Well, I Hadn’t Planned To Write About This Matter Again–And Certainly Not So Soon…

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After The New York Times published an Op-Ed by a woman who said she believed Tara Reade’s assertion that Joe Biden had sexually assaulted her—but she would vote for him anyway, Biden was asked in an interview what he thought about that. He responded:

“If she believes Tara Reade, she shouldn’t vote for me. If I believed Tara Reade, I wouldn’t vote for me.”

Here’s Why I Feel Compelled to Return to the Issue Now

This may well be a very close election, in which every vote counts. Thinking of Biden’s words cited above, I decided that if I can help anyone who has doubts about whether Biden committed such a crime—and those doubts might lead them either to waver or stay home—I want to offer what is to me some more convincing evidence in his favor.

I’m further motivated because The New York Times just reported on the extensive planned Republican efforts to keep as many likely Democratic voters from successfully casting their ballots as they can (using the largely discredited excuse of voter fraud).

Thus, no vote should be lost when the individual voter’s participation is so urgently important.

The disinformation campaign waged by the Trump organization is well under way. Lest you think they’ll shy away from this topic simply because of the 25 women who have charged Trump with sexual misconduct, his own videotaped bragging about having done so, and the fact that Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, remains in jail in part for paying women to silence them about those charges, think again.

Remember when Trump debated Hillary, and he invited a number of Bill Clinton’s female accusers to accompany him? The words “distraction” and “deflection” are now frequently applied to trumpian behavior.

When I posted “Why I Believe Joe Biden Did Not Commit Sexual Assault” on May 2 and “The Allegations Against Biden: The Press Presses On,” on May 6, several people said (and probably many more thought) that I was rushing to judgment. 

Could be, but I was so convinced by what I’d read, and so concerned that this issue would unfairly dominate the campaign—despite Trump’s abysmal record—that I felt it was worth taking an early stand, expressing my hope that the press wouldn’t go down every rabbit hole.

For now, I believe there’s been enough follow-through that most of the media recognizes this story doesn’t have the “legs” that appeared early on.

Perhaps some wariness set in when the second woman to come forth was quickly dismissed as a phony whose story was demonstrably untrue. 

Now There Are These Investigation Results

PBS Newshour published a lengthy, detailed article after interviewing 74 former Biden staff members, 62 of them women, about Tara Reade’s charge.

The NewsHour writers say they sought to get these individuals’ sense of how he acted toward women over all those decades, what they thought of Reade’s allegations, and whether there had been a pattern of the behavior she alleged.

Of the interviewees, more than 20 had worked in Biden’s office during the less than one year Reade was there. Many of them didn’t remember her.

According to the NewsHour reporters:

“None said they had experienced sexual harassment, assault, or misconduct by Biden. All said they never heard any rumors or allegations of Biden engaging in sexual misconduct” until Reade’s recent charge.

“Overall, the people who spoke to the NewsHour described largely positive and gratifying experiences working for Biden, painting a portrait of someone who was ahead of his time in empowering women in the workplace.” 

Some Salient Points:

*Ben Savage worked directly with Reade, who had served as a junior aide in Biden’s office for about nine months. Savage said Reade had been fired for poor performance, which he had seen directly, and not in retaliation against her alleged claim of sexual harassment (which she upped to sexual assault only recently).

*Former staff members cast doubt about Reade’s assertion that Biden had asked her to serve drinks at a fundraiser (which she’d at one point implied was related to her firing) for two reasons. 

—First, there was an office policy banning most of his Senate staff from doing campaign work. “Never would have happened. We all knew there was a very hard line there,” said a staff assistant, Melissa Lefko, who served when Reade was there.

—Second, two male junior staff members said Biden specifically didn’t want women to serve beverages or do similarly stereotypical tasks, and had asked the young men to do them instead.

*Those interviewed also pointed out that the area in which Reade claimed the assault took place was a heavily trafficked locale in which there would have been “a high risk of being seen.”

*Female staff members who frequently worked alone with Biden in his small office “said he never made passes at them or behaved in other ways that suggested sexual impropriety.” 

Elizabeth Alexander, a former aide in both the Senate and White House, said she’d accompanied Biden all over this country and the world, traveling alone with him. ”Never, ever, ever did I feel uncomfortable.”

It was a time when some members of the Senate were known to sexually harass young women. One staffer said:

“You got to know which senators you didn’t want to be on an elevator alone with. No one ever said Joe Biden was one of them.”

Of his habit of touching women, many said they gravitated to him as a kind of “comforter-in-chief,” and wanted an arm on their shoulder or a kiss on the cheek.

“Most saw it as an endearing quality that wasn’t sexual in nature…as an expression of empathy, as opposed to flirtation.” 

But some expressed regret that they probably should have said something because such actions may have made others uncomfortable.

And since Biden has apologized for that behavior, saying he now understands it was inappropriate, it’s reasonable to assume he would have learned that lesson years earlier.

Concerning His Accuser…

Politico interviewed more than 12 people who had interactions with Reade. The picture they drew is disturbingly similar: manipulation, lying, turning against people who had helped her, including financially, as she was often in financial trouble.

According to the writer: 

“Over the past decade, Reade has left a trail of aggrieved acquaintances in California’s Central Coast region who say they remember two things about her—she spoke favorably about her time working for Biden, and she left them feeling duped.”

One of the “aggrieved acquaintances” said:

“We are actually starting to find each other and put the pieces together because we saw her face on CNN. I thought to myself, ‘hey, I have a support group now. I think we are Alexandra/Tara survivors.’” (Reade has used several names at various times.)

She gave them all the impression that she’d spent years in Biden’s office, it was a high point in her life, and she’d helped write landmark legislation—not that she’d served for about nine months as a junior aide and had been fired for incompetence. 

In my May 2 post, I referred to Lynn Summers, who was forthright in interviews that Reade had manipulated, lied, and stolen money from her. Reade’s attorney has since sent Hummer a “cease and desist” letter.

Hummer has hired an attorney, who told Politico:

“We’ll be more than happy to provide actual physical evidence that backs up Ms. Hummer’s story. All Reade has is a lawyer trying to bully my client.”

In view of the above, I don’t expect the mainstream media to spend much more time on the Tara Reade accusation.

But that doesn’t mean the shameless Trump organization won’t keep trying to bring it up. 

Trump’s younger son Eric is, right now, peddling a video of Biden with the family of a member of Congress he’s just sworn in. Biden leans over to kiss the head of the man’s young daughter, in full view of the family and cameras.

This is purportedly all the evidence you need to confirm that Joe Biden is a pedophile. Ridiculous? Of course. But we are living in surreal times.

I won’t be surprised if one or more women emerge in October with all kinds of unprovable charges. I just hope the press will do its due diligence thoroughly before even considering whether such charges merit public disclosure.

For example, automatically assuming that an old friend whom Reade called to refresh her memory years after she reportedly first told her of the event may not be worthy confirmation of her veracity.

As former prosecutor Michael Stern has observed, the corroborating friend must always rely on the accuser’s telling the truth.

Based on what we’ve learned to date, I believe a perversion of the much-needed #me-too movement has been made by a pathetic woman against an honorable man—at a time of enormous importance to our democracy.

Annie

Continue reading “Well, I Hadn’t Planned To Write About This Matter Again–And Certainly Not So Soon…”

The Allegations Against Biden: The Press Presses On…

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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.

Annie

Continue reading “The Allegations Against Biden: The Press Presses On…”