SICK OF TRUMP AND COVID-19?
THIS LATEST JOE BIDEN STORY
WON'T MAKE YOU FEEL ANY BETTER
Are we willing to consider Biden's possible flaws the way we want Trump's Zombies to face up to his?
HERE’S SOMETHING to take your mind off the coronavirus crisis, although not in a good way if you’re as pained by the prospects of a Trump second term as by the terror of the pandemic.
In case you haven’t picked up the story already, I’m sorry to be the messenger. I know my role as a “sweet” dog is to provide hope. But I have other duties, and I’d appreciate not being labeled a mad dog who needs a visit by animal control.
Let me outline the basics in “objective” newspeak:
A woman, who worked briefly on the staff of Joe Biden when he was a U.S. senator, says that he sexually assaulted her in the summer of 1993, pushing her against a wall of a Senate building, kissing her, then reaching under her skirt and penetrating her with his fingers.
Tara Reade, who was 29 at the time, says that she rebuffed the assault, and Biden angrily rebuked her, saying: “Come on, Man, I heard you liked me,” and walked away. Reade says she filed a written complaint with the Senate, but never heard if it was acted on, and she was forced to leave her Capitol Hill job.
Reade’s allegations surfaced in a story in the New York Times on Sunday, April 12, after the newspaper followed up on an emotional, hour-long interview Reade had with New York City podcaster Katie Halper on March 25. The Washington Post published a similar story.
Biden, who has vanquished all other primary contestants for the Democratic presidential nomination, has not addressed Reade’s charges personally, at least as of this writing. But his campaign underlings vigorously denied them, as have people the Times interviewed who were on Biden’s Senate staff.
Reade’s account is confirmed, according to news accounts, by at least two people – a friend and a brother – whom she told shortly after the alleged assault. Informing someone about an incident near the time it happened is a gold standard for journalists trying to determine the credibility of women accusing men of sexual crimes.
This is not the first instance in which Reade has accused Biden publicly of inappropriate behavior. She was one of eight women who one year ago said that Biden touched and kissed them in ways that were invasive, demeaning and unwanted.
At the time, Biden and associates said he was a person who famously expressed empathy and warmth physically, but now understood that customs and boundaries were changing, and that women had a right not to be touched and to have their concerns considered seriously.
AS USUAL in these kinds of cases, there's some ambiguity in Reade's story and thus reasons to challenge its truthfulness. But we’ve also learned in the Me-too Era that inconsistencies and “flaws” in victims’ stories can be the result of lifetime trauma caused by the incidents.
- Reade’s story has changed – “evolved,” to put it kindly – over the past year. Initially, she complained about Biden touching her, as well as about a remark she was told Biden made to other staffers, that she had “nice legs.” But until now, she didn’t include the far more damning charge that he criminally penetrated her.
- No one has determined that Biden has a history of criminal assaults – a pattern of behavior such as those ascribed to abusers like President Trump, convicted movie producer Harvey Weinstein and the late money-man Jeffrey Epstein. Abusers’ histories bolster individual accounts.
- Reade has a ready answer for many of her story’s deficiencies. She didn’t disclose the sexual assault until now because it’s been too overwhelming for her to talk about; she was horrified by criticism following her first disclosure. She didn’t retain a personal journal that she wrote at the time, even though the assault upended her career and life.
- She has made comments praising Russian president Vladimir Putin, writing in a 2018, but now-deleted post on the online platform Medium: “… President Putin scares the power elite in America because he is a compassionate, caring, visionary leader. … To President Putin, I say keep your eyes to the beautiful future and maybe, just maybe America will come to see Russia as I do, with eyes of love.”
Though Reade has disavowed them, her Russia comments remind us that Russia is continuing its assault against American democracy, just the way it maliciously supported Trump’s election in 2016, and concocted a phony story that Trump used as part of his impeachment defense.
So, every time a story surfaces that could cause turmoil in American politics, it’s mandatory that it be treated skeptically, and I’m sure that the Times, the Post and other media outlets were wary of being duped by foreign or partisan mischief-making when they stepped into the Reade story.
SO, PHOEBE, WHY BRING THIS UP? And now, of all times, in the middle of a pandemic?
Those of us who think that Trump is the biggest threat to democracy ought to be willing to do what we’re asking Trump's Zombies to do: listen with an open mind. For example, thinking about these kinds of don’t-want-to-hear questions we constantly put to Trump’s supporters:
- Why do you ignore Trump’s lies?
- Can’t you see that Trump favors the rich? Hides his tax returns?
- Don’t you care that Trump is poisoning your air and your water and promoting climate change?
- When will you see that Trump already has killed thousands of people by bungling the response to COVID-19, by closing the borders to asylum seekers, by weakening Obamacare, limiting food stamps?
- How can you call yourselves moral, God-fearing citizens when Trump has abused and sexually assaulted women, promoted racial hatred and bigotry, coarsened our public discourse?
- People of Trump: You say you’re for “law and order,” but don’t care that the president is appointing politically biased judges, pardoning war criminals, letting convicted public officials out of jail?
No, they’re not.
It's not too late.
It’s April 13, not Nov. 3. There’s time to change nominees.
Let’s say Joe Biden, who’s 77, and therefore more likely than a younger person to get COVID-19 and die, the Democrats would, of course, pick a replacement. If it is proved that Biden, because of criminal conduct, is unfit for office, the same holds true.
The primary produced debate stages filled with competent Democrats. The pandemic has spotlighted talented governors – Cuomo of New York, Inslee of Washington, Newsom of California, to name just three battle-tested leaders whose performances have shown Trump to be a snake-oil fraud. And there's second-place Bernie Sanders.
Of course, there’s always the cynical rationalization we can turn to: So what?
All presidents are flawed. Kennedy was a womanizer. Truman dropped not one but two atom bombs on Japan. Obama backed away from his own red line. If it’s clear that Biden did just that one thing, just with his fingers, and just that one time, so what?
But at least we would do that knowing as much as we can know and make an eyes-open, if shameful, decision.
THERE’S PLENTY KNOWN SO FAR to both confirm and dispute Reade’s account.
I don’t think someone should be believed simply because they may be a victim. Nor should anyone automatically be dismissed because their account can’t be proved in court, beyond a reasonable doubt.
After looking at the Times story, Googling other stories and stuff that’s easily Googled, and reading and listening to and thinking about Reade's allegation, I’m not convinced. Not so far.