I don’t know if Joe Biden is telling the truth about Tara Reade, or the other way around. I’d like to think he is. But I don’t know, and I won’t guess.
But here’s something I do know: There is no effing way that Biden should release those University of Delaware papers in any way, shape, or form. He should not ask for or permit any kind of review of them by anyone to see if Reade’s name is in there.
First, because like it or not, this is hardball politics, with the future of the country at stake in this election, and caving in to these kinds of demands is how Democrats and liberals lose. Do you think that if this were a Republican politician, he’d consider allowing a review of those papers for one second? Not on your life. Republicans stonewall in situations like this. They deny, deny, deny. And they usually win.
Let me be clear: I don’t think Biden should be like Trump. In principle, I recognize the journalistic and public interest imperative in opening up the archives. But as a purely political matter, it’s nuts. And the fact is that these kinds of archives are designed to be seen by the public only after the historical figure in question, Biden, has retired.
Everyone is comparing this to the Brett Kavanaugh situation, but I don’t see many people making the correct comparison. The correct comparison is this: Kavanaugh and the Republicans won because they stonewalled.
There was a Kavanaugh friend named Mark Judge whom Christine Blasey Ford named as a witness to the alleged act. He could have been called to testify. He was not. Senate Republicans were doling out lovely quotes about wanting to find the truth, but, as I wrote at the time, “If Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley and his fellow Republicans were interested in getting to the truth of the assault matter, they would make Mark Judge testify.”
But they did not. That’s how Republicans play these things. Look at Donald Trump. Around two dozen allegations of sexual harassment or assault. He denies, and they melt into the woodwork. It’s ugly, demeaning, and horrible. But he won.
And when I talk about winning, I don’t mean simply that Joe Biden winning will be good for Joe Biden. I mean that it will be good for the country. It will be good for women, especially if Democrats also keep the House and take the Senate and are able to pass legislation that will help frontline essential workers, for example, many of whom are women, and more specifically women of color who don’t make much money. He has a legislative record featuring but not limited to the Violence Against Women Act that suggests he’ll do more for women if he becomes president. Even if he did this despicable thing nearly 30 years ago, which is likely unknowable, it’s completely legitimate to balance that possibility against the difference between having Biden in the White House and having Trump there for another term, when Roe will almost surely be overturned, just for starters.
More broadly, of course, we need a president who is up to the job, who won’t shrink from challenges and duties and responsibilities, who’ll spend his days trying to help sick and economically stressed people instead of watching cable news and rage-tweeting and pouting. We have a president who through his self-absorption and denial has cost thousands of Americans their lives. We need a president who will save lives.
So all that’s the first reason. And here’s the second reason, which is related to the first. Democrats and liberals should not fall for this “higher standard” bullshit. Playing by rules the other side doesn’t play by is a fool’s errand.
If this were a good-faith effort to get at the truth, then yeah, maybe Biden should let some neutral person/s rifle through the archives. But this is not a good-faith effort. The people who are the most insistent that Biden open his archives are vicious partisans, from Trump to the Fox News propagandists to politicians and operatives who’ll say anything to re-elect Trump. As a friend of mine said over the weekend, you give these people an inch, they’ll take a light-year.
Here’s how I’d imagine this playing out. Biden allows the appointment—by the Democratic National Committee, say—of a team of neutral observers to go through the files. They do so. They come back and say the name Tara Reade appears nowhere in the archives.
Do you seriously think that will be the end of it? If you do, you are an idiot. That will be just the end of the beginning. On Fox News, they’ll say it’s all a lie and a cover-up, and they’ll have “experts” of some kind or another coming on their air saying that personnel matters are routinely discussed in such papers.
Republicans will insist that this “so-called neutral review” was a setup, and they will demand that the archives be opened to journalists. They’ll bang on about sunlight being the best disinfectant. They’ll say “if the vice president truly has nothing to hide…” Some credulous journalists and editorial boards will agree.
Then, if archives were opened, and even if Tara Reade’s name isn’t there, oh boy, imagine what is in there! Who knows? All kinds of material that could be used to embarrass Biden—his frank assessments of his colleagues or of various political situations from 40 years ago that have aged terribly; I mean, the campaign from that point on would be nothing but Biden defending old and irrelevant comments. That, believe me, is what Trump wants. As the Beast reported Saturday, Trump apparently doesn’t even believe Reade’s charges. And of course the man of a million NDAs (Biden said in his Morning Joe interview on Friday that he has none) has many reasons for not wanting this campaign to turn into a referendum on how these two men treat the women in their lives. He just wants the whole archive flung open so his people can drop a fishing line in there and catch something embarrassing.
These knives are out already. Ari Fleischer tweeted over the weekend that Biden should turn the archives over to the FBI. Right. Give them to the hackiest attorney general in the modern history of the country. As if, say, candidate Mitt Romney would have given files to Eric Holder’s Justice Department, and Republicans like Fleischer would have pressed for that? These people are totally without shame.
Give them an inch, they’ll take a light-year.
I’d like to live in a world where Biden could do the clearly honorable and above-board thing here. But we don’t live in that world. We live in a world where the level of morality is defined by the least moral actor. That’s Trump.
If Biden opens that archive’s door a crack, Trump and Fox and the GOP will barge through it and tell any lie they can to destroy him. That’s reality.
Joe Biden is almost certain to be the Democratic nominee. His job isn’t to please chin-scratching ethicists. It’s to win. Just say no, Joe.