, the accuser is never required to prove what he or she did not do. It is up to the accuser to prove the allegation. Moreover, juries are given instructions to help make sure that happens. It is impossible to prove what you did not do.
Anyone can accuse anyone of anything. You can remain silent, as Joe Paterno has done, or you can deny it, as Herman Cain has done. In the court of public opinion, does it make a difference which option you take?
After all, what is most important is the seriousness of the charges.