Did Joe Biden finger-rape Tara Reade in the Capitol in 1993? No one knows but the two of them. (Given the former vice president’s obviously fragile mental state, he might not remember.)
Pending the miraculous discovery of ancient surveillance footage, we may never know the truth about this alleged sexual assault. Still, the issue is worth discussing. To paraphrase Richard Nixon, the American people have the right to consider the possibility that their presidential candidate may be a rapist. Tara Reade has the right to be fully heard, Joe Biden has the right to a vigorous defense, and voters have the right to decide whether or not we believe her.
What I find interesting, in part due to my own experience taking on The Los Angeles Times, is the pretzel logic that America’s political and media establishment deploys to fend off accusations against elites.
Former prosecutor Michael J. Stern wrote an op-ed for USA Today that has become Democrats’ go-to list of reasons we can be “skeptical about Tara Reade’s sexual assault claim against Biden.” It is entirely devoid of fact, logical reasoning or common sense. And it is the way that many Americans, including those employed by major media outlets, think.
It is also the reason that many victims, probably most victims, and not just of sexual crimes, don’t come forward. The system is set up, not to ask reasonable questions based on America’s constitutionally-guaranteed presumption of innocence, but to discourage legitimate victims from pursuing justice.
“It is reasonable to consider a 27-year reporting delay when assessing the believability of any criminal allegation,” Stern writes. Did Gannett furlough its factcheckers? Reade says she filed a complaint with the appropriate U.S. Senate office at the time and that it was ignored. Even if she had waited 27 years — which she didn’t — surely it’s possible to imagine having been sexually violated by a U.S. senator, watching the guy rise to vice president and then run for president and then, when he wins the nomination for president, say to yourself: Enough is enough! I can’t stand the thought of seeing this guy as President of the United States for the next four to eight years! I’m going to break my silence.
Christine Blasey Ford did the same thing. She spoke up when Brett Kavanaugh was elevated to the highest court in the land. Anita Hill reacted to Clarence Thomas’s nomination similarly.
The corrupt billionaire bastard who libeled me as a favor to his allies in the LAPD is currently superintendent of LA public schools. That’s annoying. If Austin Beutner is ever up for something big with a national profile, however, that will truly be too much for me to bear. I will scream until some reporter finally pays attention to what he did to me.
Reade says she didn’t reveal the vaginal penetration aspect of her story to a media outlet because she didn’t feel comfortable with the reporter. “It is hard to believe a reporter would discourage this kind of scoop,” Stern writes. “Regardless, it’s also hard to accept that it took Reade 12 months to find another reporter eager to break that bombshell story.” Why should that be hard to believe? She has corroborating witnesses now, yet still has difficulty getting media outlets interested in interviewing her. It isn’t easy to find a smart reporter who gets what you have to say.
Woodward and Bernstein are dead. Five years in, I’m still waiting for so-called journalists to get back to me about a shocking story of political corruption, the legal ownership of a major newspaper chain by a police department which uses its money and influence to fire, smear and bankrupt critics and whistleblowers.
Stern says Reade’s claim that “she cannot remember the date, time or exact location of the alleged assault…could easily be perceived as bulletproofing a false allegation.” When your personal space is brutally violated, whether it is sexual assault or a mugging or police brutality, you are shocked. You focus on the trauma: what happened to you, and who did it, not the where and when. Memories of trauma tend to be fragmented and incomplete. It would be preferable if Reade had had the presence of mind to recall that data. But not having it doesn’t make her a liar.
Stern says Reade lied about how she left Biden’s employ. “Leaving a job after refusing to serve drinks at a Biden fundraiser is vastly different than being fired as retaliation for filing a sexual harassment complaint with the Senate,” Stern alleges. Actually, there is hardly any difference. The law calls what happened to her “constructive termination.” Most retaliation in the workplace takes the form of being demeaned until the victim quits. It’s an illegal firing and you can be sued for it.
The silliest smears against Reade concern her politics: “Reade essentially dismissed the idea of Russian interference in the 2016 American presidential election as hype.” So do I. So do 40% of Americans. So what? Stern notes her support for Bernie Sanders. “The confluence of Reade’s support of Sanders, distaste for the traditional American democracy epitomized by Biden, and the timing of her allegation should give pause to even the most strident Biden critics,” Stern declares.
If your politics are slightly unconventional, according to this former prosecutor, you must be lying when you say you were raped. Or, just maybe, she supported Bernie Sanders in part because he never tried to rape her. Perhaps “the timing of her allegation” stemmed from her dismay that her rapist was about to become President of the United States. And the cheap psychological gambit that Joe “Captain America” Biden epitomizes “traditional American democracy” is so ridiculous that it merits no response.
The truth may come out and it may vindicate Joe Biden. Even so, the media will remain guilty and complicit of stupidity in the service of the rich and powerful.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)