Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in the popular vote in 2016. But Donald Trump was able to convince enough battleground state voters who disliked both nominees that she was worse. In 2020, he knows he can’t win re-election running a positive campaign about himself; his only chance is to turn off enough battleground-state Republican and Democratic women leaning toward Joe Biden and Independents who dislike them both.
Biden was the Democrat Trump least wanted to run against. The Trumpites’ best option is smearing Biden, tarnishing his empathetic nice guy/honorable statesman image, using lies, innuendos, rumors, dark money attacks, Russian and social media disinformation campaigns.
It’s hard to believe the timing of Tara Reade’s evolving claims, including her allegation that, 27 years ago, while she was in his employ, Biden digitally penetrated her in a public corridor in the US Senate, is not somehow connected to this.
Responding to the # MeToo movement’s legitimate outcry against sexual abuse, most Democrats’ default position was automatically believing every woman making such claims. This justifiably helped the prosecutions of Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein and also colored the Bret Kavanaugh hearings. It also resulted in drumming Al Franken out of the Senate without a modicum of due process. As Bill Maher observed last week. “Believing everything doesn’t make you noble. It makes you gullible, especially when it leaves us with the world where Republicans don’t care about this stuff. So, it’s just a unilateral weapon that is used only against Democrats.”
A fairer principle is that every woman who makes a claim should be taken seriously, a far cry from when virtually every woman who came forward was disbelieved. But there’s a clear case for reasonable due process, fair-minded investigations and a transparent public vetting of charges. Biden and others set themselves up for eventual charges of hypocrisy by initially agreeing to set the bar untenably high.
Biden’s history of encroaching on people’s personal space and touching in ways that made them uncomfortable is well known. He has acknowledged this publicly and apologized. Whether this is enough or, weighed against everything else, is a disqualifying defect is something for voters to decide. The same applies to Reade’s far more explosive sex crime charge for which Biden didn’t apologize because he unequivocally denied the accusation.
Assaultive behavior should never be condoned. Even if evidence emerged that Biden went further than he admits, he still compares favorably to Trump, who has been credibly accused of serious sexual improprieties and crimes by no fewer than 21 women and has, on the Access Hollywood tapes, boasted about grabbing women by their genitals. To try to create a false equivalency here is outrageous.
There’s an ick factor to this whole discussion, but let’s not forget the differences between the two candidate’s positions on issues of importance to women. Even if he were guilty of the worst, Biden could say compellingly, “Don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative.”
After considering all the public information in the Tara Reade matter, even after observing testosterone-driven Senators as a reporter in 1970’s D.C., I have strong doubts Biden ever sexually attacked her. Most rapists don’t commit their acts only once, but, like Trump, Weinstein, Cosby and others, are serial offenders. They repeat because their offenses manifest a lust for power and dominance. Apparently, Reade is the only woman ever to accuse Biden of criminal sexual assault.
A former prosecutor has detailed in USA Today the many significant inconsistencies in Reade’s account of Biden’s alleged assault, including the fact that, when she did come forward, she (and other women) said only that Biden made her uncomfortable with physical closeness, nothing more serious.
Obama’s advisers who carefully vetted Biden in 2008 found no scintilla of evidence of sexual misbehavior. Contrary to Reade’s version, Biden’s three top staffers deny her assertion that she complained to them at the time. Marianne Baker, Biden’s longtime executive assistant, said, “I have absolutely no knowledge of memory of Ms. Reade’s accounting of events, which would have left a searing impression on me as a woman professional, and as a manager.”
Reade says she filed a personnel complaint in the 1990’s but, surprisingly for such an important act, kept no copy of it. Biden agreed to waive his own privacy protections regarding personnel records and welcome a Senate directive to have the National Archives open files, where his personnel matters would be stored. (Mitch McConnell) Senate staff rejected his request. Clearly, it doesn’t serve their partisan interests to say nothing was found there. Now Reade says the complaint didn’t include the assault charge, so finding or not finding it would neither corroborate nor disprove the most serious allegation.
In calling for the University of Delaware to go through Biden’s papers, which supposedly do not contain personnel records, legitimate news outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post have allowed themselves to be suckered into a new variation of the Obama birth certificate authentication game. Who could ever conduct a good faith investigation accepted by all? The DNC? The RNC? A Biden-indebted University of Delaware? The Bill Barr-led FBI? The goalposts would be forever moving.
Anyone who has ever worked with or donated archival materials of this sort knows what a challenge it is to go through hundreds of boxes containing millions of records of sometimes hastily aggregated, uncatalogued and misfiled material. Conspiracy theorists would have a field day with misplaced, suspiciously labeled or incomplete files. Unless it’s planted, I don’t believe anyone is ever going to find a conclusive document.
Frankly, I wonder why Reade waited until now go make her accusation public. Even after 27 years, her charges might have found more traction six months ago when other Democrats were running.
In 2017 Reade had praise for her former boss and his work on violence against women. Last year, she turned on him and supported Bernie Sanders. Could it be that Reade is not yet ready to concede Sanders’s loss of the party nomination and is doing all she can to boost his comeback before the convention?
Faced with multiple reports of inconsistencies, Reade bowed out of a serious Chris Wallace interview scheduled for Fox last weekend. She proceeded instead to do a softer, more flattering interview with Megyn Kelly on YouTube. I expect this is the way this issue will play out. Reade’s charges have been reasonably vetted. That should be the end of it unless, more darkly, Tara Reade is another of Vladimir Putin’s instruments of chaos as Jill Stein was in 2016?
Consider the rapturous article Reade wrote 2018 about Putin’s “alluring combination of strength and gentleness” and his having “brought a chaotic and failed nation to become a vibrant, creative, economic force within a decade.” She admired “his obvious reverence for women, children and animals, and his ability with sports is intoxicating to American women.”
Is this Tara moment just a preview of another GOP stolen valor gambit like the 2004 “Swift Boat” attacks perpetrated on Democratic nominee John Kerry? Donald Trump will grab anything to distract the public, slime Joe Biden, and make the campaign so sordid it turns off everyone but his base.
Most elections are a referendum on the incumbent, and, if current polls assessing Trump were dispositive, we’d have nothing to worry about. I can’t imagine that Biden’s real or imagined sexual improprieties will outweigh the President’s handling of COVID-19 or its economic fallout when people vote on or before November 3. But practically no one, including Trump himself, expected him to win in 2016, and the 2020 election is still nearly half a year away.
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