What more could Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain have done at Tuesday's press conference to respond to accusations by four women?
"I have never acted inappropriately with anyone," the former corporate executive told the nation. His straightforward declaration of innocence was absolute and unequivocal, leaving no room to wriggle or quibble over what the meaning of "is" is.
In 1992 the CBS news show "60 Minutes," run by the same Don Hewitt who manipulated how candidates looked during the 1960 Nixon-Kennedy debate and later boasted that he personally had elected Democrat John F. Kennedy, gave a sex-scandal-plagued Bill Clinton the most valuable of all prime-time minutes, following a Super Bowl, to clear his reputation.
As a conservative Republican who threatens the Democratic Party's near-monolithic ownership of African-American votes, Herman Cain on Tuesday was shown no such favoritism.
CBS News asked Cain if he would take a lie detector test.
Cain agreed. He did not fall back on the usual politician evasions, e.g., "I'll take a lie detector test when my opponent takes an IQ test."
When ancient Greek playwrights painted themselves into a corner, they often had a crane lower a pagan god onto the stage to magically resolve the drama.
This device was called deus ex machina, "god from a machine."
In our increasingly godless age we put our faith in feeble science. We expect the polygraph, the lie detector, to give us veritas ex machina, "truth from a machine."
Our courts do not let this unreliable machine send people to prison. One reason, experts contend, is that some can successfully lie to a lie detector.
Polygraphs detect physiological changes when a person shifts from truthful answers to lies. To do this, polygraph examiners must establish an "honest" baseline by asking test takers to confirm known facts such as their name and address.
In theory, one need only tighten certain muscles and elicit stress responses that happen when lying while the polygraph examiner is asking these baseline-setting questions. (Highly paid polygraphers say that fooling them is much harder than critics claim.)
We used to have truth from God a thousand years ago, when early English courts assembled 12 jurors merely to witness divine judgment. Back then the accused and accusers were given a series of tests.
Modern psychologists find great wisdom in such trials. In that long-lost world where everyone believed in God, the innocent would be relaxed and confident of divine vindication. The guilty would be afraid and nervous — and thus likely to trip up when reciting a compurgation oath or get burned from carrying a hot stone with sweaty hands.
Today many still believe in God, of course, but fashionable atheists reject God (yet believe dogmatically that government is Santa Claus).
Herman Cain should call another press conference, ask as Ronald Reagan once did that the cameras be brought in close on his face, and then say:
"I am Herman Cain, a Christian. I say that what these women accuse me of never happened. If I am lying, I call on my God to cast my soul into eternal hellfire and damnation."
"I will also take a lie detector test by a non-partisan examiner," Cain could say, "but my accusers should take this same test."
"And in this time where Hustler Magazine's Larry Flynt has in recent campaigns offered a million dollars to women who make similar accusations against prominent Republican leaders, I today call on each woman accusing me to sign a document my lawyers have prepared that requires them to forfeit any book deal, speaking fee, highly paid job or any other enriching emolument they are offered in any way connected with their accusations."
This is the Cain-do spirit America needs.
Lowell Ponte is co-author, with Craig R. Smith, of "Crashing the Dollar: How to Survive a Global Currency Collapse"; "The Inflation Deception: Six Ways Government Tricks Us . . . And Seven Ways to Stop It"; and "Re-Making Money: Ways to Restore America’s Optimistic Golden Age."
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