Tag Archives: Joe Biden

Hypocrisy? Look Who’s Talking

I really didn’t want to revisit this issue. But…

I keep seeing headlines like this one from 538.com–“Believe Women or Back the Nominee?” That is an offensive, intellectually dishonest formulation.

It isn’t just 538.com. Pundits on the Left and Right are accusing liberal women who are skeptical of Tara Reade’s accusations against Joe Biden of hypocritical disloyalty to women. Evidently, if you believe the highly credible accusations against Donald Trump, who has been the target of at least 17 complaints of sexual misconduct, but you find the single charge lodged against Biden to be dubious at best, it constitutes prima facia evidence of hypocrisy.

That–to use an inelegant word–is bullshit.

Along with the other inconsistencies and questionable elements of the Tara Reade accusations, there is the undeniable fact that Joe Biden has been repeatedly vetted; most recently when he was under consideration by Obama for Vice President. No investigation has uncovered the slightest hint–let alone an accusation– of sexually inappropriate behavior. (Yes, he’s “handsy”–he likes to hug and touch, and that has made some women uncomfortable, but that is a very different thing.)

In Washington, where there is gossip about everyone, there has never even been any gossip about Biden engaging in inappropriate behavior with women.

Then there is this observation from a commenter to this blog who spent many years in Washington:

I worked in the U.S. Senate in the 60s, and even then, U.S. Senate office building hallways where the abuse was supposed to have happened, are VERY public, well traveled thoroughfares. They have become ever more public over the years. Numerous Senate offices open onto those hallways which are traveled by Capitol Hill police, Senators and staffers, the media, lobbyists, tourists and tour groups, constituents, mail carriers, vendor deliveries, custodians, facilities maintenance personnel, and more. Any Senator wanting to sexually assault someone would do so in their own office (and lock the doors), or a vacant committee room, a storage closet, or a hideaway office to do the deed. The last place they’d pick would be a Senate hallway. This accusation does not have the ring of truth.

Biden has categorically denied the incident ever occurred and has called for a thorough search of Senate archives for the complaint that Reade says she filed. (Her descriptions of the contents of that purported complaint have now changed, too. In contrast to her earlier descriptions of the complaint, she now says it didn’t include any reference to sexual assault.)To date, reporters have been unable to find any record of any complaint.

Given the timing, the multiple inconsistencies– not just in Reade’s account but in the accounts of friends she presumably told (not contemporaneously but a few years after the supposed incident)–and the absence of any remotely similar accusation, it is hardly unreasonable that many women find Reade’s charges unconvincing.

In her daily Letter, Heather Cox Richardson observes that the Trump campaign is using Reade’s story to regain control of the 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.

The pundits and media outlets that are feeding on what several reporters had previously investigated and concluded was a “non-story” are once again allowing themselves to be used. In 2016, it was “her emails.” In 2020 it’s “all women must be uncritically believed.”

Not simply taken seriously, or given the benefit of the doubt, but believed.

Apparently, in order to be “real” feminists, “real” advocates for women, “real” supporters of #MeToo, we must uncritically accept any and all claims made against politicians we admire or support, no matter how dubious. Otherwise, we’re hypocrites.

If I am to be classified as a hypocrite, let me share some admissions-against-interest: I did believe several of the accusations against Bill Clinton but voted for him anyway, because I agreed with most of his policies–just as all those pious “Christians” continue to support Trump despite the porn stars, pussy-grabbing and very credible allegations of rape, because he is “Christianizing” our courts.

I also was–and remain– absolutely enraged by the hubris of the self-appointed, self-aggrandizing “defenders of women” who hounded Al Franken from the Senate. Franken was a longtime, highly effective advocate for women and the behavior he was accused of fell far short of assault.

Bottom line: I simply do not believe that drawing critical distinctions between boorishness and assault, or coming to a negative conclusion about the merits of a suspicious claim makes feminists hypocrites.

Speaking of pots and kettles, real hypocrisy is handing over control of the narrative to a man who lies constantly, refuses to release his tax returns,  fires Inspectors General in order to thwart oversight, and makes everyone who works for him sign a non-disclosure-agreement.

The #MeToo Dilemma

This is a hard post to write, because I want to be clear about what I am–and am not–saying.

When the #MeToo movement emerged, I applauded. Like most women, I’d encountered unwanted “approaches” from men ranging from boorish to significantly worse; like most of the women I know, I get livid when complaints about sexual assaults are dismissed with “well, what was she wearing?” or other responses blaming the victim or suggesting that the woman was somehow “asking for it.”

When #MeToo accountability began, I was saddened to learn about Bill Cosby, but the number of accusations made it plain that he wasn’t the person he portrayed on TV. And while it doesn’t speak well for my surrender to schadenfreude, I was actually thrilled with the verdict against Harvey Weinstein.

Holding predators–not their victims– responsible is long overdue.

But. (You knew there was a “but” coming…)

Taking women seriously is not the same thing as uncritically believing anything and everything any woman says. An accusation of impropriety or assault should be considered a  rebuttable presumption–true, until and unless there is probative evidence to the contrary.

In criminal law class in law school, we learn that rape is both the most under-reported and most over-reported crime. Under-reported because victims were reluctant to come forward for all of the reasons that have been highlighted by the #MeToo movement–over-reported because there were also unfair and untrue accusations leveled, sometimes intentionally, sometimes by emotionally unwell persons.

The biggest problem is determining the facts in these situations, because that they are inevitably “he said/she said.”

Lawyers who specialize in prosecuting sexual assault charges must evaluate whether evidence and testimony are consistent with the accuracy of an accusation. And that brings me to a comprehensive review of the complaint lodged against Joe Biden by Tara Reade, a former staffer, recently written by one such prosecutor. 

I really urge you to click through and read the entire column.

The alleged assault occurred in 1993. As the prosecutor notes, the 27-year delay itself is not reason to disbelieve her. But the story she tells has changed significantly since she first came forward.

As a lawyer and victims’ rights advocate, Reade was better equipped than most to appreciate that dramatic changes in sexual assault allegations severely undercut an accuser’s credibility — especially when the change is from an uncomfortable shoulder touch to vaginal penetration.

Reade said she complained at the time to Biden’s executive assistant, and to two top aides– all three adamantly deny that she ever approached them. (They didn’t simply have “no recollection.” They strongly refuted the claim). She also says she filed a written complaint with the Senate personnel office, but reporters could not find any record of such a complaint there, and when the Times asked her for a copy, she said she didn’t have it. Yet she had kept and provided a copy of her 1993 Senate employment records.

She has told wildly inconsistent stories about why she left Biden’s employ, and in the years following her stint on his staff, she has been highly complimentary of him. Evidently, it wasn’t until she had become a fervid Sanders supporter that the accusation of assault changed from “rubbed her shoulders” to digital penetration.

There’s much, much more detail in the linked article, and most of it suggests someone emotionally unstable rather than intentionally vindictive–but none of it enhances her credibility. Quite the contrary.

And as the writer notes, most men who assault women are serial abusers.

Last year, several women claimed that Biden made them uncomfortable with things like a shoulder touch or a hug… The Times and Post found no allegation of sexual assault against Biden except Reade’s.

It is possible that in his 77 years, Biden committed one sexual assault and it was against Reade. But in my experience, men who commit a sexual assault are accused more than once … like Donald Trump, who has had more than a dozen allegations of sexual assault leveled against him and who was recorded bragging about grabbing women’s genitalia.

I particularly agree with the final paragraph.

We can support the #MeToo movement and not support allegations of sexual assault that do not ring true. If these two positions cannot coexist, the movement is no more than a hit squad. That’s not how I see the #MeToo movement. It’s too important, for too many victims of sexual assault and their allies, to be no more than that.

Agreed.

The #MeToo movement was a major step forward for all women, especially but not exclusively those who have been victims of sexual assaults. If it is perceived as an indiscriminate anti-male crusade rather than a pro-justice remedial effort– if it is bullied into becoming a chorus that will automatically defend all accusations irrespective of their credibility– it will lose the hard-won and very important legitimacy that makes it effective.