Do You Believe in Magic?

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.

Some Observations This Morning from Joe Biden

Coronavirus economic impact

Mr. Biden writes,

The coronavirus, to date, has taken the lives of more than 79,000 Americans. One of every 5 U.S. workers has filed for unemployment — with the unemployment rate now the highest since the Great Depression. It is an extraordinary moment — the kind that begs for urgent, steady, empathetic, unifying leadership.

But instead of unifying the country to accelerate our public health response and get economic relief to those who need it, President Trump is reverting to a familiar strategy of deflecting blame and dividing Americans. His goal is as obvious as it is craven: He hopes to split the country into dueling camps, casting Democrats as doomsayers hoping to keep America grounded and Republicans as freedom fighters trying to liberate the economy.

It’s a childish tactic — and a false choice that none of us should fall for.

The truth is that everyone wants America to reopen as soon as possible — claiming otherwise is completely absurd. Governors from both parties are doing their best to make that happen, but their efforts have been slowed and hampered because they haven’t gotten the tools, resources and guidance they need from the federal government to reopen safely and sustainably. That responsibility falls on Trump’s shoulders — but he isn’t up to the task.

It’s been more than two months since Trump claimed that “anybody that wants a test can get a test.” It was a baldfaced lie when he said it, and it still isn’t remotely true. If we’re going to have thriving workplaces, restaurants, stores and parks, we need widespread testing. Trump can’t seem to provide it — to say nothing of worker safety protocols, consistent health guidelines or clear federal leadership to coordinate a responsible reopening.

In addition to forgetting the tests, he seems to have forgotten that ours is a demand-driven economy — you can shout from the rooftops that we’re open for business, but the economy will not get back to full strength if the number of new cases is still rising or plateauing and people don’t believe that it’s safe to return to normal activities. Without measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus, many Americans won’t want to shop in stores, eat in restaurants or travel; small-business owners know that a nervous public won’t provide enough customers to ensure they thrive.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) began “reopening” his state’s dine-in restaurants on April 27 — 12 days later, according to data from restaurant-booking service OpenTable, there were still 92 percent fewer diners than there were on the same day a year ago. States and cities that have attempted to reopen are discovering that the economy isn’t a light switch you can simply flip on — people need confidence to make it run, and that confidence must be earned by credible leadership and demonstrable safety.

Again, the solution isn’t a mystery. The Trump administration could focus on producing and distributing adequate testing and protocols that conform with the guidance of public health experts; doing so would speed up the reopening process considerably and make it a whole lot more effective. The administration is fully aware that this is the right path, too — after all, the president and his staff are now reportedly receiving daily tests. They knew exactly how to make the Oval Office safe and operational, and they put in the work to do it.

They just haven’t put in that same work for the rest of us.

If Trump and his team understand how critical testing is to their safety — and they seem to, given their own behavior — why are they insisting that it’s unnecessary for the American people?

And why does the president insist on trying to turn this into yet another line of division, pitting strained, grieving Americans against one another across manufactured battle lines of “health” and “the economy”? Everybody knows that we can’t revive the latter unless we safeguard the former — and pretending otherwise is the most transparent of political ploys. Instead of once again seeking to divide us, Trump should be working to get Americans the same necessary protections he has gotten for himself.

It’s the right thing to do, and the only path to truly getting the economy back on track.

A Second Swing and a Miss

swing and miss

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.

Michelle Goldberg on Fingergate

explaining

Michelle Goldberg, Democrats, Tara Reade and the #MeToo Trap: Don’t compare the case against Joe Biden to the one against Brett Kavanaugh

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.

Biden Developments

Mika-Brzezinski

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.

 

What is Biden Hidin’? How Should the Investigation Proceed?

Shoulder

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.

 

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.

accusations