Up to now, the denials have come from Biden surrogates, even as the Tara Reade allegations have finally, after about a month of being largely ignored or sloughed off, moved from marginalized to mainstream. Today, Joe Biden will be arraigned in the Court of Public Opinion, where TV Judge Joe Scarborough will take his plea on Morning Joe.
How do you please, Mr. Biden? Guilty or not guilty?
Not guilty, your honor.
Fine. Let’s schedule discovery, motions and aim for a trial date in November.
Except that’s not how it’s going to go because this isn’t court, and the nation has lost its mind when it comes to rationalizing why our newly-beloved non-legal “system” of trying cases should give rise to some pseudo-official system upon which we can all rely to reach our conclusions.
This is being written in advance of Joe Biden’s appearance on Morning Joe deliberately so as not to be biased by what happens. Will Scarborough pitch Biden the softest of balls? Will Biden swing and gaffe? Will he have been well-prepped and say the words he spent last night memorizing, that “I vehemently deny that it ever happened. It’s untrue. It never happened.”
What else is he supposed to do? Unless he claims that he was walking down the Senate corridor with his index finger outstretched as he was making an emphatic point about the oppression of blacks and women in America, when a staffer who was coming from the other direction, but not watching where she was going, suddenly impaled herself on his digit, he’s got nothing.
If it did not happen, there is no way to prove the negative. He can’t offer a random video showing a hallway where he doesn’t rape anyone. He can, and likely will, talk about how no one else has come forward to claim he
sniffed their hair, touched their shoulders, put his arms around them, digitally penetrated them, but that proves nothing. The guy who murders someone doesn’t get acquitted because he never murdered anyone else in his whole life. And the guy who murdered lots of people (Hi, Sammy) isn’t guilty of some random murder for lack of evidence of who did it.
There are arguments about what “burden” should be imposed, preponderance of the evidence or beyond a reasonable doubt. Putting aside the fact that the accusation is rape, not breach of contract, it’s immaterial. There is no evidence. There will be no discovery. There will be no sworn testimony. There will be no serious cross-examination of the accuser. As lawyers like to say, everybody looks credible until cross-examination. There is, and will be, no evidence despite what journalists and pundits try to sell you.
As I’ve tried to make clear, with limited success, none of this has anything to do with whatever anyone decides in the moist and dark reaches of their head about what happened. We can believe whatever we want to believe, whether for good reason, bad reason or no reason at all. So what? Believe what you want and vote for whomever you choose.
But what’s Joe Biden to do in this age of #MeToo to quash the accusation against him? Of course this isn’t a real court. Tara Reade decided not to take that path, denying herself the opportunity to legally accuse and Biden the opportunity to legally defend. Now, decades later, we’re stuck playing sandlot baseball for the World Series.
The other point Biden could pull out of his bag of tricks is that he has a long history of being the head cheerleader of the Obama administration in “believe the woman” and “It’s on us,” the men are always the rapists stance. He can out his credentials to support his denial, to show he would never do such a thing, except for one really nasty problem: While his plea of “nuance” might bolster his claim of innocence, it’s a confession of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy, of course, is not a crime. Indeed, it’s something of a national past time.
There has been a widespread epiphany of nuance lately. How wonderful and convenient! But what of the bold-faced names and names no one has or will ever hear of who were burned at the stake of believe the woman up to now? Too bad, so sad? And what will become of nuance when the next accused isn’t running for president against Darth Cheeto? Will the sides flip, the deeply passionate arguments of the faithful uttered in loud voices about their truth over and over, explain why it’s entirely different when it’s not Joe Biden but someone less needed at this moment in history?
Whatever Joe Biden does, it won’t be any more real than any other denial, any other litany of explanations and excuses by any other accused. There just isn’t much more to do than vehemently deny the accusations. That’s all the Court of Public Opinion has to offer. Why would his denial be any more valid than anyone else’s denial?
No one is proven guilty in the Court of Public Opinion. No one is proven innocent either. It’s just a cute term we use to overcome the fact that the accusation was never vetted by the legal system and so rather than adhere to the principle of “innocent until proven guilty,” we devolve into whatever we want to believe based on whatever nonsensical arguments confirm our bias.
And when Joe Biden’s arraignment on Morning Joe is over, pundits will give us the argument we can use to wrap our beliefs up in the pretty bow of validity as if there has been some legitimate system that’s reached some quasi-valid conclusion. And most people will be good with that. After all, they’ve been good with it the past 1000 times it happened, sleeping well at night knowing that the accused was found guilty in the Court of Public Opinion.