Having now consumed sufficient quantities of political venom concerning the accusations leveled at presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, by a former intern, Tara Reade, that amount to the crime of rape by a foreign object, I am compelled to weigh in since I haven’t yet succumbed to the effects of the poison. Joan Walsh and Amanda Marcotte and Michelle Goldberg have been serially destroyed by the estimable Nathan Robinson of Current Affairs, but that isn’t going to stop me from dancing on their graves. And all of those years cross-examining rape victims and overcoming some pretty serious pangs of empathy to do it, may have given me a little bit of a different angle to see it all from.
Goldberg et al are expressing skepticism about Reade’s allegations, but they can obviously feel the cold wall of feminist outrage against their back, so they do their best to make it all palatable. But political hit jobs will always be political hit jobs no matter how silky smooth it feels going down. As Robinson points out, as long as you get the words, “changed her story” planted in the minds of the reader, it really doesn’t matter whether you allow for the possibility of her telling the truth or not.
The problem that #MeToo encountered, and, with the lengthy sentence of Harvey Weinstein, and multiple other resignations and dismissals, it was thought, had overcome, was the inbred fact of these cases, that it is searingly uncomfortable, and incredibly damaging for the victims to open their mouths. The reluctance has always been an arrow in the defense lawyer’s quiver because it leads to long periods of time between event and complaint and often a halting process of disclosure once it is begun. The story isn’t changed, it is simply not able to be told in its fullness at one time, or at a certain time, in the life of the abused woman. #MeToo managed to provide this understanding in such a way that people such as Joe Biden were able to declare that women who make these claims do so at enormous cost, and that cost is sufficient to overcome whatever doubts might be urged against them for not saying anything immediately, or for not being able to stomach total disclosure in one fell swoop. It should be “presumed,” in Biden’s words, that the accusations are true, until the opposite has been shown.
There is not a relevant syllable that Tara Reade has uttered about what Biden did to her that cannot be more than adequately explained by the structure of all #MeToo complaints as we have come to know them. The power imbalance at the moment of the crime, coupled with the accurately perceived long term detrimental consequences to the victim’s career demand that the decision to complain be considered with the utmost care and deliberation. Would Elizabeth Warren have progressed beyond “baby law professor” if she had opened her mouth just after being chased around a desk by her senior? We will never know, but it took the #MeToo movement to pry the facts out of her.
When Goldberg and Marcotte and Walsh went after Tara Reade, they were playing public defender, soulfully bemoaning the prior inconsistent statements that some referred to as a “changed story.” But that is not their forum, nor a role for which they are qualified. It would have been entirely appropriate for Joe Biden’s defense lawyer, had the statute of limitations not extinguished the idea, to repeat to Tara Read’s face each and every one of the differences that may well exist between what she has said or didn’t say throughout the decades. And, were it to have transpired in a criminal court, it would have been the jury’s prerogative to find that there was that degree of uncertainty, not beyond a reasonable doubt, such that the only proper verdict would have been “Not Guilty,” but in that case, Joe Biden would have walked out of the courtroom, an acquitted accused rapist. Under no circumstance would he have been declared, at that moment, an innocent man. In California, an acquitted defendant can make a motion to be declared “factually innocent.” Should such a motion be granted, at that event, may the word innocent be relevantly and legally applied. These are all matters way beyond the remit of Goldberg et al. Their job, as journalists, was to give Tara Reade the presumption to which the understandings of #MeToo make her entitled. It was their job to treat her the same way they treated Christine Blassey Ford, or any other woman who has managed to summon the almost unimaginable courage to speak the horror of her personal experience against a powerful man.
Goldberg et al are journalists who have taught the world the functional realities of #MeToo, but here, in this most momentous time, they decided to forget all that they had taught, or even the words of this particular accused, “[F]or a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus, nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real.” Amen. But there is one further matter that must be addressed since it tends to shed light on the minds of the perpetrators, Goldberg, Marcotte, and Walsh.
Tara Reade’s accusation may not sit well because it is, in a sense, a garden variety #MeToo complaint, not made at the time, halting in its revelation. But each of the “Three” are forced by truth to acknowledge that there is the important matter of corroboration in the case of Ms. Reade in that she complained to friend and family at the time. What is enlightening is the fact that there is an additional piece of evidence that even a criminal jury may have had some difficulty with. Reade claims to have brought the crime to the attention of her supervisor in the Senator’s office, a fact which no supervisor supports. But what is clear from the investigations that have been conducted by the likes of Marcotte and Walsh at least, is that Reade was reassigned out of the position she held immediately following the complaint, mirroring precisely what she recites as the chronology of events. We, the unwashed and unresponded to, would dearly love to be able to cross-examine the “Three” concerning their omission of this particular piece of chronology in their discussions of Tara Reade.