In a New Op-Ed for NY Magazine, Andrew Sullivan argues that by his own standards, Joe Biden is guilty as charged.
Sullivan argues the many red flags and question marks in Tara Reade’s allegations woudl be largely irrelevant under the “campus rules” Biden helped institute.
Like most people, I cannot know for sure what actually happened between Joe Biden and Tara Reade many, many moons ago, or, for that matter, what may have once transpired between Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford. No one knows for sure but the individuals (and/or eyewitnesses) themselves, and memories of long-ago encounters may not be sharp — or may become vivid in one person’s recollection and utterly vague in another’s. If I were asked to detail an incident that happened a quarter-century ago, absent serious trauma, I’d be completely stumped. There’s a reason for statutes of limitation. And a reason that in a liberal society an individual is deemed innocent until proven guilty.
Nonetheless, I tend to believe women on these matters as a starting point. They have to endure all sorts of exposure and embarrassment for coming forward, and their claims should always be treated respectfully, compassionately, and fairly. It’s been a serious gain for civilized life that women are not routinely ignored or universally trashed for protesting against their assaulters and harassers. Some trust for all women is vital.
But just as vital in a liberal society is verification. I believe strongly in due process, especially with grave allegations of sexual assault. Revolutionaries, like those behind the Shitty Media Men list, don’t care if an individual is unfairly accused because, well, in the grand scheme of things, the ends justify the means. In an otherwise admirable attempt to protect women, their respect for liberalism and its frustrating procedures for establishing guilt or innocence was notable by its absence. In fact, it is liberalism that they see as an impediment to their cause, because it is, to them, a mere mask for oppression.
The problem with defending due process in a case like Biden’s with respect to Tara Reade is that Biden himself, when it comes to allegations of sexual abuse and harassment, doesn’t believe in it. Perhaps in part to atone for his shabby treatment of Anita Hill, Biden was especially prominent in the Obama administration’s overhaul of Title IX treatment of claims of sexual discrimination and harassment on campus. You can listen to Biden’s strident speeches and rhetoric on this question and find not a single smidgen of concern with the rights of the accused. Men in college were to be regarded as guilty before being proven innocent, and stripped of basic rights in their self-defense.
Harvard Law professor Jeannie Suk Gersen noted the consequences of Biden’s crusade in The New Yorker last year. “In recent years,” she wrote, “it has become commonplace to deny accused students access to the complaint, the evidence, the identities of witnesses, or the investigative report, and to forbid them from questioning complainants or witnesses … According to K.C. Johnson, a professor at Brooklyn College and an expert on Title IX lawsuits, more than four hundred students accused of sexual misconduct since 2011 have sued their schools under federal or state laws — in many cases, for sex discrimination under Title IX. While many of the lawsuits are still ongoing, nearly half of the students who have sued have won favorable court rulings or have settled with the schools.”
On Friday’s Morning Joe, Biden laid out a simple process for judging him: Listen respectfully to Tara Reade, and then check for facts that prove or disprove her specific claim. The objective truth, Biden argued, is what matters. I agree with him. But this was emphatically not the standard Biden favored when judging men in college. If Biden were a student, under Biden rules, Reade could file a claim of assault, and Biden would have no right to know the specifics, the evidence provided, who was charging him, who was a witness, and no right to question the accuser. Apply the Biden standard for Biden, have woke college administrators decide the issue in private, and he’s toast.
Under Biden, Title IX actually became a force for sex discrimination — as long as it was against men. Emily Yoffe has done extraordinary work exposing the injustices of the Obama-Biden sexual-harassment regime on campus, which have mercifully been pared back since. But she has also highlighted Biden’s own zeal in the cause. He brushed aside most legal defenses against sexual harassment. In a speech at the University of Pittsburgh in 2016, for example, Biden righteously claimed that it was an outrage that any woman claiming sexual assault should have to answer questions like “Were you drinking?” or “What did you say?” “These are questions that angered me then and anger me now.” He went on: “No one, particularly a court of law, has a right to ask any of those questions.”
Particularly a court of law? A court cannot even inquire what a woman said in a disputed sexual encounter? Couldn’t that be extremely relevant to the question of consent? Or ask if she were drinking? It may be extremely salient that she had been drinking — because it could prove rape, if she were incapacitated and unable to consent and sex took place. But Biden’s conviction that young men on campus should be legally handicapped in defending themselves from charges of sexual abuse occluded any sense of basic fairness. In 2013, the Obama administration codified new rules for treating claims on sexual harassment and assault, which, according to the civil liberties group, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, abandoned “objective” or “reasonable person” standard, in order to protect young women from young men.
In 2014, the Obama administration issued another guidance for colleges which expanded what “sexual violence” could include, citing “a range of behaviors that are unwanted by the recipient and include remarks about physical appearance; persistent sexual advances that are undesired by the recipient; unwanted touching; and unwanted oral, anal, or vaginal penetration or attempted penetration.” By that standard, ignoring the Reade allegation entirely, Joe Biden has been practicing “sexual violence” for decades: constantly touching women without their prior consent, ruffling and smelling their hair, making comments about their attractiveness, coming up from behind to touch their back or neck. You can see him do it on tape, on countless occasions. He did not stop in 2014, to abide by the standards he was all too willing to impose on college kids. A vice-president could do these things with impunity; a college sophomore could have his life ruined for an inept remark.
Biden is now claiming simply that he never did what Tara Reade said he did. Let’s posit that he didn’t. Too bad. If he were to attempt to defend himself, by his own campus logic, he would be barred any knowledge of what he was precisely accused of, even the identity of his accuser; he would be unable to see the results of any investigation; and his own claims of innocence would be rejected if the woman merely subjectively felt as if she were being abused, regardless of his own intent. Likewise, he could be deemed guilty even if he were completely innocent. As Ezra Klein, a thoroughly mainstream liberal, has explained, the broader fact of sexual abuse on campus required a few broken eggs to make the liberated omelette. In discussing a new “affirmative consent model” in California, Ezra famously wrote:
Critics worry that colleges will fill with cases in which campus boards convict young men (and, occasionally, young women) of sexual assault for genuinely ambiguous situations. Sadly, that’s necessary for the law’s success. It’s those cases — particularly the ones that feel genuinely unclear and maybe even unfair, the ones that become lore in frats and cautionary tales that fathers e-mail to their sons — that will convince men that they better Be Pretty Damn Sure.
Now apply this standard to Biden. By Biden’s own standards, he’s guilty as charged. Reade claims Biden never got affirmative consent from her, and she feels and believes he assaulted her. He never got affirmative consent for countless handsy moves over the decades that unsettled some of the recipients of such affection. End of story. By Biden’s own logic, it is irrelevant that he didn’t mean to harm or discomfit anyone, that Reade’s story may have changed over time, that she might have mixed motives, that she has a record of erratic behavior, a bizarre love for Vladimir Putin, and a stated preference for Bernie Sanders, who was Biden’s chief rival. It’s irrelevant that she appeared to tweet that she would wait to launch her accusations against Biden until the timing was right. And her cause has been championed by the Bernie brigade. The many red flags and question marks in her case are largely irrelevant under Biden’s own campus standards.
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