Sexual Harassment

Alan Zendell, May 1, 2020

Sexual assault is a crime. There’s no defense for it. Preying on vulnerable women is despicable. But sexual predators don’t advertise, sell tickets, or perform in front of witnesses, and the victims are often powerless and lack the ability to either defend themselves or bring the perpetrators to justice.

That said, with Trump’s poll numbers falling, and his own people telling him he was headed for defeat, you knew it wouldn’t take long before the circus began. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is under intense scrutiny because of an accusation by Tara Reade, a former female aide, about things she claims occurred twenty-seven years ago. Biden swears it never happened, though Reade has been inconsistent about what “it” actually is. At different times she referred to being touched on the neck and shoulder, and being groped in a sexual manner.

We’ve heard many accusations like this in the past thirty years. They seem to crop up whenever there’s a politically tense issue involving someone whose character is on the line. It’s important that we examine all of them through the same lens. Years after the fact, such allegations are extremely hard to prove, especially under the searing light of politics.

President Trump has been accused of much worse by more than a dozen women, and attempts by both the president and his surrogates at the National Enquirer to suppress or buy off the accusers are well-documented. Trump’s defense is always flat out denial, even while he simultaneously writes checks to buy his accusers’ silence. And despite the sheer weight of numbers, voters seemed not care when they elected him in 2016.

It could be argued that by that standard, the accusation against Biden should simply be ignored. One accuser as opposed to many, vague specifics about the alleged acts as opposed to a long string of aggrieved women with detailed accounts and Trump himself publicly bragging about his treatment of women, a man with a reputation for being moral and respectful as opposed to … well … Trump.

I could make that argument, but I won’t. Biden agreed to release all records of every complaint ever filed against him, if any exist. He even directed reporters to where such records would be stored in the National Archives. He said Reade deserves to be heard, though he denies categorically that the events she referred to ever happened.

Biden also said he wouldn’t question her motives, simply that he didn’t understand why she said what she did. Compare that to Trump who resorts to slurs, slander, and deep state conspiracies whenever anyone accuses him of anything. Thirteen women independently accused him of unrelated acts of sexual misconduct. Trump said they were all liars, and the voters ignored them.

Consider the most celebrated cases of sexually-oriented accusations against political celebrities: Anita Hill against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings in 1991, Monica Lewinsky against President Bill Clinton in 1998, and Doctor Christine Blasey against Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. All three women were credible, but only Lewinsky produced physical evidence, which resulted in Clinton’s impeachment. Hill and Blasey, however, who most observers found believable, were pilloried on national TV for not reporting the misconduct to authorities in a timely manner and having no eyewitnesses willing to testify.

No one knows this better than Biden, who presided over the Thomas hearings as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It wasn’t Biden’s finest moment as, trying to be fair to both sides in a politically sensitive proceeding, he permitted Republican Senator Arlen Spector to prosecute Hill as if she were the accused rather than the alleged victim. Biden has since admitted that he wished he’d done more to protect Hill’s reputation, but the Republicans were out for blood, and sympathetic and believable as she was, Hill had no corroborating evidence.

Where should we, the media and the voters, draw the line with respect to Reade? The Senate treated the Thomas and Kavanaugh hearings like criminal proceedings, using the lack a comparable level of evidence to discredit Hill and Blasey. Based on what has been published to date, Reade’s accusations seem flimsy compared to either Hill’s and Blasey’s. 

Biden said he wouldn’t question Reade’s motivation, but I do. Was it suppressed anger over something she believes happened in 1993 or is the Trump campaign or one of its surrogates involved in some way? We’ll find out, eventually, but given Trump’s performance in virtually everything he does, it’s naïve to think politics isn’t a major factor.

Bottom line? Trump has set the bar so low that unproven, Reade’s charges have no relevance to the election. The only thing Biden and Trump have in common is that their names contain five letters.

Can anyone seriously compare Trump’s character to Biden’s?

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