Saturday, May 16, 2020


The credibility of the woman who has accused Joe Biden of a 1993 sexual assault came under attack yesterday. First, the PBS NewsHour published this report:
The PBS NewsHour spoke with 74 former Biden staffers, of whom 62 were women, in order to get a broader picture of his behavior toward women over the course of his career, how they see the new allegation, and whether there was evidence of a larger pattern.

None of the people interviewed said that they had experienced sexual harassment, assault or misconduct by Biden. All said they never heard any rumors or allegations of Biden engaging in sexual misconduct, until the recent assault allegation made by Tara Reade....

They were asked about Reade’s allegation but also whether they, or anyone they know, were ever uncomfortable around Biden. Many said that her sexual assault allegation was at odds with their knowledge of Biden’s behavior toward women.

The interviews revealed previously unreported details about the Biden office when Reade worked there, such as an account that she lost her job because of her poor performance, not as retaliation for lodging complaints about sexual harassment, as Reade has said....

Some former staffers told the NewsHour that if Biden did assault Reade ..., it would have been a brazen attack in an area with a high risk of being seen....

In separate and in-depth interviews, women who worked for Biden generally did not want to weigh in with certainty on whether they believed Reade’s allegation was true. But they all said it is at odds with their experience.
And then there was this from Politico:
A number of those in close contact with Reade over the past 12 years, a period in which she went by the names Tara Reade, Tara McCabe or Alexandra McCabe, laid out a familiar pattern: Reade ingratiated herself, explained she was down on her luck and needed help, and eventually took advantage of their goodwill to extract money, skip rent payments or walk out on other bills.

The people quoted in this article provided copies of past emails, screenshots of Facebook Messenger or text exchanges with Reade, copies of billing invoices or court records detailing their grievances or correspondence....

“You can use these words: manipulative, deceitful, user,” said Kelly Klett, an attorney who rented Reade a room in her home in 2018. “Looking back at it all now, that is exactly how I view her and how I feel about her.”

“She has a problem,” said Lynn Hummer, who owns a horse sanctuary where Reade volunteered for two years, beginning in 2014.

She described Reade as “very clever, manipulative. ... I do think she’s a liar.”
I don't know whether this is the end of the story -- in the twenty-first century, no false notion that has political power ever dies -- but it will be harder now for serious people to believe Reade's allegations.

I have to assume that people associated with Donald Trump's White House and campaign either knew that this allegation wouldn't bear scrutiny or strongly suspected as much. Yes, RNC chair Ronna Romney McDaniel attacked the media for "ignoring" the story -- but the Trump campaign never went into full attack mode, and the story never turned up in Trump's Twitter feed or in his daily airing of grievances before the media. Trump actually went easy on Biden when he was asked about the Reade story in a Fox interview last week:
Regarding the claim against Biden, "I don't know if it's false or not," Mr. Trump said on "Fox & Friends." "Joe is going to have to be able to prove whatever he has to prove, or she has to prove it, but that's a battle he has to fight."

"I've had many false accusations made, I can tell you that," he added. "Many. And maybe it is a false accusation. Frankly, I hope it is for his sake."
Why did Trump hold back? I initially assumed that Trump's team urged him to save Tara Reade for the fall campaign. But when has Trump ever had the impulse control to refrain from a personal attack?

It's possible that sex is the one area where Trump feels genuinely vulnerable. If so, I don't understand it. Trump's base either shrugs off all the sexual misconduct allegations against him or considers him a stud because he's so frequently accused. While I'm on the subject, did you know that you can buy commercially produced versions of one of the vilest hand-drawn T-shirts spotted during Trump's 2016 campaign?

The mainstream media, which has been accused of downplaying the Reade story, has now given it plenty of coverage. Even early on, in The New York Times, for instance, Reade received far more mentions than E. Jean Carroll did during a comparable period after she'd accused Trump of rape.

Maybe Trump believes his luck will run out. Maybe he has sexual secrets whose revelation he thinks he couldn't survive. (Though it's hard to imagine anything his base wouldn't forgive. I used to believe his voters might abandon him if it were revealed that he'd had gay sex or sex with an underage partner. Now I'm certain they'd just declare it fake news and move on.)

Either this is an area where Trump feels vulnerable, in a way he never feels vulnerable otherwise, or his advisers knew or suspected that Reade's story wouldn't hold up, so they urged restraint. Whatever the reason, Trump and his campaign never went all in on Reade. That appears to have been a wise decision.

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