The Cain sexual harassment story hit a new low on Thursday when the Republican presidential candidate's newly hired lawyer issued a threat to any woman considering stepping forward with information, saying they "should think twice."
Lawyer L. Lin Wood offered no specifics about why they should think twice, but a front-page story in today's New York Times is full of clues: Less than 24 hours after she acknowledged being one of Herman Cain's alleged victims, Karen Kraushaar, a career media specialist in the federal government, was the target of a leak about a workplace complaint she filed in the early 2000s seeking permission to work at home after a car accident. In the same story, Cain's campaign notes that Wood's services will include a "research team."
In case the women who've known Herman Cain as a colleague or a boss still don't get it, here is Wood's message, loud and clear: Step forward and you just might find members of the Cain "research team" combing through your personal history looking for dirt. So unless you can find a vault to lock up your personal finances, your medical history, your former boyfriends, and perhaps even your trash bins, be prepared. Your private life will be about as secure as an office at the Watergate in 1972.
Sharon Bialek knows the drill already. The day after the Chicago woman went public with a story that Cain roughly groped her and propositioned her in a car in 1997, the Cain campaign put out a statement listing civil lawsuits she had been involved in, including personal bankruptcy filings and an old custody dispute over her son, now 13.
And so it happened that late in the day Thursday, Kraushaar's attorney issued a statement saying that despite "diligent efforts," two unidentified women who say they were also victims of inappropriate behavior by Cain had not responded to Kraushaar's invitation to hold a joint press conference to respond to the candidate's claims that all of their charges are "baseless." Kraushaar, he said, had decided against holding a press conference or commenting further on her own story "until the other women come forward."
Top Republicans from popular Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour to rival presidential candidate Newt Gingrich have called on Cain to put the scandal behind him by answering the questions raised about his behavior and his character fully and accurately. But Cain clearly has adopted a different strategy for dealing with the crisis: Lawyer up and threaten your adversaries. Get a shovel and dig up dirt.
End of story?