Littwin: Biden walks the #MeToo tightrope. Did he make it to the other side?

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden addresses a crowd at a town hall event at Clinton College on August 29, 2019 in Rock Hill, S.C. (Photo credit: Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden addresses a crowd at a town hall event at Clinton College on August 29, 2019 in Rock Hill, S.C. (Photo credit: Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

On Friday morning, Joe Biden went public, as many (including me) had insisted he should. And it went exactly as everyone expected.

Meaning, of course, that we don’t know any more now than we did before Biden addressed the sexual-assault accusation made by a Senate aide that, if it occurred, happened 27 years ago. Biden wasn’t going to confess, of course. And he wasn’t going to slam his accuser, Tara Reade, either. He would walk the #MeToo tightrope, and now people will have to determine if he safely made it to the other side.

Biden said it never happened. He said it repeatedly. He said it in a long statement he released before the interview. He said he never knew of any complaint made against him, as Reade has said she did. She apparently has her personnel file from that time, but with no copy of the complaint. And then there’s this: According to Reade, her complaint said only that Biden had made her uncomfortable, which may have been a reference to Biden’s handsiness issues or something worse. It’s hard to accuse the boss.

And while there is some corroborating testimony, we’re clearly in he-said-she-said territory with no real tiebreaker in sight, except maybe this one: For those who believe that Trump is unfit to be president and must be removed this November, Biden is their only hope. That could be the ultimate tiebreaker.

Under tough questioning from Mika Brzezinski on MSNBC’s Morning Joe — tougher than Biden probably anticipated — Biden said he had called for a search of the National Archives, where if any complaint was made, he said it should be found. He resisted a similar search of his still-not-public Senate records that are being housed and curated at the University of Delaware, Biden saying there are no personnel records there. 

So, what do you think? My guess — which I’m pretty certain of this time — is two-fold:

Most Republicans will either believe Tara Reade, the accuser, or will insist, in any case, that Democrats risk being hypocrites if they don’t believe her. You might remember that approximately zero Republicans called for the many claims against Trump to be investigated.

Meanwhile, most Democrats will either believe Biden or at least hope that he’s telling the truth, while saying — some aloud, probably more to themselves — that voting for even a possibly tainted Joe Biden is a no-brainer when he is matched against the most dangerous and unfit president in American history. 

This part, though, will be said aloud and often: A single accusation against Biden is one thing. The many accusations against Trump, ranging from harassment to rape, are another. Even as I write this, there’s a request in the courts for Trump’s DNA. And Trump himself said that Biden may well be falsely accused since, he claimed, he is the victim of many such accusations.

In the #MeToo era, many of us have made the commitment to believe a woman who comes forward with such a complaint, whether or not it happened long ago, whether or not there are inconsistencies in the details, whether or not the person — as in the case of Reade — has some history of strange commentary, including her weird defense of Vladimir Putin.

But we’re now in the process of redefining what the all-woman-must-be-believed commitment should mean. She must be given a hearing. She must be treated respectfully. She must be presumed credible because it’s presumably true that not many women would come forward under public scrutiny to make such an accusation. But accusations must also be investigated.

If it’s unlikely, though, that we’ll ever find resolution of the accusation — that Biden pushed Reade against a wall and penetrated her with his fingers — it’s the hypocrisy from both sides that will clearly linger.

Republicans are on slightly firmer ground when comparing Democratic reaction to this accusation to the reaction to Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation against Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court nomination process.

Here’s what Biden said at the time of the Kavanaugh hearings, that Ford “deserves to be treated with dignity. It takes enormous courage for a woman to come forward, under the bright lights of millions of people watching, and relive something that happened to her, assert that something happened to her. And she should be treated with respect.”

On Friday, Biden said Reade had a perfect right to come forward but also noted, “I have a right to say, ‘Look at the facts.’”

And yet, several prominent Democrats have sided with Biden, saying they don’t believe he could have done that. But we really don’t know what anyone might have done, and certainly not 27 years ago. But the comparison is also more than disingenuous. At the time, many Republicans called Ford a liar without any evidence whatsoever. And in the hearing for Kavanaugh’s nomination, Republicans actively blocked any real investigation of the accusations that Ford and others made.

Still, it should also be noted that in the case of Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas, Biden, then the judiciary committee chair, stood by as Hill’s reputation was smeared by senator after Republican senator. That’s why these issues are so complicated. If you knew Biden today, you’d like to think he would have done far better by Hill long ago.

As for Trump — and don’t what-about-ism me here — he not only denies every accusation, he also mocks his accusers, even saying that one was definitely not his type. And, of course, there is the “Access Hollywood” audio tape, in which Trump brags about his ability to grab women by the pussy and that they let him get away with it because he was a celebrity.

I don’t know what the polling is on believing Trump, but I’ll bet he’s far under water. Certainly I’m old enough to remember when Cory Gardner, now an avid Trump supporter, said the tape disqualified Trump from the presidency.  

This is a tough moment for Biden obviously, and Trump clearly needs a diversion from his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. Reade is reportedly negotiating with Chris Wallace to do a FoxNews interview. But assuming no one else comes forward, there is also danger for Republicans.

I can foresee Republicans making hypocrisy a major issue in the campaign, with the wink-wink of Reade’s accusation as subtext. I can also foresee some cable network, say CNN, holding a few town hall meetings on this issue and bringing in, for at least one of them, as many Trump accusers as will agree to appear on stage together, even if they have to be socially distanced. And then they’d have another with Tara Reade, if, in fact, she agreed to appear.

Imagine how a dozen Trump accusers willing to stand up to the president would look — sort of like how it looked when Trump brought all those Bill Clinton accusers to a debate with Hillary Clinton. Only much, much worse.

10 COMMENTS

  1. If I were writing a political novel . It would involve a thoroughly incompetent and utterly corrupt president with a history of sexual abuse facing an opponent with sex charges against him . From out toof nowhere to attract moderates. He gets enough votes to win just enough states to throw the election into the House. In the House each state gets one vote and the corrupt president has most of the rural states’ single representative.. and is re-elected. I don’ believe in happy endings

  2. I will vote for Biden or any one else running against Trump, but I believe he probably did what she said . They all deny what the did

  3. OK – so Trump isn’t exactly the best candidate. But neither is Biden. It says a heck of a lot about the quality of BOTH parties that they can’t come up with a quality candidate.

  4. Nope. I don’t buy the false equivalency.

    The evidence over time just doesn’t support the pox on both their houses argument.

    Our two major parties are not equally as bad for the vast majority of America.

    It’s like the old Sesame Street game…one of these things is not like the other….

    • I get it, Jay. You believe that the worst Democrat is better than the best Republican no matter what. I get your bias and that you are likely to never EVER let up from that. Which is why I ignore most of what you write. One day, perhaps you will grow out of your biases – but that will probably take a while. You are an intelligent man and in other circumstances, I think I could call you a friend. But you have to see the faults in your own party before you can temper your biases…

  5. You don’t have to put words in my mouth. I didn’t say that “the worst Democrat is better than the best Republican”.

    I’m just pointing out that there is no equivalency between the candidates or parties. It’s okay to acknowledge that according to facts and history, not opinion, one of America’s two political parties has performed worse for the vast majority of the country.

    It’s clearly not a tie, so one of the racehorses must be in the lead, right? Am I “biased” for believing my lyin’ eyes that tell me which horse is in front?

  6. None of us will ever know the truth of any discussion since there are always more than 2 sides to any issue. And how many women and men, rushed into marriage, then found they had made bad choices? Reason marriage vows (of standard time) was for better or worse, sickness and health, and until death do us part. Remember. Then consider all the ME@TOO group. How many of them created the problem in their marriage, for which they feel so put upon? In case of Bidden verus Reade, something happened 27 years ago for her to be relieved of her supervisory duties, had them told she was no longer supervisor, and told to find a new job. I worked in many offices, and work sections in my 26 years in military, and also worked part time jobs through out those years. So I have seen good supervisors, and also poor ones. And I saw people work together who would never socialize together, but got the job done. So just on surface, I say it is up to VP Joe Bidden to do more than deny it happened. I heard him say to Mika, about the complaint. “It does not exist” That is whole different thing, “It did not happen”. That plainly indicates he thinks she lied.
    ———Now in Trump’s defense (and my knowledge from many books about him, and by him) He married 3 times (3 different women) and all three support him for President. He had children by all three and they also support him, except Tiffany who just graduated from college, and working. And Baron who is now 14 I believe. Rest of the family all support him. And in my books, and articles collected, show Donald Trump hired men and women , when that was not usual in business world. If they produced, he promoted them, men and women. And had many who rose to higher offices with better pay, in his corporation and businesses. How many wives so divorced, would still support their ex husband. And only thing Democrats have is illegally gained tape of “locker room talk”. Tapes held for many years, to be used against Donald. AND THAT TIME CAME. RIGHT. LUCKY DEMOCRATS. In Donald’s business days, he had women throwing themselves at him, and I suspect some still do. He did not have to grab or rape anyone
    ——-OF COURSE IF YOU DON’T LIKE DONALD, OR EVEN DESPISE HIM, YOU DON’T HAVE TO HAVE A REAL REASON, DO YOU?

  7. “And Biden, Democrats and the liberal media have been late in addressing Reade’s allegations that when she worked in Biden’s Senate office in 1993, he assaulted her in a corridor, because it was inconvenient for them to do so.” – Maureen Dowd

    Here are just a few of Mr. Littwin’s thoughts on Joe Biden through the years:

    —– “It seems obvious now. (Sarah Palin is) the Republican version of Barack Obama, whose worst mistake in the campaign has probably been picking Joe Biden as his running mate. Not because there’s anything particularly wrong with Biden, if you don’t mind the odd case of plagiarism, but because Biden is completely wrong for this campaign.” – 2008

    —– “(This would be despite Joe Biden’s, uh, prediction that a hostile world will test Obama with a “crisis” within his first six months in office. Is that the Biden gaffe everyone’s been eagerly awaiting – or can he do even better?)” – 2008

    —– “Ah, Biden. It’s because Joe Biden is so irredeemably Joe Biden that this (vice-presidential) debate holds as much possibility as it does.” – 2008

    —– “Everyone is waiting for the clean and articulate factor – the incidental insult – to surface. And that’s just one danger facing Biden, who also has to worry about seeming condescending. And Democrats worry that one of Biden’s inappropriately goofy smiles could send women voters – who, according to the latest polls, have been flocking to Obama – flocking back to McCain/Palin.” – 2008

    —– “Even Joe Biden couldn’t mess it up.” – 2009

    —– “Of course, Biden has been running for president since 1988.” – 2018

    ***********************

    Mr. Littwin should be applauded for the degree of honesty and candor he has displayed particularly when discussing a Democrat in a presidential election year.

    —– “For those who believe that Trump is unfit to be president and must be removed this November, Biden is their only hope.”

    —– “Meanwhile, most Democrats will either believe Biden or at least hope that he’s telling the truth, while saying — some aloud, probably more to themselves — that voting for even a possibly tainted Joe Biden is a no-brainer when he is matched against the most dangerous and unfit president in American history.” 

    —– “But we’re now in the process of redefining what the all-woman-must-be-believed commitment should mean.”

    —– “Republicans are on slightly firmer ground when comparing Democratic reaction to this accusation (made by Tara Reade) to the reaction to Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation against Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court nomination process.”

    —– “And yet, several prominent Democrats have sided with Biden, saying they don’t believe he could have done that. But we really don’t know what anyone might have done, and certainly not 27 years ago.”

    —– “Still, it should also be noted that in the case of Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas, Biden, then the judiciary committee chair, stood by as Hill’s reputation was smeared by senator after Republican senator.”

    What makes this column even more interesting is the opportunity to compare and contrast it with a column Mr. Littwin wrote a year ago, April 02, 2019, about Joe Biden’s chances of becoming the 2020 Democrat presidential nominee. A column that started out in a less than flattering way, “The question now being hotly debated in Democratic circles is whether Uncle Joe Biden is too creepy — or, at minimum, too handsy — to run for president.”

    One year later and Mr. Littwin still struggles to answer that question and as a big supporter of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s presidential aspirations he must be questioning (not out loud, of course) whether Democrats could have done better than Biden.

    Does Mr. Littwin believe defeating President Trump takes precedence over supporting #MeToo? Sure sounds like it, “But we’re now in the process of redefining what the all-woman-must-be-believed commitment should mean.” If that’s not convincing enough, “voting for even a possibly tainted Joe Biden is a no-brainer when he is matched against the most dangerous and unfit president in American history.”? #MeToo is dead!

    What does Mr. Littwin think of Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar the self-styled feminists who, according to realclearpolitics.com, “bought every flimsy claim made against now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh — have chosen to stand by Joe Biden in the face of a sexual assault allegation made against him by a former staffer” #MeToo is dead!

    And while Mr. Littwin’s honesty is refreshing and unexpected he was less than honest when suggesting Tara Reade was Biden’s only accuser, “A single accusation against Biden is one thing. The many accusations against (President) Trump, ranging from harassment to rape, are another.”

    This from Mr. Littwin’s April 02, 2019 column:

    —– “Lucy Flores, then a Nevada legislator who was running for lieutenant governor, claimed that back in 2014 Biden put his hands on her shoulders, inhaled her hair and then gave her a long kiss on the head. “My brain couldn’t process what was happening,” she said. “I was embarrassed. I was shocked. I was confused.”

    —– “The second person to allege space invasion was Amy Lappos, who described to the Hartford Courant what she said was a 2009 encounter with Biden: “It wasn’t sexual, but he did grab me by the head. He put his hand around my neck and pulled me in to rub noses with me. When he was pulling me in, I thought he was going to kiss me on the mouth.”

    So why did Mr. Littwin ignore accusations he reported just last year? And why did Mr. Littwin ignore a problem that just last year he found so troubling, “why, so late in (Joe Biden’s) long career, he still didn’t have any idea that uninvited nose rubbing would be, well, off-putting.”?

    Here’s a theory. In 2018 Denver Mayor Michael Hancock admitted to sending inappropriate texts to Denver police detective Leslie Branch-Wise including asking if she had taken a pole dancing class.

    But Mr. Littwin didn’t call for Mayor Hancock’s resignation because there was “no allegation of physical contact and, to this point, there is only the one charge, six years old, that he harassed anyone.”

    Using Mr. Littwin’s own “Hancock standard” to judge Joe Biden’s behavior today would have made it more difficult (not impossible, just more difficult) for Mr. Littwin to maintain his support for Joe Biden since Tara Reade would no longer be “Biden’s only accuser” and the two additional allegations both involve physical contact.

    But would Mr. Littwin ever consider aggressively pursuing the allegations against Joe Biden knowing that, “For those who believe that Trump is unfit to be president and must be removed this November, Biden is their only hope.” ?

    I don’t think so either.

    If Joe Biden plans to run as the antithesis of President Trump this ain’t helping.

    ***********************

    “The Independent is a nonprofit. You as readers and donors (both, I hope) are our investors. We work not to fatten the bottom line, but for our mission. It’s on our home page. You can read the whole thing there. But here’s a key passage: “We seek to amplify the voices of Coloradans whose stories are unheard, shine light on the relationships between people, power and policy, and hold public officials to account. We strive to report the news with context, social conscience, and soul, and to give Coloradans the insight they need to promote conversation, understanding and progress in this square, swing state we call home.”
    Tina Griego, managing editor Colorado Independent

    “We’re funded by donations from our readers, charitable gifts, community partnerships and foundations.”
    Holly Armstrong, board chair Colorado Independent

    “Thank you for your readership and encouragement. Please take good care of yourselves and each other.” 
    Susan Greene, Editor and executive director

    • Republicans gave up the ability to criticize the morals of others without being hypocrites the moment they nominated Chump.

      Indefinitely.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.