FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Tara Reade, the Democrats and Joe Biden’s Women Problem

The Me Too movement was meant to be more than a howl or rage with a trending hash tag. It was a surge that threatened to pulverise all before it, arming accusers with weapons of merit and disarming predators who had, for decades, acted in beastly fashion from positions of power. It did net some mighty scalps and also, at stages, ruined careers without trial and tested evidence. But paradoxically, it failed to make an impression on the Trump phenomenon, where genital grabbing and locker room humour exhibited in the Access Hollywood tape made little impression upon his candidacy for the White House.

Where it did make an impression – at least for a stretch of time – was with a good number of establishment GOP types who withdrew their support for his candidacy, only to then fall in line after the Trump victory. “I don’t want my boys growing up in a world where the President of the United States is allowed to speak or treat women the way Donald Trump has,” reflected a melancholy Tom Rooney, Representative from Florida.

At the time, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus was besieged by urgings to knock Trump off the candidacy. As Tim Alberta of Politico Magazine noted, within hours of the Access Hollywood tape rippling the political waters, Priebus “fielded scores of phone calls from the most prominent people in Republican politics: congressmen and senators, governors, donors, activists and his own RNC members.” The common theme: Trump had signed his death warrant, politically speaking, and needed to be replaced by the safer Mike Pence.

Now, with dedication mixed with some confusion, the Democratic establishment is attempting to build the dykes around Joe Biden, hoping that he won’t drown in the allegations of sexual impropriety that have, it has to be said, lingered around him like a pong. There is a presidency to be won, and the tight lipped puritans are closing ranks to minimise the damage.

The threat to Biden has come from Tara Reade, a former staffer who claims to have been subjected to the sort of Trump-induced nightmare that produced marches and defiance after his election. On April 9, she filed a criminal complaint with the Washington, D.C. police, accusing Biden of sexual assault that is said to have taken place in 1993.

The reaction to Reade suggests a degree of pause and revision being undertaken in Democratic ranks and, it has to be said, the punditry. Sadly for Reade, she has become a Rorschach test for the partisan politics of belief in the murky field of sexual transgression. For Lucy Flores, herself having written about an unwanted kiss from Biden, “We’re never going to get to the foundation of this problem if we’re constantly talking about it in a political context.”

But political context it is, thickly and all the way. The efforts vary in terms of neutralising Reade, from the libellous to the glacial. Edward-Isaac Dovere of The Atlantic acidly questioned her account, because a person who could sympathise with Russia and its leader, President Vladimir Putin, must be unhinged and mendacious on matters sexual. Lawyer and former chief White House ethics lawyer Richard W. Painter chortled in discovering Reade’s effusive praise. “Is this the same person who just made an accusation against @JoeBiden? If so – this game’s up.”

Suddenly, qualifications of circumspection are being introduced, necessary suspicions sown. Maureen Dowd of the New York Times reflected that the Democrats had a fundamental problem in always setting those “standards that come back and bite them”. The liberal notion “that all women must be believed” made her wince. For Dowd, an example of this came in the form of opposition to Trump’s Supreme Court appointee, Brett Kavanaugh, the convenient gargoyle of alleged sexual impropriety. “The eagerness to pin Kavanaugh produced a giddy new environment in which incredible tales, like that of Julie Swetnick, who claimed to have witnessed Kavanaugh at parties with rape lines, were treated as credible.”

Margaret Talbot at the New Yorker trots out a similar line. Disoriented, the Democrats are facing “the unasked-for moral dilemma of whether it is hypocritical to question the veracity of Joe Biden’s accuser, Tara Reade, when so many of them had fully embraced the #MeToo movement’s (always too simplistic) exhortation to ‘believe women’.”

In terms of media coverage, the most common sort dealing with Reade’s accusations is that of cold indifference. For the most part, she has been ignored by that hideous current often called “the mainstream”, leaving such guerrilla outlets as the Intercept to spread the news with bomblets of revelation. As Branko Marcetic pondered in Jacobin, the standards of reporting on Trump’s sexual conduct from more progressive and centrist outlets differ markedly from those on Biden, “the man many see as his best-placed rival”. His point of contrast: the broader and more expansive coverage given to the accusations against Trump levelled by E. Jean Carroll a year ago. The conclusion reached is simple: “Reade has been treated unlike any high-profile accuser of the past three years.”

Some movement to rectify this disparity is taking place, with the decision by MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes giving the story a degree of oxygen. “There have been moments I think for many of us, all of us, where we have heard about accusations against someone that we find ourselves desperately wanting not to believe.”

Biden’s own response is that it “never, never happened” while calling on the US National Archives to “identify any record of the complaint [Reade] alleges she filed.” This risks becoming a matter of archival, and for that reason distant, appraisal. For her part, Reade favours a broader inquiry while she becomes grist to the mill of talking heads, and hopes to get a peek around the Biden papers held at the University of Delaware. (Biden’s response to that has been one of steadfast refusal.)

Trump, when he does not have them anywhere else, will be rubbing his hands with glee as Biden’s woman problem gets fanning. A central ploy in his weaponry has never been to elevate his opponents in order to improve his own merit. His method, rather, is one of lowering, diminishing, reducing. The Democrats, in turn, are delivering. This election is suitably living down to expectations.

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
July 10, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Lynnette Grey Bull
Trump’s Postcard to America From the Shrine of Hypocrisy
Anthony DiMaggio
Free Speech Fantasies: the Harper’s Letter and the Myth of American Liberalism
Rob Urie
Democracy and the Illusion of Choice
Jeffrey St. Clair
“I Could Live With That”: How the CIA Made Afghanistan Safe for the Opium Trade
Vijay Prashad
The U.S. and UK are a Wrecking Ball Crew Against the Pillars of Internationalism
Melvin Goodman
The Washington Post and Its Cold War Drums
Richard C. Gross
Trump: Reopen Schools (or Else)
Chris Krupp
Public Lands Under Widespread Attack During Pandemic 
Paul Street
Imperial Blind Spots and a Question for Obama
Alda Facio
What Coronavirus Teaches Us About Inequality, Discrimination and the Importance of Caring
Eve Ottenberg
Bounty Tales
Andrew Levine
Silver Linings Ahead?
John Kendall Hawkins
FrankenBob: The Self-Made Dylan
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Deutsche Bank Fined $150 Million for Enabling Jeffrey Epstein; Where’s the Fine Against JPMorgan Chase?
David Rosen
Inequality and the End of the American Dream
Louis Proyect
Harper’s and the Great Cancel Culture Panic
Thom Hartmann
How Billionaires Get Away With Their Big Con
REZA FIYOUZAT
Your 19th COVID Breakdown
Danny Sjursen
Undercover Patriots: Trump, Tulsa, and the Rise of Military Dissent
Charles McKelvey
The Limitations of the New Antiracist Movement
Binoy Kampmark
Netanyahu’s Annexation Drive
Joseph G. Ramsey
An Empire in Points
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
COVID-19 Denialism is Rooted in the Settler Colonial Mindset
Ramzy Baroud
On Israel’s Bizarre Definitions: The West Bank is Already Annexed
Judith Deutsch
Handling Emergency: A Tale of Two Males
Michael Welton
Getting Back to Socialist Principles: Honneth’s Recipe
Dean Baker
Combating the Political Power of the Rich: Wealth Taxes and Seattle Election Vouchers
Jonah Raskin
Edward Sanders: Poetic Pacifist Up Next
Manuel García, Jr.
Carbon Dioxide Uptake by Vegetation After Emissions Shutoff “Now”
Heidi Peltier
The Camo Economy: How Military Contracting Hides Human Costs and Increases Inequality
Ron Jacobs
Strike!, Fifty Years and Counting
Ellen Taylor
The Dark Side of Science: Shooting Barred Owls as Scapegoats for the Ravages of Big Timber
Sarah Anderson
Shrink Wall Street to Guarantee Good Jobs
Graham Peebles
Prison: Therapeutic Centers Or Academies of Crime?
Zhivko Illeieff
Can We Escape Our Addiction to Social Media?
Clark T. Scott
The Democrat’s Normal Keeps Their (Supposed) Enemies Closer and Closer
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
In 2020 Elections: Will Real-Life “Fighting Dems” Prove Irresistible?
Dave Lindorff
Mommy, Where Do Peace Activists Come From?
Christopher Brauchli
Trump the Orator
Gary Leupp
Columbus and the Beginning of the American Way of Life: A Message to Indoctrinate Our Children
John Stanton
Donald J. Trump, Stone Cold Racist
Nicky Reid
The Stonewall Blues (Still Dreaming of a Queer Nation)
Stephen Cooper
A Kingston Reasoning with Legendary Guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith (The Interview: Part 2)
Hugh Iglarsh
COVID-19’s Coming to Town
July 09, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
COVID-19 Exposes the Weakness of a Major Theory Used to Justify Capitalism
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail