In a new Op-ed for the NY Times, titled “Democrats, It’s Time to Consider a Plan B,” Elizabeth Bruenig argues it’s time fro Democrats to dump Biden.
Bruenig calls Reade’s accusations against Biden “a serious liability” and concludes “Democrats need to begin formulating an alternative strategy for 2020 — one that does not include Mr. Biden.”
Since the interview with Ms. Halper, an ad hoc vetting of Ms. Reade’s claims has unfolded in the media. Those who doubt Ms. Reade cite the fact that she has exhibited unusual behavior over the years, such as using several aliases; that she praised Mr. Biden occasionally; that she made different allegations at different times; that her recollection of the alleged incident is spotty in places. Those who believe her point out that reporters were able to locate a 1993 clip of “Larry King Live” which features Ms. Reade’s mother calling in to ask an attorney who represented whistle-blowers about what her daughter’s options were, after having serious problems with a “prominent senator”; that a then-neighbor of Ms. Reade’s has confirmed she spoke with Ms. Reade about the incident in the mid-1990s; that her brother and friends remember a contemporaneous disclosure as well.
I have my own impressions regarding Ms. Reade’s allegations, but no one — save Ms. Reade and Mr. Biden — knows with certainty whether her claims are true. What I can assert with firm conviction is that Democrats ought to start considering a backup plan for 2020.
Ms. Reade’s account is not nearly as incredible as some have argued. In the course of my reporting, I have worked closely with many survivors of sexual assault. It isn’t unusual, in my experience, for survivors to exhibit behavior that seems unstable or erratic to others. They may initially disclose to investigators or journalists only a fragment of what happened, and then reveal more over time — some even falsely recant, either because they sense the police don’t believe them, or because they fear the consequences of pressing their claims. And victims often maintain relationships with their attackers or harbor mixed feelings about them.
Believing women, that oft-rehearsed exhortation, must mean taking action if it’s to mean anything. A thorough and fully transparent investigation is critical, but nothing produced by any inquiry will entirely settle the question. It is still possible — if not likely — that all of this will simply fade away, and that Mr. Biden will continue his campaign without ever submitting to a full accounting, precisely the sort of thing #MeToo was meant to prevent.
But it is also possible that this won’t just go away, and that it will demoralize voters and place Mr. Biden at a disadvantage against Mr. Trump in the general election, despite the fact that Mr. Trump has a damning list of accusers alleging sexual offenses. For a candidate mainly favored for his presumed electability and the perception of empathy and decency, that’s a serious liability. To preserve the strides made on behalf of victims of sexual assault in the era of #MeToo, and to maximize their chances in November, Democrats need to begin formulating an alternative strategy for 2020 — one that does not include Mr. Biden.