Sunday, April 26, 2020

What Happened Between Joe Biden and Tara Reade?

Nobody really knows. And that’s the problem.

Photo: Liz Roll, FEMA. VP Biden consoling hurricane victim
I consider myself a feminist. I support the Me-Too Movement. I’ve written about women’s issues for decades. I was a charter Ms Magazine member, joining up before the first issue was even printed in 1972, and it was as if Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique, was written just for me.

I hated what Bill Clinton did with Monica Lewinsky and I said so.

I hated what Anthony Weiner and so many other powerful men have done, sex-wise, and I’ve said so.

Still, much to the consternation of many of my friends, I defended Al Franken. (Full disclosure, no shame.)

I’ve spent most of my writing life looking for an honest man and constantly being disappointed. (Don’t even get me started on the Republicans.)

I worked hard to get Hillary Clinton elected in 2016, and I’m not over the trauma of the outcome yet. Before I kick off, I want to see a woman sitting at the Resolute Desk, owning the Oval Office. This year I wanted it to be Elizabeth Warren.

I voted for Warren in this year’s primary and hated how badly she lost her chance at the presidency. Joe Biden wasn’t even in the running for me. But, as I wrote after she dropped out, I’m going all out for Joe now.

There are things about Biden that bother me, but there were things that bothered me about each of the candidates, including Warren. That’s as it should be in a country where we still have free thought and are allowed our opinions. In a profession like politics — where ideas are a dime a dozen and purity is in short supply — a certain amount of tolerance is a necessity. The way we get things done is by working on them from the inside, not the outside.

We don’t fall in love with politicians. Giving full and absolute loyalty to a single person who may ultimately hold power over us is anathema to most Americans. Most of us look at people and issues with our eyes wide open and react based on their performance, not — I’m just going to say it — on their likability.

So about Joe Biden: Joe can be likable. Millions of Americans like him and those who know him well like him a lot. Still, he’s a public figure, so we’ve seen, too, that he can be silly, irritating, confused, and confusing. But we’re in troubled times now and what I see in a Biden presidency is the kind of calmness, experience, and sanity we’re craving. And — here’s where we may part ways — I see an innate sense of decency.

I’ve heard all of the reasons why Joe can’t be trusted with the presidency: Plagiarism, Centrism, Anita Hill, voting for wars and corporate livelihoods, riding on coattails, cozying up to the GOP, senility, flagrant linguistic sloppiness, goofiness, handsiness— and now sexual accusations.

The oppo stuff is typical — build a case against your rival by exaggerating the things that might make him look bad and ignore any good he’s done. But sexual accusations are something new. These we have to take seriously.

Which brings me to Joe Biden’s accuser, Tara Reade. I’ve read both sides and I don’t know what to believe. I should be able to concede that she believes Joe thrust his fingers into her vagina when she was interning for him in 1993, but I’m going to be honest here: I’m not even close to that point yet.

Most women I know — me included — want to believe every woman. We desperately want to make up for all the times women weren’t believed, and give full support to the women who aren’t believed. But the truth is, women have lied about being raped. We know it happens. Our gender does not prevent us from lying, even about something as serious as rape.

I went along with “Believe all women” for a time, because our goal was to make a point: There were too many men who got away with serial sexual abuse because for too long women were led to believe they couldn’t win by telling the truth. One by one, we watched big men fall — Bill Cosby, Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein — and the length and breadth of their abuse was stunning. It was as if they knew there was no chance the woman would be believed. And why would they worry? Women weren’t believed.

But this story has an odor to it. It didn’t come out until after Joe Biden became the presumptive nominee, and it’s being pushed hard by factions known to be hostile to Democrats and the Biden team. The latest, thrown out there as a ‘bombshell’, is that Tara Reade’s mother called into the Larry King Show in 1993 and told the whole story. Except she didn’t. The caller, an unidentified woman, complained that a certain nameless senator was causing unspecified problems for her unnamed daughter and she wanted to know who she could contact in the Senate to complain about it. That was the extent of it. There is video of the call.

In an article in the Intercept, disingenuously entitled, “New Evidence Supporting Tara Reade’s Allegations Against Joe Biden Emerges”, Ryan Grim manages to prove just the opposite — that there is no supporting evidence — then soldiers on, working up to the burden being on Joe Biden to prove his innocence:
In interviews with The Intercept, Reade also mentioned that her mother had made a phone call to “Larry King Live” on CNN, during which she made reference to her daughter’s experience on Capitol Hill. Reade told The Intercept that her mother called in asking for advice after Reade, then in her 20s, left Biden’s office. “I remember it being an anonymous call and her saying my daughter was sexually harassed and retaliated against and fired, where can she go for help? I was mortified,” Reade told me.
Later in the article, Grim shows clearly that the King Show transcript says no such thing.
Congressional records list August 1993 as Reade’s last month of employment with Biden’s Senate office, and, according to property records, Reade’s mother, Jeanette Altimus, was living in San Luis Obispo County. Here is the transcript of the beginning of the call:
KING: San Luis Obispo, California, hello.
CALLER: Yes, hello. I’m wondering what a staffer would do besides go to the press in Washington? My daughter has just left there, after working for a prominent senator, and could not get through with her problems at all, and the only thing she could have done was go to the press, and she chose not to do it out of respect for him.
KING: In other words, she had a story to tell but, out of respect for the person she worked for, she didn’t tell it?
CALLER: That’s true.
King’s panel of guests offered no suggestions, and instead the conversation veered into a discussion of whether any of the men on set would leak damaging personal information about a rival to the press.
There is nothing there that I can see. Still, it’s being used as proof that Biden has a lot to answer for. There are no Senate records showing that Reade filed a formal complaint; there is no evidence that the attack took place, no witnesses, yet the internet is awash with hashtags accusing the Democratic nominee of being a rapist.

I’ve thrown my full support behind Joe Biden for reasons I’ve already described and won’t go into again. I’ve made no bones about it on Facebook and on Twitter, and the response, not just from Republicans, but from purported Democrats as well, is wearying to say the least. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been shouted down after being told that I’m supporting a sexual predator.

So, as I defend his public record, or give the reasons why we have to go with Joe (to keep Trump from winning and to bring bona fide expertise into his administration), more often than not anything I have to say has no validity because “Joe Biden is a rapist”. End of story.

But it’s not the end of the story. The story is the accusation. That’s all we have. He’s the Democratic candidate for the presidency and there is an accusation of rape hanging over him. I don’t know whether or not it’s true. Nobody does except the two people involved, and they’re telling different stories.

Is it likely? I find it hard to believe, but anything is likely. Who would have believed Dr. Huxtable would be capable of truly sickening sexual assaults?

Rape accusations are, of necessity, highly sensitive. Physical evidence is rare, witnesses are even rarer, and the accusations can surface long after the alleged attack. Most often it’s the woman who has to do the proving.

I’m keenly aware of all of it, and my heart goes out to every woman faced with having to deal with the reactions to any accusation of a sexual nature. But the fact is, we just can’t destroy a reputation if there isn’t enough to go on. And right now there isn’t enough to go on.

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(Cross-posted at Medium)

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