Quote of the Day:
In an ideal world, Joe Biden would use his new experience as an accused party to champion fairer treatment across the board. More likely, he’ll fall back on a double standard, demanding that he receive the benefit of the doubt denied to others—especially students with far less power than he possesses.
–KC Johnson in "Time's Up!" in City Journal
If affectionate 2020 possible Joe Biden sees his unannounced candidacy falter, or even end before it starts, KC Johnson argues in City Journal that it will be because Biden now faces the presumption-of-guilt standard of which he was an early champion.
Biden has been accused of having behaved "inappropriately" towards Nevada legislator Lucy Flores, including having "inhaled" her hair and planted an unwanted kiss on the back of her head. There is no video evidence to back up Fores.
A second woman has come forward to recall that the touchy feely former veep allegedly “put his hand around my neck and pulled me in to rub noses with me.” This accusation apparently was made after Johnson had written the article. Both encounters sound sort of weird and creepy. Beyond that, I'm not sure what to say about them. (I did agree with much in Piers Morgan's column on Biden, which dismissed any real impropriety in these allegations and described the "handsy" Biden as a "non gender specific hugger.")
But the interesting point that KC Johnson makes is that standards Biden advocated and indeed helped make a part of the way we treat accusations of sexual misconduct are now coming back to haunt him.
For example, the abandonment of due process when it comes to sexual allegations:
Perhaps no major American political figure has so consistently championed the erosion of due process for those accused of sexual misconduct. Even if Flores’s claims might be unprovable, distorted, or simply wrong, changing the culture about sexual misconduct and mistreatment of women requires that we accept her version of events. Biden will now learn firsthand how the mantra of “believe all survivors” has the effect of presuming the guilt of the accused.
Biden has certainly championed this approach for accused college students, as the Obama administration used Title IX to impose guilt-tilting procedures on the nation’s campuses.
Until 2016, high-ranking administration officials consistently refused to provide much, if any, explanation on why they imposed a preponderance-of-evidence (a hair over 50 percent) standard; discouraged colleges from granting accused students the right to cross-examination; or demanded that schools let accusers appeal not-guilty findings.
Biden has been the most outspoken senior Obama administration figure to defend these policies. In a 2017 appearance at George Mason University, he framed campus sexual assault as a problem consisting solely of male attackers and female victims: “Guys, a woman who is dead drunk cannot consent—You are raping her! We’ve got to talk about this. Consent requires affirmative consent! . . . If you can’t get her to say ‘yes’ because she wants to, you ain’t much.” He used an interview with Teen Vogue to give a hypothetical address to fraternity members: “If you see a brother taking a drunk freshman coed up the stairs to his room and you do nothing, you’re a coward . . . You know that she’s not able to give consent.”
. . .
Biden’s approach to campus sexual misconduct effectively reverses Blackstone’s central premise of common law: to undo the injustices of the past, this new tenet holds, it is better that 10 innocents suffer than one clearly guilty student escape. If this approach requires a presumption of guilt that sweeps up the innocent and the almost-certainly innocent as well as the guilty, that’s a price that society (and, of course, the innocent) must pay.
When Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos began the process of trying to make campus sexual procedures fairer, including the restoration of due process, Biden "responded with fury." He said that those who supported DeVos were "culturally Neanderthals."
Western jurisprudence developed procedures to ensure that the accused could get a fair shake.
Sure, justice wasn't always perfectly delivered, but due process was a great invention, both for the rich and the poor, the weak and the powerful.
When we dispense with fairness, it comes back to haunt us, all of us.
It would be great of Joe Biden came to a fresh understanding of the value of due process–but that would require going back on policies he championed and it would not mollify his much more radical and politically-motivated challengers.