The Alleged Sexual Assault

N.Y. Times, Examining Tara Reade’s Sexual Assault Allegation Against Joe Biden

Washington Post, Fact Checker, The sexual allegations against Joe Biden: The corroborators

Paul Waldman, Why we’ll never have resolution on Tara Reade’s accusation against Joe Biden

Washington Post, Joe Biden denies he sexually assaulted a former Senate aide, calls on National Archives to release complaint if it exists

Jennifer Rubin, What Joe Biden did right in rebutting Tara Reade’s claims

Here are my thoughts.

Tara Reade says that she had an unwanted encounter with Joe Biden. 27 years ago, in 1993; is that claim likely to be true?

Yes, based on the number of contemporaneous corroborators, it is more likely than not that she had some kind of contact with Biden that was unwelcome and that made her very uncomfortable. I say that based on the number of contemporaneous corroborators.

It might have been an unwanted touching of the shoulders. It might have involved pushing her against the wall and sticking his finger up her vagina. Or it might have been lots of things in between.

Assuming, for the sake of the discussion, that you had personal knowledge that the 27 year old incident was clear sexual assault, would you still vote for Biden over Trump?

Yes, I would. In a New York minute. For multiple, fairly obvious reasons.

Should your bias affect how we evaluate what you say?

Yes, evaluate away. But facts are still facts and logic is still logic, no matter what motivates the analysis.

The incident took place 27 years ago, but she is just coming forward now with the assault allegation. Why now?

Christine Blasey Ford came forward because she wanted to do something to keep Brett Kavanaugh off the Supreme Court. It seems clear, almost beyond reasonable doubt, that Ms. Reade has thrust herself forward at this particular time in an effort to keep Biden off the Democratic ticket.

That, I assume, is also the goal of the creator of the cartoon shown at the end of this post.

If we are sure the incident happened just as she said it happened, should it make any difference that she waited 27 years?

None whatsoever.

But should the 27-year wait matter to our evaluation of her credibility?

Yes, it should, especially insofar as the relevant evidence is otherwise scarce. Here is why. To the extent the record is sparse, she has more leeway to remember how bad the incident really was. And the very same thing that motives her to come forward now—a desire to keep Biden off the Democratic ticket—would also motivate her to stretch the truth about just how bad the incident was.

What should we be looking for?

Other women with similar stories. The words in the report she filed, if it can be found. If the alleged report is not located, an explanation as to why it cannot be located. And, obviously, anyone else who might claim that she discussed the incident around the time it happened.

Do you agree with Paul Waldman that “we’ll never know” what actually happened?

Pardon the Clintonism, but that depends on what the meaning of “know” is. Epistemologists address this question, but I have no particular knowledge of that subject. In the law, we have different standards of proof, which we apply in different circumstances, as dictated by public policy and common sense:

  • probable cause,
  • preponderance of the evidence (that is, at least slightly more probable than not probable),
  • clear and convincing evidence,
  • proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

You can make your own evaluation of the evidence. I would say that, at this point, the preponderance of the (somewhat scanty) evidence would indicate that something happened 27 years ago that made Ms. Reade feel very uncomfortable and upset. Whether one wants to call that conclusion a statement about “knowledge” is a matter of semantics.

I would also say that, by a preponderance of the scanty evidence that now exists, we do not have reason to conclude that the incident was as serious as she now describes.