Terry H. Schwadron
May 2, 2020
Two reports from the partisan political front:
News reports that Donald Trump was upset with his own political team for bringing him poll numbers showing him trailing Democrat Joe Biden in key states were interesting.
For openers, the reports showed Trump’s constant distance from any truth if it counters his political desires, and reflects the continuing unhappiness with Trump’s management of the pandemic. But the idea that the word leaked at all, including quotes, shows that even inner-most Trumpists must have serious reservations about their boss. After all, the leak had to come from someone in the room.
For his part, Trump has been resistant to the advice these confidantes have shared in pushing untested medical solutions in the name of hope, or turning White House medical briefings into political rally behavior. Trump said he believes the public loves the briefings — and him.
He’s wrong, of course, at least for the majority of Americans, who are just looking for information on when it is safe to go to work or the beach, or at least to understand the risks.
But from a strictly partisan political viewpoint, the person who should be listening hardest to this chasm between political belief and political fact is Joe Biden himself. Biden has contented himself with offering himself as a steady hand in times of crisis, or by comparison, a much steadier hand than Trump.
Biden’s projection of himself as an empathetic, experienced, data-driven manager is pretty much his whole campaign. The rest is mechanics, his campaign seems to say.
The Iceberg Ahead
But Biden, too, is not perfect, and he has obstacles that, until now, he has not done well in recognizing and handling — quite apart from whether he would be better at marshaling resources to fight disease and help bring a worker-safety approach to reviving a dead economy.
For reasons an increasing number of Democrats can’t explain, only yesterday did Biden finally step up personally to deny the nasty newer allegations from former staffer Tara Reade of a reported sexual assault. Until then, much as he did with the lingering notion that his son, Hunter, gained as a result of Biden’s dealings as vice president, has dismissed the charges off-camera or through statements.
He finally went on television to say directly that he believes the incident never happened and called for the National Archives office that holds Senate personnel files to produce any contemporaneous complaint of assault, adding that still-closed files at the University of Delaware contain position papers and speeches, not personnel files. But who knows, since they are, well, closed.
Biden kept his cool, and offered responses that were clipped and direct. He added that her complaints should be heard and checked out. “These claims are not true,” he said.
In denying the assault, he has cited investigations by news reporters who have been unable to establish any lasting truth to either situation, just as he did about the complaints of undue influence in the case of Hunter’s appointment to a lucrative, no-show job as a board director for a Ukrainian energy company. About the Tara Reade incident, his campaign drew on the same idea that New York Times and Washington Post interviews with Reade friends and family could not confirm an assault had taken place.
These arguments essentially boil down to the frailties of memory. The evidence is mixed and somewhat contradictory, including somewhat vague reports from Reade’s mother and two friends.
Biden was able to show, however, that he can take criticism, even such allegations, without the kind of tantrums we see in Donald Trump.
Defending the Candidates
Politico suggests that the job description to become Joe Biden’s running mate has become more complicated because she — Biden has promised a woman as partner — must now spend her time defending him against sexual assault accusations without looking hypocritical. Several candidates are senators who were quite forceful in attacking Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings on an old sexual assault allegation.
Stacy Abrams, another possible running mate, cited the Times investigation to conclude, falsely, that the news outlet had found the allegations “not credible.” Indeed, what the Times — and others — have found is that no one can know whether Biden, a supporter of Reade’s work, had one day in 1993 pinned her to a wall in the Capitol and assaulted her.
Rather, reporter accounts have found that no one else in the Senate office knew about it, but Reade’s mother does remember that there was something troubling her daughter, as well as two friends who said Reade had told them at the time of the incident. There was no formal action, investigation or suggestion or a pattern in Biden’s behavior.
Of course, let it not be forgotten that there are about 20 such allegations involving Donald Trump, but no Republican senator is calling for investigation of those allegations. But Republicans would love to see Biden on the hotseat in Kavanaugh fashion for an unprovable offense, and also roast him publicly for his son’s gains in life for trading on the Biden name.
Democrats, under pressure, are having to line up and say Biden is an honorable man who would not do such a thing, though everyone owns the fact that Biden has made women uncomfortable by hugs and unnecessary touches over the years. That’s the defense. It has to be their defense, because the alternative is Donald Trump.
Trump refuses to learn, another reason for denying reelection.
If Biden has learned anything from watching Trump operate, it should be that truth matters. It seems imperative that Biden do whatever it can to unearth whatever information is available relevant to the claims. It all leaves partisans to believe whatever they want to see in the candidate or Reade.
The question is what to do about it. Even if candidate Biden doesn’t need clarity here, we do.