ET TU, BIDEN
I wrote a long post about the numerous women who have accused Donald Trump of sexually assaulting them, and his reactions to the allegations. For all intents and purposes (more on that another day), this is a two man race for President. So I would be remiss if I did not also address allegations against Joe Biden.
Let’s start with Creepy Uncle Joe. There are plenty of photos and videos out there of him getting a little too close to women, putting his hands on their shoulders, maybe taking a whiff of their hair or extending that hug a little too long. He does it with men too — he’s a very touchy feely person. He acknowledges it. In April 2019, he sent out a video talking about it.
He likes to connect with people, console them, be close to them, and listen to them. He has also acknowledged on numerous occasions that he needs to do better at not invading people’s personal space, that it’s not necessarily ok for him to do that on a whim. In particular, there have been 8 women I can find who have actually come out publicly and said he made them feel uncomfortable. All of them have similar stories where Biden invaded their space as mentioned above.
None of those women have said that he crossed any lines past making them feel uncomfortable in a public setting. To my knowledge, none of them have characterized it as sexual assault or the like. Don’t misunderstand, it is not a good thing that he has made these women feel uncomfortable. He is right to say that he needs to police himself better when interacting with people, particularly women. It’s not something I condone in any way, but try as I might to ascribe an ill-intentioned motive to this behavior, I can’t reach a conclusion other than that he tries a little too hard to make human connections with people. All of his behavior seems to support this not being sexual or gratuitous. That need to touch a person, to console them, or connect with them is strong. Sort of like a dog that’s so happy to see you, it wags its tail too hard and knocks over the lamp. The dog didn’t mean it, but the lamp is still broken.
In 50 years of being in the public eye, there has been exactly one allegation of sexual assault made against Joe Biden. In April of 2019, a former staffer from his senate office, Tara Reade, reported that she had been inappropriately touched by Biden when she was working in his office in August of 1993: “He used to put his hand on my shoulder and run his finger up my neck. I would just kind of freeze and wait for him to stop doing that”. She alleged that her work duties were gradually reduced until she was fired. About a year after the first allegation, in March 2020, she came out with new allegations, saying he had pushed her against a wall, kissed her, and digitally penetrated her.
Biden has denied the claim, saying it never happened. He also said that Reade should be believed and listened to, because in general women who make accusations like this should be listened to and believed unless and until given a reason not to.
There is a LOT of reporting about this allegation. It would take forever to go through it all. Lots of people changed their stories, there is a lot of vagueness when “corroborating” witnesses are pressed for details. There is some evidence which tends to show Biden was elsewhere on the day in question. There is some evidence that her mom mentioned it obliquely on Larry King back in 1993.
Lots of grey area, nothing conclusive.
The most compelling for me comes from PBS, which interviewed 74 former Biden staffers, 64 of whom were women. None of them said they ever saw, heard rumors of, or experienced any harassment, assault, or misconduct by Biden. They acknowledged his blind spots with personal space. They said they believe Reade should be heard and that their experiences don’t disprove her allegations. In fact, most of the former staffers who were interviewed said that they were sure that if there had been even a whiff of impropriety, it would have been handled appropriately by the staff, but they never had that problem. One interview stands out, that of Ben Savage, a coworker who says he sat next to Reade in the mailroom. He says that he witnessed her poor performance at her job, and that was the reason she was ultimately fired.
Another great profile on Reade comes from Politico, which interviewed a number of other people from Reade’s past who characterized her as manipulative and deceitful based on their own experiences with her. It’s an interesting, if not totally on point, portrait of the person.
Reade was also a very vocal Bernie Sanders supporter online. Her March 2020 allegation came very shortly after Biden’s big primary win in South Carolina, just as Bernie had lost his frontrunner status. The timing was very obviously calculated based on her social media posts.
None of this proves or disproves Reade’s claim, but my takeaway is that it is, if nothing else, an anomaly. After 50 years in politics and a full vetting to be a Vice President, you would expect to find more than one isolated incident after-the-fact.
In comparing Trump and Biden’s responses to their respective allegations, they couldn’t be more different. Trump denies everything and attacks the accusers. He shows no remorse for his continually disgusting comments. He seems to outright enjoy disparaging and abusing women. Biden is the exact opposite — he shows contrition, he doesn’t speak ill of the people who speak out. On the contrary, he says they should be heard. Maybe he did assault Reade, I don’t know. But all of his actions since seem to point towards someone of better character.
This is not an issue where either candidate shines, that’s for sure. No candidate or person is perfect and neither man is a paragon of virtue — but breaking it down, they’re not in the same category. Trump is vile and womanizing — he barely hides it at all. Biden is too touchy-feely, but also makes connections with people on a human level — something Trump could never understand. The difference could not be clearer.