In my previous post, I expressed my belief in Joe Biden’s innocence of charges of sexual assault made by former staffer Tara Reade, as well as my great concern that the press will keep the story alive, thereby damaging an innocent man and threatening his candidacy for President against Donald Trump.
I stated my concern that the story would be covered with a fervor I do not feel is justified by the facts as we know them.
I didn’t discuss the now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings in that post (except in the comments section) because I think comparisons with the charge against Biden are totally off base.
So does New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg. She remains skeptical about Biden but dismisses criticisms that the Democrats, in defending Biden, show hypocrisy when compared with their defense of Kavanaugh’s accuser.
The Democrats, she writes, “would never have the audacity to demand that their political opponents act on a story with as many ambiguities as Reade’s.”
But I must say the two men’s reactions tell me much about temperament and character.
You may recall that when Christine Blasey Ford claimed that Kavanaugh had assaulted her, he yelled and cried at his hearings about the terrible injustices being done to him.
In contrast, Biden quietly but emphatically said, “It never happened,” and he declined to attribute motives to his accuser, Tara Reade, or to say anything about her character.
At a fundraiser among Obama alumni last week, Biden said the following, which I find extraordinary (he’s more tolerant than I am):
“My knowledge that it isn’t true does nothing to shake my belief that women have to be able to be heard and that all the claims be taken seriously. It isn’t enough just to simply take my word for it and to dismiss it out of hand.
“Frankly, that shouldn’t be enough for anyone, because we know that this sort of approach is exactly how the culture of abuse has been allowed to fester for so long.
“I’m heartened to see it, although it’s painful sometimes, that by and large journalists are doing what they’re supposed to do.
“They’re going out there listening to the allegations. They’re taking it seriously and they’re investigating it. And they’re talking with folks who were there at the time, scrutinizing personnel records, examining the evolution of the claims, looking into the culture of our office.
“And I’m not concerned about what they might find, because I know the truth of the matter. I know that this claim has no merit.”
I fear Biden’s confidence may be misplaced. The press is honing in.
And despite the fact that he was the overwhelming favorite among primary voters, some people who didn’t vote for Biden seem to be eager to push this story to justify a do-over. Bernie Sanders’s supporters are evident in this campaign.
The Washington Post just published an Op-Ed by Lyz Lenz, a columnist for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and a victim of sexual abuse.
She insists Biden must withdraw, dismissing all the contradictions in his accuser’s stories as part of the inevitable cycle of questioning that victims of sexual assault must endure.
She does compare the Biden and Kavanaugh episodes and says the Republicans should have withdrawn Kavanaugh (which was never a consideration), thereby equating the two.
Having determined that Reade’s charges are “credible,” she writes:
“I do not want to be forced to balance the accusations against Biden and Trump—playing the ‘Which is worse?’ game. But that is what I’m being told to do.”
I don’t know who is telling her she has to do that, but I trust I’m not the only one who sees the nonsense in that comparison.
And here are her ideas about how the Democrats should handle this issue:
Bernie Sanders could jump back in, or other candidates might (she caucused for Elizabeth Warren), or the party leaders might pick a governor who’s handled the pandemic well.
As I’ve said, Biden wasn’t my first choice, but I do think his experience and compassion make him right for our time.
And can you imagine anything more anti-democratic than nullifying all those voters’ wishes because of a single and highly questionable allegation by one woman?
I have seen any number of Twitter tweets from African American voters responding to the Bernie devotees’ campaign for his reentry. They expressed what I believe is justifiable outrage that their votes would be summarily dismissed.
And if party leaders acted on Lenz’s idea and suddenly came up with a nominee whom not a single Democrat had voted for, the Bernie folks’ charges that the party, not the people, were determining the outcome (charges that were put to rest by the primary vote in the eyes of most observers) would surely be an issue.
One can see the mischief lying ahead by considering another woman who has just come forth. A niece of Christine O’Donnell, a former Tea Party Republican Senatorial candidate, claims that Biden commented on her breasts when both attended the 2008 Gridiron dinner—and she was just 14!
Sounds extremely offensive (as well as similar to complaints against Trump). But as it happens, Biden wasn’t there; one of his aides had substituted for him because Biden was having surgery that week.
So the woman said it must have been 2007. But Biden wasn’t there then either.
As former prosecutor Michael Stern observed in his USA Today piece asserting Biden’s innocence, which I quoted from in my previous post, the fact that Reade can’t remember date, time, or location makes it impossible for Biden to disprove the allegation by providing evidence to the contrary.
I believe the same is true with the missing complaint—in which Reade now says she’s not sure exactly what she’d actually charged—something about his making her feel “uncomfortable,” she thinks.
She had all her personnel records, but she just didn’t keep, or misplaced, the one document that she says was the most important aspect of her interactions with Biden. The New York Times investigation couldn’t find it.
And yet, the burden is on Biden to open up his entire political life. The Times Editorial Board, in what a friend deemed “a statement of breathtaking naivete,” not only called upon Biden to give access to his papers; it said that honorable Republicans should call on Trump to do the same.
As I concluded in my previous post:
There were mea culpas after the damage was done from members of the media for obsessing over Hillary’s emails in 2016 while letting Donald Trump off the hook. That must not happen again.
Professor Heather Cox Richardson, a political historian at Boston College, has reached a similar conclusion about Trump and the media with regard to the accusation against Biden.
“…Please follow me here: I am not speaking of the claims of Ms. Reade, which are a separate conversation. I am talking about the use of her story to control our political narrative.
“The attempt to get Biden to jump through hoops Trump ignores is classic gaslighting. It keeps Biden on the defensive and makes sure he is reinforcing Trump’s narrative, thus strengthening Trump even as Biden tries to carve out his own campaign. It is precisely what the Trump campaign, abetted by the media, did in 2016.”
As the friend I quoted earlier observed:
“This will be a rough and tumble campaign, and we cannot shrink from the fight. Biden has stepped up to the challenge and met it head-on. We must demand the same of Trump, knowing that he will never comply.
“In the ‘what are you hiding?’ contest, Trump loses badly. Steel yourself for more difficult moments but take heart from the fact that the electorate is turning on Trump…
“It will be a close election and will be hard-fought, but we are up to the task. Put doubts aside and move forward with all deliberate speed!”
And if you feel as I do that the press–in its admirable zeal to be fair–may be falling into the same damaging role that it played in 2016, please consider writing letters to the editor or otherwise making your opinions known.