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What’s the Biden Strategy?
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What’s the Biden Strategy?

KAHNTENSIONS

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Vice President Joe Biden addressing the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C., March 20, 2016. (YouTube screen capture)
Vice President Joe Biden addressing the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C., March 20, 2016. (YouTube screen capture)

Before his television interview with Mika Brzezinski last Friday morning on Morning Joe, former Vice-President Joe Biden had played his political cards perfectly. Since he won the South Carolina primary on February 29th   Biden has coasted along to the nomination. He swept the remaining primaries, successfully knocked out his remaining challengers, and then brought all his former rivals and party leaders on board his fall election campaign.

Since mid-March Biden has hunkered down in the basement of his Delaware home as the clock ticked on to November 3. He watched with the entire nation in disbelief as President Trump paraded across the television screen for weeks presenting the Trump version of how to manage a national crisis.  Biden, meanwhile, gave media interviews from his bunker and sought to conduct virtual fund-raisers. He watched the President demonstrate an unbelievable level of ineptitude as sought to rally the nation behind him in the midst of the worst national crisis since World War II or perhaps the Civil War. Trump demonstrated no compassion, advocated absurd medical advice, and displayed nothing more than a pompous arrogance of his own ignorance. The President shocked the country with his foolishness and ignored all the political advice that his behavior was undermining his own reelection. Meanwhile, Joe Biden just watched the President flaying about.

When Biden emerged for his interview on Friday, he did so specifically to confront the allegations made against him by Tara Reade, a former staffer in his Senate office, that he had sexually molested her in 1993. Biden used the conversation with Brzezinski to answer effectively all of her questions except for her request that he authorize outside independent inspectors to review his Senate papers—in addition to those papers housed in the National Archives—in order to corroborate his denial of Reade’s claim.

Given the current climate it seems that Biden should have gone the entire way and let his Senate papers at the University of Delaware be reviewed as well as those in the National Archives, in order to totally eliminate any suspicion that he was hiding anything. This is especially true given the fact that it was a small bone to throw to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party for which he is likely to be their standard bearer in the fall.

In addition, Biden should have held this interview immediately after the allegation surfaced. Despite Trump’s own long depraved history and derogatory treatment of women, the President will undoubtedly smear Biden this fall over this still unproven allegation to rally his base. Trump’s strategy assumes as well that raising it will weaken Biden’s support and turnout from the left wing of the Democratic Party as well as among younger suburban women.

There are numerous questions which the Tara Reade allegations raise both about her effort as well as the #MeToo movement. It is not clear why Reade never sought to derail Biden’s political career sooner, or at least leaked it to the Obama team which was considering selecting Biden to be VP?  Second, it is not clear why it was not released earlier this year to help perhaps Bernie Sanders be nominated? Third, was there any underhanded involvement in the emergence of this allegation from within the Trump campaign or some of his more unscrupulous allies? Finally, is there any evidence of a money trail leading to her sudden emergence as a sexually molested woman?

The need to believe women who claims to be have been sexually molested or harassed is critical. For too long their allegations were ignored and dismissed; but every situation is not another Harvey Weinstein case. Senator Al Franken might very well have defended the charges against him in a Senate ethics probe were it not for the timing when the charges were made against him. Those charges were made in the midst of an effort to expose the pervasiveness of this behavior in the public domain. In addition, the charges to expel Franken from the Senate were led by Democratic women in the Senate who, at the time, were seeking to take political and public ownership of this issue.

In Biden’s case, unless a rash of similar allegations now emerge, the Reade disclosure will probably not impact most voters by November. Except for this charge, Biden smartly has let the Trump campaign continue from the White House while he remains underground. In truth, the longer that Biden avoids dramatic unscripted public events the better. In fact, except for the fall debates with the President, Biden might succeed in running a campaign with less time in front of the voters, except through ads, than any other modern candidate.

 

 

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