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


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.

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.