The Language of Sexual Violence

We need a better vocabulary for treating the spectrum between rude and horrific.

Eva Murray, the now-26-year-old niece of one-time Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell, claims that, in 2008, Joe Biden complimented the then-14-year-old on the size of her breasts. She says she considers this “verbal sexual harassment.” The website Law & Crime, which is affiliated with CNN’s chief legal correspondent Dan Abrams, has verified that she told numerous people about the incident contemporaneously.

If true, this is another brick in the Creepy Uncle Joe persona that threatened to derail his latest presidential bid before it even launched. I don’t know whether it happened. It’s certainly plausible.

Regardless, it’s not sexual harassment. Inappropriate? Certainly. But Biden was just a United States Senator who would, five months later, be selected as Barack Obama’s running mate. Murray was not his employee or otherwise in a position where a Delaware Senator was in a position of power over her.

This latest accusation is a useful entree into a larger discussion of the limited vocabulary we have for talking about these things.

I don’t believe I had ever heard the phrase “sexual harassment” until Anita Hill’s accusations against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas back in 1991. Biden, of course, played a key role in that spectacle that he’s come to regret.

We’ve come a long way in the intervening period. Indeed, with the advent of the #MeToo movement and the related #BelieveWomen rallying cry, some argue the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.

In our discussion yesterday of Biden’s denial of Tara Reade’s allegations, I received pushback for my assertion that, “There have been all manner of lesser sexual assualt allegations against him.” But the unwanted touching, hugging, nuzzling, etc. that Biden has been serially accused of is sexual assault under most current definitions.

That is, I would suggest, less than useful.

To be clear: Biden’s longstanding pattern of touching, fondling, and smelling women in the workplace was inappropriate. His Irish ebullience doesn’t give him a pass. And, as has been noted repeatedly, he doesn’t treat men in that manner.

But to use the same language to describe that and the actions Reade is accusing him of makes no sense. Even the most ardent feminist should agree that there’s a category error.

In his essay “By Biden’s Own Standards, He Is Guilty As Charged,” Andrew Sullivan takes some joy in pointing out that the presumptive Democratic nominee contributed to this confusion.

Perhaps in part to atone for his shabby treatment of Anita Hill, Biden was especially prominent in the Obama administration’s overhaul of Title IX treatment of claims of sexual discrimination and harassment on campus. You can listen to Biden’s strident speeches and rhetoric on this question and find not a single smidgen of concern with the rights of the accused. Men in college were to be regarded as guilty before being proven innocent, and stripped of basic rights in their self-defense.

Harvard Law professor Jeannie Suk Gersen noted the consequences of Biden’s crusade in The New Yorkerlast year. “In recent years,” she wrote, “it has become commonplace to deny accused students access to the complaint, the evidence, the identities of witnesses, or the investigative report, and to forbid them from questioning complainants or witnesses … According to K.C. Johnson, a professor at Brooklyn College and an expert on Title IX lawsuits, more than four hundred students accused of sexual misconduct since 2011 have sued their schools under federal or state laws — in many cases, for sex discrimination under Title IX. While many of the lawsuits are still ongoing, nearly half of the students who have sued have won favorable court rulings or have settled with the schools.”

On Friday’s Morning JoeBiden laid out a simple process for judging him: Listen respectfully to Tara Reade, and then check for facts that prove or disprove her specific claim. The objective truth, Biden argued, is what matters. I agree with him. But this was emphatically not the standard Biden favored when judging men in college. If Biden were a student, under Biden rules, Reade could file a claim of assault, and Biden would have no right to know the specifics, the evidence provided, who was charging him, who was a witness, and no right to question the accuser. Apply the Biden standard for Biden, have woke college administrators decide the issue in private, and he’s toast.

Under Biden, Title IX actually became a force for sex discrimination — as long as it was against men. Emily Yoffe has done extraordinary work exposing the injustices of the Obama-Biden sexual-harassment regime on campus, which have mercifully been pared back since. But she has also highlighted Biden’s own zeal in the cause. He brushed aside most legal defenses against sexual harassment. In a speech at the University of Pittsburgh in 2016, for example, Biden righteously claimed that it was an outrage that any woman claiming sexual assault should have to answer questions like “Were you drinking?” or “What did you say?” “These are questions that angered me then and anger me now.” He went on: “No one, particularly a court of law, has a right to ask any of those questions.”

[…]

In 2014, the Obama administration issued another guidance for colleges which expanded what “sexual violence” could include, citing “a range of behaviors that are unwanted by the recipient and include remarks about physical appearance; persistent sexual advances that are undesired by the recipient; unwanted touching; and unwanted oral, anal, or vaginal penetration or attempted penetration.” By that standard, ignoring the Reade allegation entirely, Joe Biden has been practicing “sexual violence” for decades: constantly touching women without their prior consent, ruffling and smelling their hair, making comments about their attractiveness, coming up from behind to touch their back or neck. You can see him do it on tape, on countless occasions. He did not stop in 2014, to abide by the standards he was all too willing to impose on college kids. A vice-president could do these things with impunity; a college sophomore could have his life ruined for an inept remark.

Let’s concede at the outset that the criticism of how sexual violence allegations on college campuses are handled is somewhat overblown. (Although see Ezra Klein’s 2014 defense of California’s affirmative consent law, cited by Sullivan, which argues that convicting innocent men is a necessary price to pay. ) By including things like “unwanted touching” and—to circle back for a moment to Murry’s charges—“remarks about physical appearance” in the same category as “unwanted oral, anal, or vaginal penetration” Biden is indeed being judged by an absurd standard he himself helped set.

By Biden’s own standards, he’s guilty as charged. Reade claims Biden never got affirmative consent from her, and she feels and believes he assaulted her. He never got affirmative consent for countless handsy moves over the decades that unsettled some of the recipients of such affection. End of story. By Biden’s own logic, it is irrelevant that he didn’t mean to harm or discomfit anyone, that Reade’s story may have changed over time, that she might have mixed motives, that she has a record of erratic behavior, a bizarre love for Vladimir Putin, and a stated preference for Bernie Sanders, who was Biden’s chief rival. It’s irrelevant that she appeared to tweet that she would wait to launch her accusations against Biden until the timing was right. And her cause has been championed by the Bernie brigade. The many red flags and question marks in her case are largely irrelevant under Biden’s own campus standards.

Indeed, I’d argue that “Who did you support in the Democratic primary?” is a less relevant question than “Were you drinking?” or “What did you say?”

Sullivan is right here, intellectually if not politically:

It seems to me that Biden has a simple choice here. He can either renounce his previous astonishingly broad and illiberal view of “sexual violence” and argue for more nuance and due process so that a case like Reade versus Biden isn’t a slam dunk in advance; or he should follow his own rules and withdraw from the presidential race. He will, of course, do neither.

And, certainly, we’re aligned on this:

I’ll vote for him anyway, because Trump. If you’re using sexual assault as a way to judge a candidacy, Trump’s open record of boasting about it, and the long, long list of women he’s abused and assaulted is surely dispositive. But supporting Biden does mean I’ll be voting for a hypocrite who wants to ruin others’ young lives for what he has routinely and with impunity done. I can live with that, I suppose. And it won’t, of course, be the first time. Or, in all likelihood, the last.

I think, as I presume does Sullivan, that Obama and Biden were on the right side of the fight to expand protection for women on college campuses. Rape and narrowly-defined sexual assault were, and likely still are, far too common.

But as their efforts and those such as the affirmative consent laws demonstrate, legislating something as complex as human sexuality is incredibly difficult.

We have, for most of human history, made rape as most understand it—a stranger forcing himself onto another sexually through violent means—a heinous crime. But I’m old enough to remember a time when many considered it absurd that a husband forcing himself on his wife could be rape. And I was in adulthood when “date rape” was considered “not really rape.” (Or, as Whoopi Goldberg infamously put it, “rape-rape.”)

I can’t imagine many left who consider what Reade is accusing Biden of having done appropriate. Most, I suspect, would in fact be comfortable with calling it “sexual assault” and treating it as a crime.

At the same time, while I think his smelling Lucy Flores’ hair was wildly inappropriate and deserving of an apology, I don’t think we should treat it as a crime. Indeed, while I thought at the time that the broader pattern could doom his candidacy in a party that was carrying the #MeToo banner, I don’t think it by any means disqualifies him from the presidency.

The Obama-Biden team and the authors of affirmative consent laws are presumably trying to deal with the middle between those extremes. We’ve rightly moved past the presumption that a woman wearing provocative clothing or who consumes too many drinks has only herself to blame if she’s raped or assaulted. But we’ve gone too far in removing the presumption of innocence for those accused.

I’m less sure of whether we’ve gone too far in moving from trying to keep women safe to making them feel comfortable. The line between the two is fuzzy and almost certainly perceived differently by men and women.

Still, while the goal of allowing people to go to work and school without being objectified, let alone fondled and sniffed, is laudable, lumping it in the same category as rape and forcible penetration is unhelpful. Some conduct should be criminal. Others should be grounds for firing or expulsion. Others should be teaching moments. Others, still, ought be dealt with by the parties involved as though they both have agency.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Gender Issues, Joe Biden
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. grumpy realist says:

    Whereas the traditional Victorian response would have been a vigorous slap on the face and a hissed “you CAD!”

    (The other reason to carry hatpins, by the way.)

    11
  2. Stormy Dragon says:

    Regardless, it’s not sexual harassment.

    Someone hasn’t been paying attention during their annual training…

    8
  3. Sleeping Dog says:

    Yes, the language around sexual transgressions is too limited and not differentiated enough.

    3
  4. wr says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “Someone hasn’t been paying attention during their annual training…”

    And I’d guess that someone would be you. Because the training I am made to take for two different universities makes clear that a random comment about sexual characteristics — or even a random proposition from a stranger — does not constitute harassment.

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  5. Mister Bluster says:

    test

    2
  6. CSK says:

    I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t think Biden is a creep. Then again, I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t think that Donald Trump is a much bigger creep. What a grand choice in November: Vote for the bigger creep or the lesser creep. Swell.

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  7. Mister Bluster says:

    We need a better vocabulary for treating the spectrum between rude and horrific.

    Don’t worry Joe. You can grab them by the pussy.

    Donald Trump said so…

    8
  8. DrDaveT says:

    Part of the terminology problem is that there are two conflicting processes happening here. One is that people are correctly trying to emphasize that acts of sexual aggression that do not involve inserting a penis into someone against their will are still serious crimes. The other is that the news industry seeks euphemisms that they can say in front of all audiences.

    At the same time, James, please stop using the word “inappropriate” in this context. Calling your friend’s grandmother “sexy” is inappropriate. Wearing a Black Sabbath t-shirt to church is inappropriate. Greeting someone of Native American descent by saying “How!” is inappropriate. That’s not what we’re talking about here.

    “Inappropriate”, even with the modifier “wildly”, for any of the acts being discussed here, minimizes — badly — how wrong they are. I don’t think that’s your intent, is it?

    5
  9. Stormy Dragon says:

    @wr:

    Castleberry v. STI Grp. and Daniel v. T&M Prot. Res., LLC both ruled that the standard for hostile workplace harassment is “severe OR pervasive”, not “severe AND pervasive”. So a single random comment can be enough to create a hostile workplace environment. So if they’re telling you that it’s not, they’re asking for trouble down the road.

    2
  10. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I’m arguing that it’s not “sexual harrassment” because the accuser was not a member of Biden’s workplace.

    @DrDaveT: I would argue that some of the lesser offenses Biden has committed, like touching the shoulders of women who aren’t his subordinates, is merely “inappropriate” and shouldn’t be lumped in, as it currently is, with criminal offenses. But, yes, my larger point is that our language for this is not useful and we need more words to describe the variation.

    4
  11. Stormy Dragon says:

    @James Joyner:

    And again, that’s not hostile environment harassment works. Eva Murray may not have a course of action, but any Biden staffer who was present for it does have a course of action, even if they weren’t the direct target.

    2
  12. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    While not related to this specific story, another wrinkle to note: the employer can be responsible for hostile environment harassment by third-parties such as customers, suppliers, etc. if they fail to react.

    3
  13. Slugger says:

    Using the word “language” may not fully convey the problem. Much of the way we communicate is nonverbal and not fully conveyed by a transcript of our words. A look, a gesture, and an attitude sends a message, and this method of messaging can be used to sexually harass. This was brought home to me one day when I was walking across a shopping mall with my then 14 year old daughter. I saw the looks she got and found myself getting angry. Now, obviously nothing illegal was happening, but the law does not define proper behavior; it defines the outer limits of what requires sanctioning by society. I am not saying that medieval father should be the standard either. I do think we should strive to produce a better social norm. A lot of bad behavior is dismissed too lightly. Even frank wrongs are dismissed too lightly; we read about hundreds of rape kits that never get processed for instance.
    I think Joe has done wrong, but on the spectrum that includes Trump and JFK on one end and Jimmy Carter on the other end Joe is not unacceptable.

    3
  14. gVOR08 says:

    Not a unique problem. “Racism” covers a spectrum from lynching through racially triggered “economic anxiety” to feeling a little nervous around Black people.

    4
  15. becca says:

    So, if we give up Biden on the left, the right will ditch Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas and Trump? I could live with that.

    7
  16. CSK says:

    You really have to look at this from a woman’s point of view. When Biden, uninvited, grabs someone and nuzzles her neck, or sniffs her hair, or massages her shoulders, what he’s doing is saying: “I’m a man. I can do these things because I’m a man, and you can’t stop me.”

    That’s simultaneously enraging and frightening. So is having Donald Trump lunge at you, try to stick his tongue down your throat, and grab your genitals. He thinks he’s allowed, by virtue of the fact that he’s a man (sort of), to do this.

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  17. wr says:

    @Stormy Dragon: You may call this behavior “severe” or “pervasive” if you choose — odds are you would be laughed out of court. Also, it is doubtful that the fourteen year-old girl was part of any “workplace” with then-Senator Biden. There is no power element here, nothing but some guy saying something rude.

    Now if the girl had been an intern in his office, maybe you could make a case. As it is, I don’t know why you’re going down this road.

    3
  18. wr says:

    @CSK: “That’s simultaneously enraging and frightening. So is having Donald Trump lunge at you, try to stick his tongue down your throat, and grab your genitals.”

    If I step off a corner and a car approaching the intersection speeds up to get through before I can get in the driver’s way, coming close to hitting me, that is enraging and frightening. If the driver stops the car, pulls out a gun and shoots me in both kneecaps, that is also enraging and frightening.

    And yet, somehow I know that these are two extremely different events and don’t feel the need to conflate them.

    6
  19. R. Dave says:

    Biden’s longstanding pattern of touching, fondling, and smelling women in the workplace was inappropriate…. And as has been noted repeatedly, he doesn’t treat men in that manner.

    Is it true that he doesn’t treat men that way, though? I’ve seen numerous examples of him being huggy and handsy with men as well as close talking that comes darn close to kissing/nuzzling their necks. A quick Google search just now provides this useful montage for example:

    Imgur Gallery of Biden Being Handsy w/ Men

    And a couple more good ones:

    https://images.app.goo.gl/L4xySBdD7425ajxQ6

    https://images.app.goo.gl/9EVtUidc8jhpbj6R9

    Actually LOLed at that last one.

    5
  20. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Eva Murray may not have a course of action, but any Biden staffer who was present for it does have a course of action, even if they weren’t the direct target.

    Eva Murray is the one asserting she was sexually harassed. I’m arguing that she wasn’t. I’m not existing it—it’s creepy if true—but arguing it doesn’t fall into the bucket “sexual harassment” or “sexual assault.” By way of setting up a post arguing our current language is inadequate to describe a wide range of behavior.

    3
  21. James Joyner says:

    @CSK: I think it’s certainly true of Trump. In Biden’s case, I think it’s possible that it’s just paternalism rather than a power play; that’s especially true of the cases from years ago before our collective sensibility on this started to shift. But, yes, I can absolutely see how a woman on the receiving end would think it anything but benign even if Biden genuinely meant nothing by it.

    @R. Dave: Most of those images strike me as different than the behavior he’s accused of with women. First, he’s likely friends with those people, not a relative stranger. Second, in many cases, they’re superiors or at least equals in power. Third, it looks like he’s trying to say something private in a loud or crowded setting.

    Again: I like Biden. I liked him when hie as a relatively liberal Democrat and I was a fairly conservative Republican. I voted for him in the Democratic primary this year and intend to vote for him in November. But he’s acting in a way that was probably quite normal when he entered politics but is decidedly not okay in the modern era.

    5
  22. CSK says:

    @James Joyner:
    It may well be just paternalism in Biden’s case. (Even so, it’s condescending as hell.) But another point is that most men don’t do the things he did. Even politicians generally limit themselves to shaking hands, slapping backs, and kissing babies. Biden seems to lack the boundaries most men observe. I mean, really–who comes up behind a strange woman and starts sniffing her hair? Would you do that? Would it enter your mind to do that?

    5
  23. wr says:

    @CSK: I’m not sure what you’re arguing here. I haven’t seen anyone anywhere claiming that Biden’s behavior with women is normal — in the sense that this is how people generally act. I haven’t seen anyone claim it’s anything less than regrettable, and most descriptions run from “weird” to “gross” to “icky.”

    So fine. But are you arguing that this renders him unfit for the presidency? Because that’s really the only question on the table here. It’s the only reason that a Republican operative is just now describing an event so traumatic she couldn’t be bothered to bring it up during Biden’s multiple other runs for office. It’s the only reason for all this to be “troubling” for Democratic voters.

    What do you want to see happen? He’s probably not going to change — and he’s certainly not going to change what he did in the past. So what’s your preferred course of action now?

    3
  24. CSK says:

    @wr:
    I’d have been happier with a different Democratic nominee; there were some good possibilities. But I’ll live with Biden. I don’t particularly like him. But he’s not Trump.

    3
  25. James Joyner says:

    @CSK: Like @wr, I think Biden’s conduct weird, even for an extrovert politician born in 1942. I don’t think he means any harm and otherwise seems like a mensch, but he’s a little creepy around women.

    5
  26. KM says:

    Even if we had “better language” to describe the spectrum of offense and abuse in question, we wouldn’t have people using it. I mean, look at how the introduction of new words gets treated as “PC” by the very crowd the words are addressed to. Language is flexible and new terms are created all the time. There’s nothing stopping us from creating new words with specific meaning so there’s no ambiguity about what we are trying to say….. except that defeats the purpose for many. They WANT that ambiguity because it helps with denial and deflection. Using a specific, technical term with no wiggle room removes the ability of apologists to say “that’s not what happened, you’re too sensitive”.

    Let’s create a term: Tachboud (scramble of bad touch). Definition: Unwanted and uninvited bodily contact or invasion of intimate personal space that can have a sexual connotation to the touched even though that’s not the toucher’s intention. Current language equivalent: “being handsy” but clarification of intent. The distinction between tachboud and sexual harassment would be the former is committed accidentally while the latter is on purpose. As tachboud can happen accidentally so it’s on the toucher to be aware of their actions and how they are perceived. Seems simple enough, right? By this definition, Biden would absolutely be a consistent offender. He’d have to be apologizing right and left for committing a social faux pas but the implication of harassment and abuse would be absent. It would reflect a cultural impulse towards contact that previous generations had but has fallen out of favor. So why are we creating such terms to help navigate these muddy waters?

    Because Trump’s NOT tachbouding his way around life, he’s a sexual harasser. Someone like him absolutely wouldn’t like having a term that removes wiggle room since it makes his actions look even worse. Biden’s way too handsy for his own good but there’s rarely an overt sexual component the way some like Trump does it and yes, women can tell. We can tell when that hand that lands on our back is supposed to be a “fatherly” gesture and when it’s an attempt to grab your ass. Either’s not OK but one is *REALLY* not OK. Clarifying language will be resisted by those who don’t want light shone on the subject and thus will not see mainstream adoption.

    7
  27. Bill says:

    Biden is a deeply flawed candidate for President. His age, sexual harassment, his foreign policy judgment. Just too much bs. We shouldn’t be talking about the degrees of inappropriateness but whether the Dems should find some reason to jettison him.

    4
  28. Michael Reynolds says:

    Most of this is just manners. I cannot imagine how the hell any man gets the idea that he can just walk up and grab a woman he doesn’t even know.

    But work can be different depending on the context. It’s one thing in an office, it’s another thing if you’re in the kind of restaurant where half the staff is sleeping with the other half. When I was doing the library gig at a law firm the idea that I would play grab ass with a legal secretary? Inconceivable. In any number of restaurants where the staff was unmarried twenty-somethings who’d been doing shooters at the bar between tables? Let me put it this way: death threats were common in restaurants, death threats from Salvadorans holding chef’s knives. Various types of thievery were common and tolerated to a degree. Making out in the walk-in was barely remarked upon, and I saw no difference between restaurants run by straight men, gay men or women. Different environments, different cultures. And yet, as ‘playful’ as things could get I never saw a member of male staff who couldn’t be stopped dead with a simple, “No.”

    Not every aspect of human life can be codified in law. Basic manners, empathy, self-discipline and humor cover most human interactions, and should. The crucial thing to me is the bedrock of manners. “No!” will stop any man who’s learned any manners dead in his tracks. If more’s needed you’re dealing with some alpha asshole and before those guys start bothering women they should have been dealt with by us, by men.

    This is what’s bothered me from the start of MeToo: where the hell were we, the normal, decent guys who’d give it a try but walk away abashed at the first sign of rejection? Why didn’t we take care of the alpha assholes? Why did we tolerate them? Why did we let them bully us into accepting their dickish behavior? Isn’t that supposed to be the human biological compact: women have the babies and we protect them? So where were we when the Harvey Weinstein’s were violating that compact?

    If ‘we’ had done our job MeToo would not have been necessary. We may not have known the details, but we knew the bad guys and we failed to deal with them. Some may suggest that a prickly variety of feminism forced us to give up that protective role. Who cares? Like we listen to everything feminists have to say? It’s simple: if you’re a man seeing a woman being abused and you don’t do anything, you’re not much of a man.

    9
  29. James Joyner says:

    @KM: I think I agree with all of that.

    @Bill: Absent revelations comparable to Access Hollywood reveal on Trump, it’s next to impossible to justify removing a nominee at this stage of the process. The Tara Reade allegations could be that if we determine them valid but I don’t think we will.

    4
  30. Bill says:

    @James Joyner:

    Absent revelations comparable to Access Hollywood reveal on Trump, it’s next to impossible to justify removing a nominee at this stage of the process.

    Democrats are repeating what they did in 2016. Nominate a candidate with enough baggage to fill a cargo 747 and look what we got? If the candidate can’t remove themself, then the party has to do something. That it is very difficult isn’t a winning argument.

    2
  31. Gustopher says:

    Eva Murray, the now-26-year-old niece of one-time Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell, claims that

    Crazy runs in families sometimes.

    Seriously, though, I wouldn’t trust this woman a bit without a whole lot of supporting evidence. Was Michele Bachman’s niece not available to make claims? Louie Gohmert’s daughter?

    1
  32. m.glafmer says:

    I’m rushing through an airport to catch a plane. I bump into some guy and he spills his coffee on his shirt. Technically the crime of battery, right? Ever hear of that prosecuted? Successfully? Standard IANAL disclaimer. Seems that other criminal offenses have societally acceptable levels of gradation.

    2
  33. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    The POTUS has admitted to serial sexual assault.
    You are participating in what is only the latest version of “but her emails’.
    Say hello to another 4 years of Trump…only now he will be a lame duck…free to act with total disregard.
    This country is just too fuqing stupid to learn it’s lesson.

    11
  34. James Joyner says:

    @Bill: Approximately 900 Democrats and some not-Democrats submitted themselves to the voters as candidates for the 2020 Presidential nomination. Biden easily won. Absent something more compelling that we have now, removing him and replacing him with—who, exactly?—will do more harm than good.

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: My ignoring the charges won’t make them go away.

    3
  35. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Joyner:

    My ignoring the charges won’t make them go away.

    Nope…and her emails didn’t go away, either.

    3
  36. gVOR08 says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Yeah. I complain about the bothsides media, but it isn’t even bothsides. Dems are held to some standard of perfection and Rs get, in their own phrase, the soft bigotry of low expectations. You and I are asking, “Does this make Biden a poorer president than Trump?” NYT is asking, “Can we get clicks with this story?” NYT gave us Trump. More than Putin, more than Comey, FTFNYT did this to us. And you’re right, they’ll do it again.

    3
  37. Bill says:

    Absent something more compelling that we have now, removing him and replacing him with—who, exactly?—will do more harm than good.

    Will do more than good? Getting Trump re-elected is good? Have a real wide open convention and not a rubber stamp of the votes up till now. I don’t want a million or millions dead and this country in the midst of another great depression just in order to get Trump out of office. It might take both those things to happen for Biden to win in November. The dems may need the country to be totally screwed in order to get their nominee elected. I don’t think it is worth it and don’t understand why anyone would think it is.

    I’ve been saying for months that if Biden is the nominee, 75% chance Trump gets elected unless the economy tanks.

    2
  38. Sleeping Dog says:

    The story shifts again.

    https://apnews.com/aec7beb03e9e0e0e6e3c58111293e0ea

    If there is a complaint and Reade says there is, there is no accusation sexual assault in it, only that she alleges Biden made that left her feeling uncomfortable.

    During one of the April 2019 interviews with the AP, she said Biden rubbed her shoulders and neck and played with her hair. She said she was asked by an aide in Biden’s Senate office to dress more conservatively and told “don’t be so sexy.”

    She said of Biden: “I wasn’t scared of him, that he was going to take me in a room or anything. It wasn’t that kind of vibe.”

    Maybe there is something to her allegations, but I’m beginning to doubt it.

    2
  39. Cadi Palmer says:

    You represent the double standard of Democrat politics, James. Not surprised though. Since when is it appropriate for an adult man to talk to an under-aged girl about her breasts? This goes beyond your pathetic attempt to label the situation as nothing but rudeness on Biden’s part. You are creepy for giving him a pass, James.

    6
  40. An Interested Party says:

    Have a real wide open convention and not a rubber stamp of the votes up till now.

    That’s so nice of you to dismiss all the people who have already voted…oh, because Biden isn’t your perfect candidate, who cares what those voters think, right?

    It might take both those things to happen for Biden to win in November.

    You don’t know that…it is possible that enough has happened already to get Biden to a win in November…

    I’ve been saying for months that if Biden is the nominee, 75% chance Trump gets elected unless the economy tanks.

    Umm, have you been paying attention to the news lately? The economy is tanking…

    6
  41. Monala says:

    @Bill: Like the Republicans can’t create baggage, even if the candidate is squeaky clean. Remember how they swiftboated Kerry. Or the long list of things they accused Obama of – being Kenyan, being a secret Muslim and terrorist, etc .

    8
  42. Gustopher says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    If there is a complaint and Reade says there is, there is no accusation sexual assault in it, only that she alleges Biden made that left her feeling uncomfortable.

    I do wonder if media accounts of “grab her by the pussy” sank in and integrated into her story. It’s a bizarre coincidence otherwise.

    1
  43. Teve says:

    Democrats are repeating what they did in 2016. Nominate a candidate with enough baggage to fill a cargo 747 and look what we got? If the candidate can’t remove themself, then the party has to do something.

    Good luck with that buddy 😀

    1
  44. Bill says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Umm, have you been paying attention to the news lately? The economy is tanking…

    You’re telling me. I just had my worst month for ebook business in over 2 years. Where do I get my rent and medical expense money? Mostly from my Amazon income.

    Biden is no cinch to win. He has too much baggage and his being elected isn’t necessarily going to improve anything. We remove a corrupt losing his marbles geriatric for a losing his marbles geriatric. Drink the kool aid and stick your heads in the ground if you want, but Biden is a November train wreck in the making.

    By the way I don’t hear too many people noting this not so little thing from the Hill. Is a tanking economy going to sink Trump. Don’t forget 4 years ago and polls so far as support for Trump being off. I don’t remember anyone, including myself, thinking he was going to win.

  45. CSK says:

    Reade bailed on the interview she was going to do with Chris Wallace on Friday, to be aired this Sunday on Fox.

    3
  46. MarkedMan says:

    As someone raised by Irish parents in the Midwest, there is almost no chance anyone is ever going to call me handsy. Heck I shake hands with my adult son and my daughter gets the occasional awkward hug. But this idea that you have to ask someone’s permission before you touch them is just impossible for anyone who moves about the world. When I lived in West Africa the first time a male friend held my hand while we were walking was probably the most uncomfortable physical contact I ever had. To be frank, I would have been only marginally less comfortable if it had been a woman I wasn’t romantic with. I couldn’t stop myself from being uncomfortabledespite my knowledge even then that cultures are different, both within and outside countries. If you go into the world you are going to be uncomfortable. Indians expect to stand closer to you when talking than Scots. Casual Dutch women friends expect a series of three cheek kisses when we see each other. Or is that the French? No, that’s two? I can never remember.

    Everything physically uncomfortable is not automatically about sex. It’s a bizarre form of sexual obsession and sexual repression to think it is.

    10
  47. MarkedMan says:

    @CSK: She also said that the complaint she says filed against Biden did not contain any allegations of assault.

  48. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @MarkedMan:
    No I didn’t\

    Now…Tara Reade is disputing a report that says her complaint against Joe Biden didn’t refer to sexual assault or harassment. In a tweet Saturday, Reade said the Associated Press report was “false” but did not elaborate.

    Methinks that she is playing us

    1
  49. An Interested Party says:

    Biden is no cinch to win.

    No one is claiming that he is…

    He has too much baggage and his being elected isn’t necessarily going to improve anything.

    Too much baggage compared to who? Bernie Sanders? Hillary Clinton? Donald Trump? As for improving things, he’s not Donald Trump, that alone will be an improvement…

    Drink the kool aid and stick your heads in the ground if you want, but Biden is a November train wreck in the making.

    So just sit home and don’t vote…see if 4 more years of Trump improves your Amazon income…

    Meanwhile, I just noticed this passage from Sullivan…

    But supporting Biden does mean I’ll be voting for a hypocrite who wants to ruin others’ young lives for what he has routinely and with impunity done.

    Such sanctimony from someone who is very much a hypocrite himself…oh please…

    4
  50. Teve says:

    @mviser

    NEW: The lawyer who oversaw the vetting of Joe Biden for Obama tells us: “This kind of complaint — not just Tara Reade, but any kind of complaint about Senator Biden on sexual harassment — never came up…we found no such accusation.”

    1
  51. Teve says:

    @An Interested Party: Sullivan who? Don’t tell me anybody still reads Andrew Sullivan.

    1
  52. wr says:

    @CSK: “I’d have been happier with a different Democratic nominee”

    Wouldn’t we all…

    3
  53. wr says:

    @Bill: “We shouldn’t be talking about the degrees of inappropriateness but whether the Dems should find some reason to jettison him.”

    Yes, because we can’t let Trump be the only one self-destructing in front of our eyes.

    Honestly, what do you think would happen to the Democratic party if they followed your advice? Would they ever hold another elective office?

    2
  54. wr says:

    @Bill: “Democrats are repeating what they did in 2016. Nominate a candidate with enough baggage to fill a cargo 747”

    How many times must we be Useful Idiots for the Republican slime mongers? We didn’t nominate a candidate with all this baggage — we nominate a candidate and they manufacture or hype up a lot of bullshit. And it wouldn’t work, except that Democrats have this horrible habit of running away at the first hint of trouble.

    It doesn’t matter who the Dems nominate — there will be smears. The only question is will we be tough enough to stand up to them? I sincerely hope you will reconsider your answer…

    12
  55. Michael Reynolds says:

    A new Dallas Morning News poll has it tied, 43 to 43, for Texas. Really. Couple days ago a poll had Biden up by 1. Again: in Texas.

    In recent polls he’s also up 6 in Pennsylvania, 8 in New Hampshire and North Carolina by 5.

    So maybe time to stop the gloom and doom? If Trump has to fight for Texas, he’s fucked.

    7
  56. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: It’s not just bigger creep vs. lesser creep; it’s also competent creep vs. incompetent creep.

    1
  57. Teve says:

    I maintain that a lot of Democrats stayed home because while they were unenthusiastic about Hillary, they didn’t think Trump could win. 2018 and special elections convince me that ain’t nobody making that mistake this time. I wanted Warren. Biden was probably my fourth or fifth choice. But I would fight off a cloud of Murder Hornets with my tennis racket to get to the polls in November to vote for Diamond Joe.

    8
  58. Sleeping Dog says:

    @CSK:

    Wallace is one of the few true journalist at Fox. Did she recognize that he wouldn’t enable her?

  59. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner:

    My ignoring the charges won’t make them go away.

    True. And it’s appropriate to discuss Reade’s charge in this forum. However editors and managers at NYT are making the same calculation. And calculating what the resulting clicks mean to their bonuses.

    1
  60. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Maybe.

  61. Tyrell says:

    I remember when Biden was carrying on with Stephanie Carter. If I got caught doing that I would be sleeping outside for a month.

    2
  62. An Interested Party says:

    If I got caught doing that I would be sleeping outside for a month.

    Uh huh…and if you got caught doing what Trump has done you’d be sleeping in jail for years…

    7
  63. Just nutha ignint cracker says:
  64. EddieInCA says:

    @Tyrell:

    Stop watching Fox News Tyrell. Stephanie Carter, FOR YEARS, has been trying to set the record straight about a photo taken from a video in which it looks like Biden is acting creepy.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/04/01/biden-grasped-cabinet-officials-wife-photo-went-viral-now-she-says-everyone-had-it-wrong/

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/04/01/stephanie-carter-defends-joe-biden/3329501002/

    So care to retract your comment? Or at least apologize.

    3
  65. grumpy realist says:

    @Cadi Palmer: A statement supposedly said at an event that Biden wasn’t at?

    You aren’t very interested in the truth, are you?

  66. ibmish says:

    @CSK: The organizer of the event where the alleged sexually inappropriate incident occured between Biden and Murray occurred produced evidence that Biden was not present at the event. Case solved. Biden proven not guilty. You should remove, or at least update your reporting of this false story.