NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE T hey never learn, do they? Democrats and their pundit class have a long habit of promoting standards for others that their own side can’t abide living under. Somehow, they make arguments year in and year out that come back to bite them, and they never pick up on the slightest clue that this will, predictably, happen again.
So it is — now that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, has been accused by a woman who worked for him in the early 1990s of sexually assaulting her. If we apply the standards that Republicans and conservatives have advocated for these kinds of things, the question we would ask right now is whether the evidence shows the allegation to be credible. We can return to that another day. Because under the “Believe All Women” standard promoted by Democrats, liberals, and progressives, Biden should be simply assumed to be guilty. Case closed. David Harsanyi has a selection of those arguments from the Kavanaugh hearings, including from Biden himself.
The examples he lists are not hyperbole; they are what Democrats argued with straight faces as recently as a year and a half ago. They made those arguments loudly, insistently, repeatedly, emotionally, sometimes with tears in their eyes and voices quivering with rage. They argued them in congressional hearings and on the campaign trail, tweeted them and memed them. And those Democrats who even bother to notice Tara Reade’s allegations against Biden will now be forced to explain that they never really meant any of it. To all of them, I now say: Not only did we warn you and warn you and warn you that this exact thing would happen to you sooner or later (and probably sooner), but it has happened to you before and you learned absolutely nothing from it.
Those of you old enough to remember the Clarence Thomas hearings will recall that a major part of the argument for believing Anita Hill’s sexual-harassment charges against Thomas was this same line of reasoning. We were told that men “just don’t get it” and cannot and should not attempt to evaluate the facts and testimony to judge whether Hill was telling the truth. This you-must-believe, you-may-not-question stance became a centerpiece of the Democrats’ 1992 “Year of the Woman” Senate campaigns. There were reasons that they took this tack: Polls at the time by Gallup and the New York Times/CBS News showed that more voters believed Thomas than Hill, and voters throughout the hearings favored his confirmation by a two-to-one margin. The cleanest way to avoid discussion of the credibility of your witnesses is to argue that their credibility is irrelevant.
This happens nowhere else in politics or the law. We should, of course, listen to every accuser who comes forward with a claim of sexual assault or abuse, and too often as a society we have failed to do so. We should listen to Reade, just as we should listen to the women who have made accusations against Donald Trump and other political figures of both parties. But in any accusation of misconduct (sexual or otherwise), what matters most is whether it is true or not. In the civil and criminal law, that means we have the protections of due process. In politics, it sometimes means making judgments about the facts without the benefit of a legal proceeding. But the duty to take the truth seriously and apply our common sense in finding the truth is no less important.
Lots of people on the right argued at the time that the “thou shalt not question Anita Hill” edict was an insane standard that would sting the Democrats at the next opportunity. Democrats, recklessly disregarding all these warnings, not only persisted in making the argument but also went ahead and nominated a notorious Lothario for president in 1992. Predictably enough, early in Bill Clinton’s presidential term, he was sued for sexual harassment by Paula Jones, a former subordinate in Arkansas. Kathleen Willey, a Democratic supporter of Clinton’s, accused him of groping her in the Oval Office. He was also accused, by Juanita Broaddrick, of rape.
The Paula Jones case eventually expanded to questions of Clinton’s other workplace sexcapades, thanks to the liberal discovery rules of civil litigation. That, in turn, led to the referral of the Monica Lewinsky affair to yet another liberal innovation — the independent counsel. The independent counsel was, itself, a Carter-era Democratic creation. In 1988, Justice Antonin Scalia tried to warn liberals of precisely why it was dangerous, with its presumption in favor of launching unaccountable investigations. Not one of these events dented the absolute certainty of liberal pundits and Democratic politicians in making deeply illiberal arguments, so long as the targets were Republicans. All of them were shocked when their own rules were forced on them during the Clinton presidency. The “believe all women” standards went quiet for a long time, workplace sexual harassment was shrugged off as “compartmentalized” from Clinton’s presidency, and the independent-counsel statute was allowed to expire by bipartisan consent in 1999.
But in the long term, Democrats learned nothing. When presented with the chance to play the credibility-of-the-accuser-doesn’t-matter card in pursuit of Kavanaugh, they took the same absolutist position all over again. It didn’t take long to blow up in their faces, as the thirst for corroborating allegations brought out people such as the bottom-feeding attorney Michael Avenatti to push ludicrous gang-rape charges against Kavanaugh that just proved his defenders’ point. Boxed in by their own standards, Democratic senators actually read Avenatti’s nonsense into the Senate record during the hearings. Republicans and conservatives warned them that they would regret these standards the next time charges were leveled against one of their own. It didn’t take long, as two women came forward to publicly accuse Virginia lieutenant governor Justin Fairfax of rape in mid-2019. Fairfax is still in office, and he plans to run for governor, and his party may well fall in line behind him. Now an accusation has been raised against the party’s presumptive presidential nominee.
Will Democrats learn their lesson this time? Don’t bet on it.