The recent accusation of sexual harassment and assault made against Joe Biden by a former Senate staffer is important less for what it tells us about him and his accuser, and more for what it tells us about a dirty little secret about American politics and sex. Acknowledging this secret is the first step in accepting a more fair standard of justice not only for judging Biden, but also for judging everyone– accused and accuser, man and woman, Democrat and Republican–in America. But before we discuss the DLS, let’s look at the accusation itself and see what we can make of it.
In essence, a woman claims that in 1993 Joe Biden pinned her against a wall, stuck his hand under her skirt, and, uh, “digitally penetrated” her. There were no witnesses. Several people have said they remember her telling them of the alleged incident at the time she claims it occurred. But most contemporaries claim no memory of her ever telling them. Biden himself has vigorously denied it ever happened. So whom should we believe?
Ironically, if we apply the “Biden Standard” to evaluating women who accuse men of sexual assault, we must conclude that she’s probably telling the truth and that Biden must prove otherwise to achieve exoneration. As Biden himself has said: “For a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus, nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real, whether or not she forgets facts, whether or not it’s been made worse or better over time. But nobody fails to understand that this is like jumping into a cauldron.” This was the standard applied by the Democrats in the Brett Kavanaugh case in 2018, as well as against Clarence Thomas in 1991. And lest anyone think these cases are settled, some Democrats are still seeking ways, means, and reasons to impeach either, or both, Kavanaugh and Thomas.
But if we apply the Republican standard for judging Kavanaugh and Thomas, we must come to a different conclusion about Biden: Given the flimsiness of the evidence against him, not to mention the lack of timeliness of the accusation, he should be considered innocent. And even if additional evidence or charges should be made, Biden remains entitled to the presumption of innocence unless his accusers supply proof of guilt.
Which brings me to the DLS, which is not Joe Biden’s dirty little secret; it’s the secret the Democratic and Republican parties, for all their differences, have in common: Whether a Democrat or a Republican is accused of sexual misconduct, neither party really cares about finding out what really happened; rather, the interests of both parties are limited to scoring whatever points they can off each other. Of course, decent women and men will, by definition, feel outraged and disgusted at any act of sexual harassment or assault, and will want to know who really did what to whom, without caring at all about who belongs to which political party. But the pattern one can see over the last few decades is obvious—Democrats will do their best to crucify Republicans for acts they excuse when their fellow Democrats are accused of them, while Republicans will give each other the benefit of the doubt concerning acts for which they will try to destroy Democrats. Everyone cares only about partisan advantage or lack thereof; nobody cares much about finding out the truth.
This pattern should be unacceptable to a nation dedicated to the rule of law. Americans who put justice before party must let the leaders of both parties know that they can’t have it both ways: Democrats can’t try to destroy Clarence Thomas or Brett Kavanaugh while defending Bill Clinton or Joe Biden. Republicans must understand that having made excuses for Donald Trump even in light of the Access Hollywood tape must likewise accord Biden the same benefit of the doubt. And both Democrats and Republicans must understand that once you begin taking away anyone’s rights to due process, you endanger everyone’s freedom
So if those in power really want to take accusations of sexual assault seriously, they should not base their actions on the political affiliations of the accusers and the accused, but rather do what neither party currently wants to do, but which both parties must do to promote justice:
- Take all accusations and those who make them with the utmost seriousness;
- Investigate them thoroughly before reaching final conclusions;
- Accord the accused and their defenses the same degree of seriousness and due process; and
- Preserve, protect, and defend the civil liberties of all, as spelled out in our national Bill of Rights.
That may not be either the Democratic or Republican way right now, but it’s indisputably the American way.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.