I try not to out-right steal other people's writing, but Jeffrey Billman is making it hard for me. I get his daily Indy Week email, which has become indispensable for keeping up with any number of North Carolina and national storylines.
|"Joe Biden's Self Quarantine"
Kevin Siers, Charlotte Observer, April 30, 2020
→ TARA READE IS BECOMING A PROBLEM FOR JOE BIDEN.
And absorbed a long, long piece that turned over every piece of evidence with just the right mixture of skepticism and open-mindedness:
For a month or so, Joe Biden’s campaign acted as though Tara Reade’s allegation that he had—how to put this politely—digitally penetrated her against her will in 1993 would go away on its own....
Then, in mid-April, the major national newspapers dug in, including The New York Times and The Washington Post.
A former intern for another lawmaker told both papers that Reade had told her about the assault at the time, but she declined to go on the record.
Reade said she told her mother about the assault, but her mother was dead.
Another friend told the NYT that Reade had told her in 2008 that Biden touched her inappropriately and that she’s had a traumatic experience working in his office.
Reade’s brother had this curious exchange with WaPo: “In another recent interview, Reade’s brother, Collin Moulton, said she told him in 1993 that Biden had behaved inappropriately by touching her neck and shoulders. … Several days after that interview, he said in a text message that he recalled her telling him that Biden had put his hand ‘under her clothes.’ ”
All in all: Not good for Biden, but not fatal. So long as another shoe didn’t drop.
Then a shoe dropped. Not, like, a size-12 Doc Martin. More like a size-4 slipper. Reade had said that, after she told her mother about the assault, her mother had called in to Larry King’s CNN show. Last weekend, someone dug up a recording.
“In a Larry King Live segment that aired on August 11, 1993, on CNN, an unnamed woman calls in to the show with her location identified on the screen as San Luis Obispo, California. The show was about the cutthroat nature of Washington, DC, politics and media. ‘Yes, hello. I'm wondering what a staffer would do besides go to the press in Washington?’ she asks. ‘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.’ ”
“The woman does not mention sexual assault or harassment, nor does she describe in any detail what ‘problems’ she might be referring to. Her daughter’s name and Biden's are also not mentioned. In a phone interview with CNN Friday night, Reade told CNN that she is certain the voice in the video belongs to her mother, Jeanette Altimus, who died a few years ago.”
And then another shoe, this one a little more impactful. A former neighbor of Reade’s told Business Insider that in the mid-1990s Reade had told her about the assault, and another former coworker said that Reade told her that she’d been sexually harassed and then fired when she complained about it....
Billman also spends a good deal of space on Republican charges that Democrats are hypocrites. I get that. I certainly do. And don't relish the charge. Uncannily, Billman exactly captures the mental gymnastics many of us fall back on when accused of hypocrisy:
DEVIL’S ADVOCATE: Assume Biden is innocent. (If you want to read a former federal prosecutor throwing shade on Reade’s allegations, here you go.) What can Biden possibly say? Reade’s allegation is unprovable; it’s also unfalsifiable. She can’t give a date or location where this happened—things that would allow Biden to show he was somewhere else.
So you say, “These allegations aren’t true.” Then what? If you attack Reade, you’ll be accused of doing what Republicans did to Christine Blasey-Ford. You’re stuck with “believe all women, just not this one.”
It’s a no-win scenario for even the deftest and most innocent politician. Biden certainly isn’t the former; the latter … well, continue reading.
HYPOCRITE: There are dueling thoughts I’ve been wrestling with this week: 1) Instinctively, I don’t think Biden did it. 2) I know that I think that because I don’t want to think that he did it.
It’s not because I’m a Biden fanboy; he wasn’t my choice in the primary (Warren). It’s not because he’s on my “team”; my “team” is thinking Donald Trump poses a threat to American democracy. If Biden got replaced between now and November, pretty much anyone (ahem, Warren) would be fine.
It’s because, as boringly generic and sometimes infuriatingly terrible as his politics are, Biden always struck me as an earnest, genuinely decent guy. OK, so, the Anita Hill hearing was not his finest hour. And his habit of invading women’s personal space is gross, but even that didn’t seem ill-intentioned so much as geezer-is-out-of-touch. I’ve known men like that—empathetic, affectionate, maybe a first-rate bullshitter, but not a predator.
My gut didn’t give Kavanaugh the same benefit of the doubt, not for a second. I’ve known men like him, too—children of privilege, self-important and self-righteous, feigning indignancy and projecting rage. It’s not hard to imagine the worst.
Does that make me a hypocrite? Perhaps. More likely, it makes me human....
I don't feel defensive about Biden's embarrassment in this matter. He wasn't my first choice in the primary either, nor my second choice. If there's a swelling movement to replace him with another candidate at the Democratic National Convention, well ... throw me in that briar patch!
Here's Billman's conclusion:
LONG STORY SHORT: Politically, Biden needs to do just enough today to keep the women’s groups on board and (best case) get the media to move on—in other words, deny, don’t be defensive, sound credible, don’t say anything dumb, don’t attack Reade, and apologize to the women you’ve made uncomfortable. He can’t do much else.
Republicans are still going to make Reade a prop to distract from Trump and paint Biden and his female VP nominee and Democrats in general as hypocrites, and the left’s Never Bidens will use her to justify voting third party (“the lesser of two rapists,” etc.). All that’s baked in already.
If Biden doesn’t screw up, the only thing that changes the equation is a second credible accuser.Billman's entire take on the scandal seems well considered and wholly logical and caused me to contribute to the "Indy Press Club" to KeepItIndy.com. We need honest opinion brokers like Jeffrey Billman. He's a crucial part of my information universe.