But could Reade "have problems?" In her column in Sunday's New York Times, Maureen Dowd was trying to figure whether it actually happened.
Just for the record, there's no way that Dowd can possibly know that it actually happened. Also, there's no way Dowd can possibly know that it didn't happen.
On balance, it maybe doesn't seem likely to Dowd that it actually happened. But then, she added a pair of wrinkles to her discussion:
DOWD (5/3/20): I’ve covered Biden my entire political career, and he is known for being sometimes warmly, sometimes inappropriately, hands-on with men and women. What Reade accuses him of is a crime and seems completely out of character.Based upon her knowledge of Biden, Tara Reade's accusation seems a bit unlikely to Dowd.
But that is how my brother, who coached Kavanaugh in basketball at Georgetown Prep and stayed friends with him after, felt about [Christine Blasey Ford's] allegations.
In the end, these moments highlight the hypocrisy of both parties. Each case has to stand or fall on its own facts, patterns, corroborations, investigations—not on viewing it only through partisan goggles.
Of course, that doesn't mean it didn't happen. Meanwhile, Dowd's brother, who knows Brett Kavanaugh, had the same reaction to the allegations of Christine Blasey-Ford!
Can we talk? As a matter of simple logic, it could be that both accusations are true. It's also possible, of course, that both accusations are false.
To her credit, Dowd doesn't claim to know if it actually happened.. But then, the scribe adds this:
"Each case has to stand or fall on its own facts, patterns, corroborations, investigations."That statement seems to suggest that there could be some "investigation" which could settle this matter.
Almost surely, that isn't true. But such fantastical musings are widely found among journalistic reviews of this high-profile matter.
(In last Saturday's editorial, the Times editorial board offered a somewhat similar thought. Claims against President Trump should also be investigated, the board somewhat comically said, four years later.)
Almost surely, nothing will ever prove the truth of Reade's accusation. Also, nothing will ever prove that her accusation is false.
That said, we humans are poorly equipped to deal with uncertainty, especially in high-impact matters. Our faltering brains aren't wired for that task.
Our brains aren't wired for that task. Along comes Professor Hirshman.
According to the leading authority, Linda Hirshman "is a retired distinguished professor of philosophy and women's studies at Brandeis." This fact may go to a wider case we've been advancing about the faulty functioning of our intellectual elites.
We say that because of the column Hirshman has written for the New York Times. Mercifully, it hasn't appeared in print editions, but the column was featured yesterday near the top of the front page of the New York Times website.
Hirshman may not be one for uncertainty. Her column starts like this:
HIRSHMAN (5/6/20): Let’s be clear: I believe Tara Reade. I believed Anita Hill, too. Remember the buttons? I wore one. What’s the constant here? Joe Biden, then the bumbling head of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.Professor Hirshman "believes" Tara Reade. She wants that to be clear.
Long before Ms. Reade, before the reports of the rubbing and the sniffing, I interviewed an adviser to Ms. Hill, who said she’d tried to warn Mr. Biden of what was happening in the Thomas hearings—how unchecked Republicans were smearing an upright woman’s character. But “the United States Senate was still very much a boys’ club” back then, the adviser told me, and there was no getting through to him. Democratic primary voters knew all about Mr. Biden’s membership in that boys’ club when there was still time to pick someone else. Alas.
In other words, she believes that Joe Biden committed a sexual assault in 1993, as Tara Reade has charged. In these first two paragraphs, she seems to believe that accusation based on the way Biden "bumbled" during the Thomas hearings.
The bulk of what she says in that passage is based on a second-hand report. But could that really be all she has? Biden handled the hearings poorly, so she believes he committed a sexual assault?
As she continues, Hirshman outlines a fuller basis for her clear belief. Her assessment could be right, of course. But could her assessment be wrong?
HIRSHMAN (continuing directly): So what’s a girl to do now? Discounting Ms. Reade’s accusation and, one after another, denigrating her corroborating witnesses, calling for endless new evidence, avowing that you “hear” her, is nonsense. We are now up to four corroborating witnesses—including one contemporary corroborating witness, unearthed by Rich McHugh, who was Ronan Farrow’s producer at NBC News during the Harvey Weinstein #MeToo reporting and one “Larry King Live” tape."What a girl to do now?" Hirshman asks. (Hirshman is 76.) As she continues, she seems to say it's "nonsense" to disbelieve, or even to doubt, what Tara Reade has said.
So stop playing gotcha with the female supporters of Mr. Biden or the #MeToo movement, making them lie to the camera—or perhaps to themselves—about doubting her to justify their votes.
I’ll take one for the team. I believe Ms. Reade, and I’ll vote for Mr. Biden this fall.
(Explicitly, she says it's nonsense to "discount" it? Do you know what that means?)
Hirshman seems to say that female supporters of Biden have been lying about what they believe. (Needless to say, they've been forced.) Eventually, she bases her claim on evidence which she severely glosses.
She glosses that phone call to Larry King Live, which she doesn't even describe. She glosses the apparent strength of the "corroborating witnesses."
Her assessment may be right, of course—but then too, it might be wrong. Despite this, she states a clear belief? Should wise people do that?
Concerning those corroborating witnesses, several of whom are rather shaky, they're only as good as what they were told. And what they were told is only as good as the person who told it.
It's certainly possible that Hirshman's assessment is correct. Dowd says that doesn't seem like Biden, but Dowd's sense could be wrong.
For better or worse, it's also possible that Hirshman's "belief" is wrong. Last week, at Slate, Emily Bazelon suggested a different possibility—the possibility that Reade may be lying, or that she may "have problems."
We're now in the 33rd year of this era of White House campaign sex claims. To the credit our our journalists, they've largely transitioned from firestorms about consensual sex to accusations of criminal assault.
Here's the problem. During this era, it has turned out that some of the most heralded accusers did in fact seem to "have problems."
Kathleen Willey was one such accuser; Gennifer Flowers seems to have been another. Tomorrow, we'll review the "problems" they seem to have had, and we'll finally get to the material which Bazelon seemed to be citing when she said that she doesn't consider Reade to be hugely credible.
For today, Professor Hirshman stands as the latest member of a malfunctioning intellectual class. With 50 cents and an upscale professor's bruited "belief," you're halfway to owning a dollar.
The professors at Duke stampeded to say that they believed the accusation in the Duke lacrosse case.
As it turned out, the claim was false. But then, the professors at UVa staged a similar stampede. Nothing seems to convince these people to proceed with traditional good sense in these matters, to proceed with caution.
The accusers in each of those cases did turn out to "have problems." We'd list them among William Styron's "beaten children of the earth."
(On Saturday, we expect to take you through the tragic story of the accuser in the Duke case. Journalistically, we're allowed to discuss mental illness in such cases, though not in the constantly-devolving case of President Trump.)
Many people "have problems!" Few things could be more clear in this crackpot age of Trump, unless you're one of our high-end professors, imbued with a type of tribal belief and with a willingness to gloss some rather imperfect evidence.
Many people "have problems." Our professors sometimes forget such facts, and our mainstream journalists have covered for people like Willey and Flowers for roughly the past thirty years.
Professor Hirshman is just one part of this unimpressive, perhaps incompetent class. It's at the Times that you're most likely to find the work of this floundering group.
Hirshman's assessment could be right, but then too it could be wrong. That said, she wants her "belief" to be clear, and the Times was there to oblige.
Tomorrow: A whole lot of people "have problems"