Friday, May 08, 2020

What are we to conclude from the Tara Reade affair?

I'm not a huge fan of Joe Biden, although I will get behind anyone, however imperfect, who stands a chance of defeating Donald Trump in the upcoming election. That is the overriding imperative right now. But how much are we willing to sacrifice for such an outcome?
The whole Tara Reade issue is a continuing thorn in the aide of the Biden campaign, and it has Democrats writhing in discomfort (and Republicans chortling with glee). What are we to think, and how are we to react to it? For the longest time, Biden himself refused to engage with the issue, but recently he has come out swinging and is vehemently denying the alleged incident ever happened.
So, we have a quintessential "he said, she said" situation, with "he" being a generally well-regarded establishment figure with a tendency towards touchy-feelyness, and "she" being an unknown woman in a subordinate position and now an ardent Bernie Sanders supporter. "He" has been suspiciously avoiding the issue for too long; "she" has a history of conflicting claims and inconsistent allegations (although, of course, we are told we must "believe women" in this post-#MeToo era).
Ms. Reade herself has said, "This is not a story about sexual misconduct; it is a story about misuse of power", which does not fit at all with her later, more lurid, allegations. This Vox article gives a good idea of the to-ings and fro-ings involved over the years, and the extent to which the responsible press has tried to tease out the truth from it all. Bear in mind that the whole thing was nearly 30 years ago, and seems out-of-character and altogether bizarre.
The Biden campaign has now latched onto an in-depth New York Times article as proof positive of his innocence, and effectively a complete exoneration of his part in the affair. In fact, the article was nothing if the sort, merely another articulation of just how fraught and insoluble the case is. To characterize it as an exoneration is like Donald Trump insisting that the Mueller report completely exonerates him of any wrongdoing (it most certainly does not).
What are we left with, then? That something undesirable did occur 27 years ago, but the allegations are maybe exaggerated or misremembered? Not very satisfactory, to say the least. Ultimately, we are left with the feeling that Biden is not only wishy-washy but almost as sleazy as Trump, and Democrats (and American voters as a whole) must just hold their noses and vote him in as the least-bad choice, even if they do believe Ms. Reade. That certainly seems to be the conclusion many Democratic voters (including women) are coming to. Ah, democracy, it should not be like this.

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