Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Why The Penn State & Herman Cain Sex Scandals Are Joined At The Hip

The revelations that the storied Penn State football program harbored a serial child rapist for over 40 years and that presidential wannabe Herman Cain is almost certainly a serial groper and harasser of women would not appear to be connected, but they very much are.

By all rights, the arrest of longtime Penn State defense coordinator Jerry Sandusky on rape charges and the university's athletic director and a vice president who oversees the university police on charges that they covered up Sandsky's perversions should force the long overdue resignation of legendary head coach Joe Paterno, who despite his pained denials certainly was well aware of an stillborn 1998 investigation into Sandusky as well as the rumors swirling around him. Meanwhile, the tidal wave of revelations about Cain, who continues to deny all in an increasingly unconvincing manner, should force him from the Republican race.

But don't expect either man to go without some major pushing and shoving. Nittany Lion fandom is closing ranks behind Joe Pa, the winningest coach in major college football history, while some 70 percent of GOP voters tell pollsters that the groping/harassing allegations will not diminish their support for the former pizza exec.

To say that the cult of personality -- whether with a football stadium or an American flag-draped stump speech audience as the background -- trumps the seriousness of the charges against Penn State and Cain, and they are very serious charges -- is not just a commentary on our times. It also is a commentary on how the church-goingest nation in the land, one with college athletic programs that reek of corruption and a political party that is openly hostile to women, can conveniently look the other way when its so-called morals get in the way of their heroes.

The rap on the Republican Party is especially egregious since we're talking about grown ups and not men coaching boys on all the things they can do with a ball.

That 70 percent who sides with Cain, along with the vile Sean Hannity and other conservative pundits, over the four women (and counting) who allege that his behavior was far from gentlemanly betrays a view that women who claim they were harassed are liars chasing big lawsuit awards. This despite the fact that the bar for proving harassment is extremely high.

But it comes as no surprise and is part of a large whole: The unrelenting GOP war on women in all its guises, including in its view loose women who cry rape the next day, women who intentionally get knocked up so they can get the knocker-upper to pay to raise the child, and women who want abortions not because that is a personal choice or they may be medically necessary but because they're just too lazy or stupid to carry the child to term. Then there are the women who use federally-funded family planning services.

The bottom line here is that women are sluts unless proven otherwise while men are virtuous unless . . . well, they're virtuous.

Meanwhile, the charge against the Penn State veep who oversaw the university police is significant. When the mother of an 11-year-old alleged in 1998 that Sandusky had raped her son after, like the other alleged victims, meeting him through a charity he ran, the university police buried the case deep in a field at the Ag School. Two janitors subsequently witnessed Sandusky performing sex acts in the locker room but did not report the incidents for fear of losing their jobs at a school where Paterno is nothing short of a God.

A final knock or three on Penn State:

Paterno, usually invoking the name of his wife Susan when there is the merest whiff of controversy, gets all prayerful in pointing out that they have devoted their lives to helping young people reach their potential and in this instance are shocked that eight of those young people could have been raped by a trusted coach, adviser and family friend.

"If this is true we were all fooled, along with scores of professionals trained in such things, and we grieve for the victims and their families," Paterno said. Unconvincingly, I might add, because Paterno is on record as having made light of sexual assault in the past. This has drawn the condemnation of the National Organization for Women, which called for his resignation.

As have others as Paterno is now 84 years old and very much plays the part of someone that age as he totters up and down the sidelines or confines himself to a booth above the field, saying little and seemingly directing his team through mind melding. But despite his loyal fans, it is likely that Paterno has coached his last season and the only question is when and how his departure will be stage managed.

The rap against Penn State as an institution is even larger.

How will the university, and specifically President Graham Spanier, atone once the legal dust has settled? Paterno has been infinitely more powerful than the president, which is a big reason that he has stuck around Happy Valley for so long on his own terms, while football is Penn State, not its many distinguished academic programs, some of which are being downsized amidst a statewide college funding meltdown. So while the football stadium is not about to be razed, it is going to take more than an apology to restore a sense of decency.

Then there is Paterno's son, Scott, who claims that Joe Pa didn’t know about the 1998 investigation even thought it is beyond obvious that he did. If the name Scott Paterno rings a bell, albeit a distant one, you might recall that in 1996 he opined that Bill Clinton was a felon who invoking the Vince Foster wet dream of the right-wing lunatic fringe, "at the very least, conspired to commit murder at least 56 times."

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