Joe Biden went on television this morning to deny Tara Reade’s allegation that he sexually assaulted her many years ago. Mika Brzezinski did the questioning and she pressed Biden fairly hard.
My only complaint about her performance is that she didn’t ask Biden about the recent corroboration of Reade’s claim that she complained to others about Biden’s behavior during the period following its alleged occurrence. I would love to have heard Biden deal with a comparison of the level of corroboration of Reade’s allegation and the level of corroboration of Christine Blasey Ford’s claim against Brett Kavanaugh.
There are those who believe Biden is mentally impaired and won’t make it to the finish line this campaign season. They may be right, but this interview doesn’t support that view, in my opinion. If I were defending Biden in a sexual harassment case, I would be reasonably satisfied with his performance.
This is not to say there were no weak spots in his responses. There were. However, the weaknesses are inherent in the position Biden finds himself in, not so much in the quality of his answers.
Biden’s biggest inherent problem is the position he took during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Back then, he declared:
For a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus, nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real, whether or not she forgets facts.
Asked about this statement, Biden first misrepresented his past position. He claimed he said if a woman comes forward her claim should be taken seriously and vetted.
Brzezinski kept pressing, and later in the interview Biden did say there should be a presumption in favor of a woman who brings forward these kinds of allegations. Biden added, though, that in the end what matters is whether the allegation is true, and Reade’s allegation isn’t — it has been disproved.
These are the only two ways Biden could coherently have dealt with the question. He tried them both.
Actually, however, Reade’s allegation of assault hasn’t been disproved. If she gets the presumption, the presumption hasn’t been overcome. I don’t believe any fair trier of fact would conclude that it has been.
At various points in the interview, Biden raised three reasons why Reade shouldn’t believed. He noted how old her allegations are. But the same was true of the allegations against Kavanaugh.
Biden also said there are inconsistencies in the story Reade has told. But during the Kavanaugh hearings, he said that a woman making these kinds of allegations gets the presumption “whether or not she forgets the facts.”
Finally, Biden said that he has no recollection of Reade complaining about sexual misconduct and no one on his staff recalls this, either. But even if Reade is wrong in saying that she made a formal complaint, this amounts only to her having forgotten a detail. It’s clear now that she complained to friends and family. If the case turns on whether Reade complained, she wins.
Furthermore, it hasn’t been established that Reade did not make a formal complaint. In this connection, Brzezinski pressed Biden as to why he won’t authorize a search of his Senate papers, which are housed at the University of Delaware.
Biden’s answer was that these papers don’t include personnel files, which is where a complaint by an employee about a Senator would be contained. Such files are kept by the National Archives, and Biden has asked the Archives to search for any complaint by Reade.
This is the best answer Biden could have given, short of agreeing to a search of the University of Delaware files — something he plainly doesn’t want to do.
However, the answer raises questions and Brzezinski asked them. Why not, in the interest of maximum transparency, have the Delaware papers searched anyway? Because, said Biden, they contain lots of confidential information about, for example, his talks with foreign leaders.
Then why not just search the papers for “Reade”? Biden seemed not fully to understand what this means. He reverted to his insistence that there are no personnel files at the University of Delaware.
Brzezinski also asked why Biden changed the timeline for making his papers publicly available, pushing that date well beyond this year’s election and the expiration of Biden’s presidency (if there is one). Biden cited the confidential and sensitive nature of many of these documents. I think it’s normal that once Biden realized he might run for president in 2020, he decided to push back the date for public access to his documents.
Now that Biden has issued his unequivocal denial and been interviewed for almost 20 minutes, the question is whether the interview will satisfy the public generally and liberal feminists in particular. I think Biden has given liberal feminists the fig leaf they wanted. The fig leaf doesn’t quite cover all of the relevant parts, but most feminists will pretend it does, I suspect. The loser will be the MeToo movement, not Joe Biden.
As for the public at-large, I don’t believe it cares much about what Biden did or didn’t do to Tara Reade all those years ago.
Here is the interview: