Published May 17, 2020 in Warp & Woof
Tara Reade, Casualty
No, she didn’t get the timing right. She knew she only had weak corroboration for her accusation that Senator Joe Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993, when she was a young staffer in his office.
Alas, it was too late to keep everybody that mattered, including the bulk of the mainstream media, from anointing Joe Biden as the presumptive presidential nominee in 2020. Bernie Sanders, her favorite in the primary, remained silent following her public accusation in late March. He endorsed the former Vice-President anyway. Elizabeth Warren, and every woman being considered by Biden as a potential running mate or cabinet member, jumped at the chance for a full-throated defense of his categorical denial – especially after he appeared on MSNBC May 1 to tell Mika Brzezinski, “It never happened. Never. Period.” Tara Reade’s strongest defense was the withering fire from a retreating Berniecrat crowd, growing fainter by the day, and some more substantive feminist voices like Kate Manne.
Then, Reade’s friend in California, Lynda LaCasse, came forward later, apparently unprompted, with a reasonably powerful endorsement of Tara’s story, which she related a few years after the alleged incident.
Even if some of the details that Reade stumbles over cannot be corroborated (like the Senate complaint about harassment in Biden’s office), “absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence,” as Kate Manne reminds us. This is not a legal proceeding, nor a civil case, but a classic case of survivors reliving trauma, after long simmering shame and embarrassment. This is what #MeToo was all about.
In any case, “Believe Women” never meant that all women always tell the full truth about their experiences, only that they be given the benefit of the doubt when they come forward. Tara Reade has been given that, and only a fringe has sought to defame her (notably, not Biden himself). Both she and her accused are presumed innocent.
But, as we know, truth often comes down to “he said, she said.” Some feminists have noted that Reade’s accusation accurately portrays who Biden really is – even if this specific case is dubious. Much in his public persona suggests he comes from an extreme patriarchal culture. His admitted “handsiness” and other behavior has made many women uncomfortable, even if falling short of sexual assault. Some have labeled him “creepy.” His presidential campaign is trying hard to focus on the alternate public image of “decent old Uncle Joe” – not difficult versus the twenty accusations his opponent faces!
And Biden’s defense is bolstered by a #MeToo postulate: “there’s never only one.” It seems that Reade is the only one, as no credible secondary victims have yet appeared — after at least six weeks of non-stop media coverage of her allegation. But Christine Blasey Ford had no credible secondary victims either. The main difference between her case two years ago and Reade’s is that Blasey testified under oath and took a polygraph about what happened to her in high school. Reade has done neither.
Most of these ministrations about trying to determine the “truth” are irrelevant, anyway. The November election will be about far more critical issues. If proven true, Reade’s accusation would force the Democratic Party to tackle the unprecedented task of overturning duly certified primary results to replace Biden. The most likely result of that would be disarray and ultimate defeat for the Party in November. Is this Reade’s hope? It certainly is not the hope of her friend LaCasse – who still plans on voting for Biden.
If we conclude that Reade’s story is too flimsy to believe, she is still a casualty of the campaign. She should have anticipated this outcome. Maybe she did but chose her timing, regardless.