In Maureen Dowd’s article titled “Cain not Able” appearing in the New York Times November 1st issue, there was the following line:
“He [Herman Cain] has contradicted himself even more risibly on his memory of the harassment charges than he has on his abortion position.
At first, he said he wasn’t aware of the five-figure settlement to one woman; then, suddenly, he was aware. Instead of the meaning of “is,” Cain tried to parse the meaning of “settlement” versus “agreement.” He still claims he doesn’t remember the other five-figure settlement to another woman.”
I don’t get meaning of “Cain tried to parse the meaning of “settlement” versus “agreement.”
Of course I understand “settlement” is different from “agreement,” because they’re different words. But what does this line mean exactly in this particular context.
What is the technical difference and difference of implications between “(five-figure) settlement on payment” and “agreement on payment” to a woman for his alleged sexual harassment charge (or liability)?
Why did Dowd say Cain tried to “parse” the meaning of his own words, not saying “he mixed-up” or “intentionally obscured them" or even evaded the question on his charge?
Additional question: What does "instead of the meanig of 'is'? mean? What does 'is' have a particular meaning here?