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OPINION | Joe Biden and the #MeToo double standard

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OBVIOUSLY and justifiably, the Tara Reade saga was played up by Republicans for the hypocrisy it has laid bare. Democrats don’t want the “believe women” standard applied to their presumed presidential candidate, Joe Biden, even though they merrily applied it in 2018 to President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

This is a case study in partisan payback, as well as in how the media has conveniently rediscovered the skepticism that was nowhere to be found when analyzing Justice Kavanaugh’s accusers. But it ought to be about more than that. Chief Justice John Roberts has wisely counseled that the way to stop discrimination is to stop discriminating. He was speaking in the context of race, but the principle applies equally to gender.

Liberals tell us that in the past, men were often given the benefit of the doubt in “he said, she said” disputes, and that the “believe women” push is meant to be a corrective. But reverse discrimination can’t correct for the sins of the past. It can only compound them. Either giving someone the benefit of the doubt based on gender is wrong or it isn’t, and liberals need to make up their minds.

Ms. Reade says that Mr. Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993, but no physical evidence or eyewitnesses have surfaced, and Mr. Biden says it never happened. Ms. Reade’s name has now been added to a list of notorious accusers — not because she’s a woman but because she sat on an accusation for decades and then chose to come forward when she could exact the maximum amount of political damage. In 2018 Christine Blasey Ford alleged that Brett Kavanaugh had assaulted her 36 years earlier, when the two of them were in high school. For some reason, she waited until after he had been nominated to the Supreme Court to go public, and then chose to contact her congresswoman rather than the police.

Like Ms. Reade’s, Ms. Ford’s timing seemed suspicious. She, too, had no physical evidence, and while she named witnesses to the alleged attack, they either refuted her claims outright or declined to corroborate them. Both women recall Anita Hill, who came forward in 1991 with her allegations against Clarence Thomas only days before the Senate was scheduled to vote on his Supreme Court nomination. None of Ms. Hill’s defenders had witnessed any harassment, and to this day she has produced no evidence to substantiate what she alleged.

These individuals may truly believe that they were harassed or assaulted, though that doesn’t mean the rest of us should accept their versions of events uncritically or without taking into account the suspicious timing and possible political motivations. Nor should we accept the pretzel logic peddled by many in the media: Victims of sexual assault sometimes experience memory loss, and Ms. Ford couldn’t get her story straight, so we were told that her hazy recollections meant she was telling the truth. Ms. Hill was praised for her “courage” in coming forward, as if making an allegation is tantamount to proving it. The “believe women” mind-set implies that the gender of the accuser is more important than due process for the accused, and it equates prudent skepticism with misogyny.

Mr. Trump’s campaign released an ad on Friday attacking the former vice president over the Reade allegations. But who’s to say, based on what we know so far, that Biden voters much care? If we learned anything from the 2016 campaign, and from the man who said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any supporters, it’s that voters can have priorities that supersede a candidate’s character flaws. After more than four decades in public life, Mr. Biden’s inability to keep his hands to himself might be the least revealing thing about him.

Four years ago, Mr. Trump had the good fortune of running against a deeply unpopular figure in Hillary Clinton. This year he’ll have to run on his record, which will be defined by his administration’s response to a coronavirus pandemic that has so far claimed 70,000 lives in the U.S. and put 30 million people out of work. In the final debate before the 1980 election, Ronald Reagan put Jimmy Carter’s record front and center when he turned to the camera and asked three simple questions that Americans are likely to be asking themselves as they enter the voting booth in November:

“Are you better off than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago?”

If Mr. Trump wants a second term, he’ll have to convince people that he’s the best person to lead the recovery. His response will have to be better than Mr. Carter’s.

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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