Maureen Dowd: Biden assault accusation must stand or fall on the facts
US Democrats always set standards that come back and bite them
Joe Biden is known for being sometimes warmly, sometimes inappropriately, hands-on with men and women. What Reade accuses him of is a crime and seems completely out of character. Photograph: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
One of my quarantine diversions was revisiting the first season of Mad Men, where women in the workplace were sexual playthings and where a young woman’s assay at writing ad copy was so unorthodox that it was, as one ad man marvelled, like watching a dog play the piano.
Even 20 years after that era, when I worked in midtown Manhattan at a news magazine, the remnants of that sexist world existed. The idea of women writing about world events was still novel. And when I had been interviewed for that job, my future boss asked me to come up to his hotel room, spurring me to go out on to the street and scream in frustration and fear that the job was gone.
So I could not have been more thrilled when #MeToo ripped away the curtain on the murky transgressions and diminishments that women had endured in the droit du seigneur era.
But, as with any revolution, there was some overcorrection. When liberals heralded the idea that all women must be believed, it made me wince. Al Franken was pressured to pack up without a hearing, given a push by Kirsten Gillibrand, who told the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer that while she had not talked to any of her colleague’s accusers, “the women who came forward felt it was sexual harassment. So it was.”
Most Democratic women already considered Brett Kavanaugh guilty of attempted rape as a 17-year-old virgin before he took the stand to defend himself. The eagerness to pin Kavanaugh produced a giddy new environment in which incredible tales, like that of Julie Swetnick, who claimed to have witnessed Kavanaugh at parties with rape lines, were treated as credible.
As Joe Biden said of Christine Blasey Ford, “For a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus, nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she is talking about is real, whether or not she forgets facts, whether or not it’s been made worse or better over time.”
To suggest that every woman who alleges a sexual assault is as credible as the next is absurd. The idea that no woman can ever be wrong just hurts women. Half the human race is female. Who has never been lied to by people of both genders? Who has never seen the mesmerising female psychopaths of film noir?
Democrats always set standards that come back and bite them. They have created a cage of their own making. In the case of Anita Hill and Blasey, these poised, professorial women were yanked into the public arena and turned into pawns; the women were making charges against conservative supreme court nominees whom Democrats and feminists were eager to derail. So it became a pre-emptory matter of all women must be believed when it’s convenient for my side.
The Clintons did great damage on this score, sliming the women who told of sexual encounters with Bill Clinton, with back-up from feminists who wanted to keep his progressive policies on women. Republicans always ruthlessly played to win their preordained outcome.
But this belief of convenience has infected both sides of the aisle. Republicans, joined by some disaffected Bernie supporters, want to push Tara Reade’s recent allegations against Biden because it’s convenient for them to try to make younger voters and suburban women and progressives turn on Biden.
And Biden, Democrats and the liberal media have been late in addressing Reade’s allegations that when she worked in Biden’s Senate office in 1993, he assaulted her in a corridor, because it was inconvenient for them to do so.
While Reade was being shunned by TV, Hillary Clinton, Nancy (“Joe Biden is Joe Biden”) Pelosi, Gillibrand and some of the women on Biden’s veep list, Stacey Abrams and Kamala Harris, were offering testimonials to his character. At the urging of women’s rights advocates, Biden finally stopped ducking and talked to Mika Brzezinski on Friday from his basement bunker. He denied it “unequivocally”, noting five times that this was said to have happened 27 years ago.
It was a strange acid flashback, seeing Biden having to defend himself three decades after he was the one who shut down the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearing without allowing the appearance of the three women waiting to come forward as corroborating witnesses for Hill.
There are some unanswered questions about Reade. She said there’s a complaint, so let’s see it. On Friday, Biden wrote a letter to the secretary of the Senate to see if a record of it was there. But he should also agree to let someone search his papers at the University of Delaware.
It’s injurious to look like you’re hiding something. As one Democratic strategist told me about Biden’s effort to stonewall, these kind of charges are like Covid-19: You have to jump on it early and contain it, or you’re left with mitigation. The 77-year-old did not understand that in the age of social media, you don’t assume people won’t believe stuff if it’s left unchallenged.
I’ve covered Biden my entire political career, and he is known for being sometimes warmly, sometimes inappropriately, hands-on with men and women. What Reade accuses him of is a crime and seems completely out of character. But that is how my brother, who coached Kavanaugh in basketball at Georgetown Prep and stayed friends with him after, felt about Blasey’s allegations.
In the end, these moments highlight the hypocrisy of both parties. Each case has to stand or fall on its own facts, patterns, corroborations, investigations, not on viewing it only through partisan goggles. You could ask if hypocrisy in the age of Trump is antiquated.
Standard of conduct
Why should the Democrats hold themselves to some higher standard of conduct when Donald Trump, a serial assaulter of women according to his accusers and own “Access Hollywood” confession, is wallowing in amorality and refusing to release a scrap of paper about personal finances or conduct?
But moral relativism is not the answer. Biden is running – or for the moment, sitting – on compassion and decency, the antithesis of Trump. If he throws that away, he’s going along with Trump’s worldview: We live in a corrupt jungle. Everybody’s down here in the muck. So you might as well go with me because I’m stronger.
From the day Trump was elected, it has always been a race between the damage he could do and the day his term was up. Let’s hope that damage doesn’t include the Democrats sinking to his cynical, miserable level. – New York Times