In his op-ed, Joe Biden got one thing wrong. (And I certainly hope the glitch was intentional—that it didn’t reflect a failure of perception on Joe’s part.)
Biden implied that Trump is putting political gain over the lives of Americans.
That is not a valid way of looking at the situation. The rational way for Trump to advance his own political interests—even now; yes, even now—would be to lead a national effort to implement testing and contact tracing.
Trump does indeed think he is promoting his political interests. But he is delusional.
Today, we are heading to a massive confrontation between the Senate testimony by Dr. Fauci and the massive display of delusion at yesterday’s news conference.
The irresistible force is about to collide with the immovable object.
You are advised to stand well away from the fan.
In The New Republic, Libby Watson goes on … and on … and on … and on about The Depressing Future of the #MeToo Movement: The radical promise of “Believe Women” has been an unintended casualty of the quickly-fading Biden sexual misconduct controversy.
In my estimation, Ms. Watson makes at least one very good point: Uncle Joe did not “disprove” the allegation by looking Mika Brzezinski in the eye and manfully denying it. And anyone who says the opposite—including, without limitation, the good women who want to be on the ticket with Joe—is making a fool of herself, not to mention doing a disservice to women with legitimate grievances, now or in the future.
However, IMHO, Ms. Watson’s lengthy essay conflates the propositions that
- Joe did something to Ms. Reade back in 1993 that Ms. Reade found extremely distressing—probably with good reason, and that
- whatever it was that Joe did back in 1993, it was probably something that he shouldn’t ought to have done
both of which are more likely than not to be true, with the proposition that
- the thing that Biden did was a sexual assault,
a proposition for which the contrary evidence outweighs the supporting evidence, in my opinion.
She also overlooks the key point that journalists should not be left as the final investigators and arbitrators. The charges against Joe Biden, like the charges against Brett Kavanaugh, should be investigated by the most reliable means possible, given the circumstances.
Ms. Goldberg is not well served by her headline writer, because the whole point of the piece is precisely to compare and contrast Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations against Brett Kavanaugh with Tara Reade’s accusations against Joe Biden.
Ms. Reade does not come off looking good.
On the other hand, I remain of the view that Joe Biden, the Democratic National Committee, and Democrats generally would be best served by an investigation conducted on behalf of the DNC by a reputable law firm. The alternative they are now pursuing is to leave the investigating to investigative journalists. That leaves the Democratic leadership open to a claim of “hypocrisy” and “disparate treatment.”
As Ms. Goldberg carefully explains, that charge of hypocrisy may not be valid. But her reasoning is complex.
And when you are offering a complex explanation, you may be losing an argument that you deserve to win.
I thought Mika Brzezinski did a good job on Morning Joe today, summarizing the most recent developments in Fingergate. I tried, but failed, to download and post the video, but it’s available here, https://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/watch/weekend-developments-in-the-allegation-against-biden-82978885756, runs less than six minutes, and will repay the watching.
Mika marshals the evidence, and lets the viewer draw her or his own conclusions. My own conclusion: not looking good for the allegator.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports, Senate rejects Biden’s call to release any potential records on alleged misconduct.
In two previous posts, I shared some thoughts on the general topic of Fingergate. Bottom line: a real investigation is the least bad course of action—for Biden himself, for the Democratic cause, and even for the many folks who, like me, would vote for Biden over Trump, even if twenty bishops had taken videos of the 1993 incident.
I talked today with old friend Clarence Thomas Darrow (CTD)—who reminded me that he had lots of legal experience with sexual harassment claims, claims both good and bad, claims where he represented the plaintiff and where he represented the defendant. As for me, I never worked on a sex case, but I do know a hell of a lot about document investigations and witness interviews.
I’m going to synthesize our thoughts. But you may assume the good ideas are all those of CTD and the bad ones are mine.
The Democratic National Committee should pick an elder statesman of stature, to oversee an investigation. He or she should immediately hire a respected law firm—probably, one of the American Lawyer 100, and, certainly, a firm without a known political bias toward Republicans or Democrats. That’s most of the big law firms, but not all of them. The DNC should instruct their counsel to investigate Ms. Reade’s claims fully, and to prepare a detailed report.
The firm should reach out to all the witnesses—to Ms. Reade, to her corroborators, to Biden, and to the people who worked for Biden in 1993. All should be interviewed extensively, and on the record. All should be invited to prepare affidavits, setting forth their testimony under penalty of perjury. All should be asked to turn over copies of relevant documents in their possession, and to provide the names of others with potentially relevant information. A second round of interviews should then take place.
Failure to cooperate fully should be taken as a strong indication of lack of credibility.
Meanwhile, the personnel records from back in 1993 should be located. Joe Biden is under the impression that they are in the National Archives. But, I read today, the National Archives said they’re not there, they’re at Agency A; Agency A said they’re held by Agency B; and Agency B said, no, the National Archives has them.
Wherever the personnel records are, they should be found and reviewed.
The attorneys and the DNC should reach a preliminary conclusion about what probably happened in 1993—and about the degree of confidence that may be reposed in that conclusion.
If there Is still no basis for a reasonably confident conclusion, the investigation should then look into Biden’s senatorial records at the University of Delaware. There are said to be 200 boxes of paper documents and 400 GB of digital data. That’s a lot of information. But large law firms know exactly how to send platoons of lawyers to read files and pick out the relevant information.
Been there, done that. It’s no hill for a climber.
Washington Post, Fact Checker, The sexual allegations against Joe Biden: The corroborators
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?
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.
Zack Beauchamp, The Democratic Party’s risky bet on Biden: Picking Biden over Sanders might seem like the safe electability choice, but the Ukraine situation makes Biden much riskier than many believe.
If y’all were feeling good about the coalescence behind Sleepy Joe, then Mr. Beauchamp would very much like to spoil your day. He has some valid points to make. But here are a couple of additional things to consider.
First off, I don’t know about you so I’ll only speak for myself, but if I heard testimony from 20 bishops, 30 rabbis, and 40 imams, all of them swearing they saw Biden gleefully accept a bag full of $100 bills from a corrupt Ukrainian politician, I would still vote for Biden over Trump in less than a New York second.
Hey, nobody’s perfect.
The second thing is that the alleged peril to Biden all depends on whether he can now overcome a big blind spot, man up, and deal with this thing like a mature adult.
We mature adults all have the occasional lapse of judgment. We do well to remember that when Honest Abe said, “Honesty is the best policy,” Honest Abe was choosing his words carefully, and he was making a profoundly important point.
Especially, one might suppose, if Warren doesn’t get out of the race before next Tuesday.
Last Saturday night, as we relaxed in front of the teevee, Dr. Aardvark said, “You know, we need to give Biden a hundred dollars.” “Yes, we do,” I replied. “Do you want me to go around to the computer in the mancave and do it right now?” She said she did.
As we watched the results last night, Dr. Aardvark allowed as how we needed to give Biden some more money. “Two hundred dollars this time?” I inquired. “Yeah,” she said, “that sounds about right.” Back to the mancave again, where actblue.com sucked up my money much faster than I can wash my hands while singing God Save the Queen.
And so, Joe, pardon my repetition, but here’s my message for you:
You have stepped forward to hold yourself out as the person best positioned to save our democracy. It is a brave and courageous thing you have done.
You have sought out the Mandate of Heaven, and the Mandate of Heaven is by way of descending now on to your elderly shoulders.
Joe, just don’t screw this up.
Not because we gave you some money. But because you stepped up to save our democracy, and now it’s up to you to do it.
For the love of God, Joe, DO NOT SCREW THIS UP.
Charles M. Blow, Democrats, Don’t Wish for Your Own Rogue: Bloomberg’s record and misleading statements make him a dangerous choice:
I’m already disgusted by Trump’s lies. Voters are tired of being lied to. Black voters in particular are tired of being lied to. Bloomberg knows that he is twisting the truth [about his stop-and-frisk record]. He just hopes you won’t notice.
I don’t trust Bloomberg. When he had political power, he used it to harm. I don’t ever want to see him with political power again, “ramming through” social programs that harm vulnerable people.
He has done some admirable work as a private citizen. A private citizen is what he should remain.
Jonathan Capehart, Aunt Gloria is still with Biden. But Mom is leaning to Bloomberg:
Like Aunt Gloria, my mother also believes it’s going to take an old white man to beat an old white man. She was behind Biden, but she told me that she is seriously considering voting for Bloomberg during the Acela corridor primary on April 28. And, no, my mom is not bothered by his use of stop-and-frisk or recently revealed controversial remarks about the practice. She just wants Trump out.
“There isn’t a candidate that doesn’t have an issue with the black community. A Bloomberg presidency is better for people of color than to leave Trump in office,” my mother said via text. “I am not concerned with what Bloomberg did or said in the past. I’m looking toward the future.”
Finally, the returns from Iowa are almost complete, and the Washington Post nicely lays them out for you. Lots of information here, but I want to focus on the above graph.
It turns out that, when given a binary choice, only 61 percent of Iowa caucus goers picked “rather nominate a candidate who can beat Donald Trump” rather than the single alternative, “rather nominate a candidate who agrees with you on major issues.”
Let’s look at the preferences of the 61 percent who placed highest value on electability. Within that group, one of the insurgent candidates, Crazy Bernie, garnered the support of only 15 percent of the population—a huge difference from his 36 percent share among voters who cared most about issues. Conclusion: the good people of Iowa are really skeptical that Crazy Bernie could be elected.
What about Pocahontas? Among the electability-concerned 61 percent population, Warren got only 16 percent (only a tiny difference from the 17 percent of the issue-concerned voters who favored Warren). Conclusion: the good people of Iowa are very skeptical about Pocahontas’s electability and they are not too keen on her, on the issues, either.
Like Sanders, there was a whopping big difference in Biden’s support among the issues-concerned voters, where he had five percent support, and among the electability-concerned set, where his support jumped almost five times, to 23 percent.
However, among the electability-minded, Biden still came in second to Buttigieg, who garnered 24 percent support, the largest figure for any candidate.
Why Do Iowans Think Buttigieg is More Electable than Biden?
For sure, it isn’t because of the national polling data.
And, for sure, it isn’t because of Buttigieg’s resume.
Part of it likely has to do with Ukraine.
But my instinct tells me it’s mainly because Iowans don’t think an insurgent is electable, and they don’t think a generic, well-spoken, presentable Democratic politician is electable.
I think it’s because the Iowa voters’ guts tell them that we need Something Else.
And, right now, Mayor Pete is the only seemingly viable Something Else on offer.
For a more comprehensive perspective, check out William Saletan, How Pete Won: His success in Iowa is a template for victory in November.
Greetings to yesterday’s readers from Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Jordan, Kenya, India, Mauritius, Peru, and the United States. Readers in the US were most numerous, but Kenya placed a strong second. So, let’s all enjoy some music.
Yesterday’s Bret Stephens/Gail Collins “Conversation” features this exchange:
Bret: Does this mean Biden’s toast?
Gail: Well, he certainly looks crispy.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Bruenig lets us know that The Center Cannot Hold: Bernie Sanders’s strong showing in Iowa is a turning point in the battle between the party’s establishment and left wing:
It is fair to conclude that the Democratic Party’s center is panicking, and it is now fair to conclude that it has good cause: With 62 percent of Iowa caucus results in, Mr. Sanders leads the popular vote, with 26.3 percent. He trails former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., in state delegates by a slim margin. But with Mr. Buttigieg struggling in primary polls in New Hampshire and Nevada, it seems unlikely his campaign has the kind of momentum that could lead to the nomination. Thus, the greater Iowa upset is that heir apparent Vice President Joe Biden is a distant fourth. With Mr. Biden’s front-runner status compromised, Mr. Sanders emerges from Iowa as a formidable candidate — without establishment imprimatur. …
Mr. Sanders’s radicalism … is troubling to establishment Democrats for a variety of reasons, from worries about his strength against President Trump in the general election to a desire to find a candidate who can unite the party. Both of those concerns seem surmountable to me. But the one unsurmountable establishment fear surrounding a Sanders win is something more like naked self-interest, and its attachment to power.
All this, of course, is premature. As of this writing we have only 71 percent of the Iowa results and zero percent of the New Hampshire results. But, as someone once said, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
Ms. Bruenig’s account is not only premature, it’s incomplete in a very important respect: it fails to consider the mediocre turnout in Iowa. It doesn’t focus on the fact that Sanders garnered only 24.4 percent of the caucus goers in the first round and only 26.2 percent in the second round.
And here’s another thing. If Sanders is going to catch fire, then he’s going to have to persuade all of the folks who cotton to Pocahontas to move over to his column, so that all of the strong progressives are united. Did anything like that happen in Iowa? No, siree, it did not. Warren garnered 18.7 percent of the caucus goers on the first round, and gained another 1.9 percent in the second round. (Bernie also showed that he is the second choice of some voters, receiving an extra 1.9 percent in the second round of voting. Not exactly a blowout, is it?)
What those things tell me is that Iowa Democrats are pretty damn tepid in their desire for democratic socialism. For that, I neither applaud them nor condemn them, at least in this post. To me, it’s just a fact.
As to New Hampshire, we will see what we shall see.
And, by the way, if Iowa Democrats are not exactly hopping up and down for democratic socialism, you can imagine how the Iowa Republicans and independents are feeling.
If they want to coalesce around Biden to ward off Sanders, the establishment has a problema grande: You Can’t Beat Something with Nothing.
In Iowa, as of this writing, Biden started out with 14.7 percent in the first round. And when his supporters saw this miserable result, he lost a fair number of them in the second round, settling at fourth place, with 13.2 percent—just a hair better than Amy Klobuchar.
We have been told repeatedly—and I believe it—that the very foremost thing on the Iowa Democrats’ collective mind was trying to figure out which candidate is strongest against Donald Trump. If they thought that person needed to be a fairly generic Democratic politician with generic centrist views and a respectable political resume, they had several names from which to choose: Biden, Klobuchar, Bennet, and Patrick. Collectively, on the second round of voting, these fine people received 25.6 percent of the vote.
Now, folks, I am not a weatherman but I can tell you which way the wind is blowing: just as the Iowa Democrats are mighty tepid about democratic socialism, so also are they very lukewarm about conventional generic Democratic politicians with passable political resumes and centrist views. And when I say “tepid” and “lukewarm,” I mean they exhibit a healthy skepticism about the ability of either type of candidate—even a successful former vice-president—to defeat Donald Trump.
Now I, for one, do not share their views, but that’s what the folks in Iowa pretty clearly think. And they may well be right, and I may well be wrong.
With only the thinnest of political resumes, Mayor Pete, who is neither a socialist nor a conventional generic politician, came in second on the first round of voting and then increased his margin by 3.8 percent—by far the largest second round increase of any candidate. He also finished in second place in the second round, but only one percent behind Bernie. Mayor Pete’s results far exceeded expectations.
So, think a moment. What do Mayor Pete and Barack Obama have in common?
- Both are young whippersnappers who came into the presidential contest with thin political resumes.
- Both are members of persecuted minorities.
- Both are smart as a whip.
- Both are highly articulate and show great capacity to think on their feet and argue persuasively.
Bloomberg or Buttigieg
Inasmuch as you can’t beat something with nothing, it looks to me as if the Democratic establishment is going to have to choose to coalesce around either Bloomberg or Buttigieg.
Washington Post, Biden calls Iowa voter aa ‘liar’ after he brings up his son and Ukraine:
Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden got into an extraordinary exchange Thursday afternoon with an Iowa farmer who first called him too old to run and then challenged him on Hunter Biden’s activities in Ukraine, triggering Biden to call the man “a damn liar.”
“You’re damn near as old as I am,” the man started. “You’re too old for the job. I’m 83, and I know damn well I don’t have the mental faculties I did 30 years ago.”
Then he turned toward what he said was a more pressing concern.
“We all know Trump has been messing around in the Ukraine over there, holding their foreign aid . . . saying they’re going to investigate you,” he said. “He’s got no backbone, we know that.”
“But you, on the other hand, sent your son over there to get a job and work for a gas company that he had no experience with gas or nothing, to get access to the president,” he continued. “You’re selling access to the president just like he was.”
“You’re a damn liar, man,” Biden said. “That’s not true. And no one has ever said that.”
“The hell it ain’t,” the man replied. “I see it on the TV.”
“You see it on the TV?” Biden said.
“All I do is watch TV,” the man continued.
“No, I know you do,” Biden responded, as he moved closer to the man, looked him in the eye and instructed one of his staffers not to take the microphone away from the man.
“And by the way, I’m not sedentary,” Biden, 77, continued. “Look, the reason I’m running is I’ve been around a long time, and I know more than most people know. And I can get things done, that’s why I’m running. And you want to check my shape, man, let’s do push-ups together here, man. Let’s run. Let’s do whatever you want to do. Let’s take an IQ test. Okay?”
“Number two,” Biden said. “No one has said my son has done anything wrong. And I did not on any occasion — and no one has ever said it.”
The Iowan interjected, saying, “I didn’t say you were doing anything wrong.”
“You said I set up my son to work on an oil company!” Biden said, growing more agitated and raising his voice. “Isn’t that what you said? Get your words straight, Jack!”
“That’s what I hear on MSNBC all day,” the man said.
“You don’t hear that on MSNBC,” Biden said.
“The hell I didn’t,” came the response.
“You did not hear that at all. What you heard — look, okay,” Biden said, trying to calm the exchange. “I’m not going to get in an argument with you, man.”
“I don’t want to either,” the man said.
“Well, yeah you do,” Biden responded.
“It looks like you don’t have any more backbone than Trump does,” the man said, as the crowd groaned.
“Any more questions?” Biden said, turning elsewhere in the audience.
As he sat down, the man said he wasn’t going to be voting for Biden.
This is tricky, difficult territory, but I feel the need to say just a few things.
Lots of white pundits have been pontificating on this matter, and some have predicted that Biden’s purported gaffe will drive down his black support. I am a white person, and it seems presumptuous to speculate about how black people might react. So I will not do so, except to say that black people are like white people: they are diverse, and some see things differently from others.
So I don’t speak for black people. Nor do I speak for white people. I speak only for myself.
I volunteered with little kids in the inner city for about twenty years. Biden’s point that poor children typically come to kindergarten with significantly smaller vocabularies than middle class children is, in my experience, entirely accurate.
An intelligent second grader didn’t know the meaning of “messy,” so he couldn’t answer a multiple choice question correctly, so his teacher thought he was developmentally disabled. He was fine: it’s just that he had a low vocabulary. And once he learned what “messy” means, he had no trouble answering the question.
Fourth graders, reading The Littlest Mermaid, didn’t know what it meant when the Littlest Mermaid swam to the “surface” of the water. Another fourth grader had trouble with her homework assignment on the weather because she did not know the meaning of “thunderstorm.”
And, no, these children were not at all retarded. They were children of normal intelligence with poor vocabularies.
And a brief word on helping parents to raise children. In the place where I live, there is a black upper class, a black middle class, and a black underclass. Among the latter, some do fine raising children—except for the fact that they don’t have much money. Some others do lack parenting skills, and their families may suffer from various types of dysfunction.
Just now, some fine African American ministers down in the inner city have joined in an interfaith effort, involving a variety of religious communities, some predominately black and some predominantly white, to identify families that would benefit from friendship and mentoring, and to provide that support.
Again, others have different perceptions and others can speak for themselves. My own African American friends in the inner city know there are problems there, they are looking for help, and they are not choosy about where the help comes from. If you are a college student wearing a hijab and you want to volunteer to help down at the AME church outreach program, just come on in. If you’re from a white congregation in another part of town, with a different theology, and you want to help, then just come on in.
As for Dr. Aardvark and myself, this is the personal reparations we feel called to make.
Today’s readers, so far, come from Hong Kong SAR China, Kenya, India, Mauritius, Serbia, the United States, and Vietnam. I had to look up Mauritius. Seems like a nice place, and I hope y’all are staying above water. And thanks again to the Hong Kong readers, though I would have thought you all would be busy on other projects.
Martin Longman, On Biden’s Success and Gillibrand’s Failure
Mr. Longman checks his gut at some length and gives us a detailed report on what he finds. What he finds, in a nutshell, is that Democrats have such a thirst for winning in 2020 that they are not going to take a chance on a woman, a person of color, or a gay guy. He concludes, “I hear voters say that they don’t want to vote for another old white man all the time. But the less vocalized opinion is that they seem terrified of doing anything else.”
And now, having checked Mr. Longman’s gut, let me check my own. My own gut tells me that we are about to have a 2020 election featuring two old guys, both showing signs of mental deterioration.
My gut also tells me this is not a good thing.
I didn’t publish anything yesterday, but I see that I have some readers in Russia this morning. HELLOOOOO VLADIMIR!