Know Your Op: Weaponizing the Tara Reade Allegation

Who's afraid of Joe Biden? Donald John Trump.

START HERE: Joe Biden scares the shit out of Donald John Trump.

The president believes, rightly, that an election pitting him against the former vice president would result in a humiliating defeat—a Mondale-in-’84-level annihilation, possibly the worst loss for an incumbent in American history. Russian election fuckery only works if the vote totals are close. This won’t be close.

Not only would Trump have been impeached; not only would he have presided over the negligent pandemic response and the 1929-all-over-again collapse of the economy; not only would he have suffered one of the worst losses in election history; but a Biden triumph would mean the replacement of Attorney General William Barr with someone not categorically corrupt and evil, and thus certain indictment, imprisonment, and asset forfeiture for Trump, his family, and all of their deplorable cronies.

In short, if Biden wins, Trump is fucked.

There’s not going to be a “post-presidency” for Donald John Trump. There will be no presidential library, no do-gooder foundation, no writing of memoirs. He will not build houses in Appalachia. He will not paint portraits of casualties of war. He is going to spend the rest of his miserable life in court, in prison, or in Russia—and he will be in anguish the whole time. The only way for Trump to avoid this fate is to remain in office, where Barr and the other destroyers of the Constitution can protect him. As soon as he leaves the White House, he’s cancelled, like his crappy TV show.

For Trump, the stakes could not be higher. This fact—this fear—now informs literally everything he does. Its hold on him is even more powerful than Vladimir Putin’s.

The Ukraine scandal happened because Trump wanted to manufacture dirt on Joe Biden. Not to find dirt—to manufacture it. Because there is no dirt on Joe Biden. The guy was a Senator for a million years and VP for eight. He was thoroughly vetted by Obama’s people. The GOP and the Bernie-or-busters both have had plenty of opportunity since to conduct opposition research. They found bupkis.

So a desperate Trump extorted Volodymyr Zelensky, the newly-minted president of Ukraine—a comedian and former TV personality, a man with zero political experience. In exchange for releasing funds and for a coveted White House visit, Trump demanded that Ukraine announce an investigation into Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, for alleged corruption. (The younger Biden sat on the board of a Ukrainian company, which, while not illegal, was ill-advised, as that country is a cesspool of graft). The objective was not to actually have an investigation, but to announce one—to tar Biden with the “corruption” charge.

For this seditious abuse of power, Trump was impeached. But impeachment in a GOP-controlled Senate was a risk he was willing to take, to impugn Joe Biden. Because he knows that, unless he can conjure up something on the VP, the jig is up. Because—and I can’t stress this enough—a Joe Biden presidency means a Donald John Trump conviction. Seriously, put that on a bumper sticker.

The Ukraine gambit failed. Aside from a vocal minority of MAGA cultists, whose minds will never change, Americans didn’t care that much about Hunter Biden or Burisma, the company he worked for that sounds more like an itchy rash than a corporation. And now, in a quarantine caused by Trump’s obscene mismanagement of the pandemic response, that story is dead as Dillinger.

Biden is the nominee. Biden’s poll numbers improve with each passing week of the pandemic. Safely ensconced in his home, Biden is less likely to produce the gaffes that he’s known for, less likely to do something embarrassing on the campaign trail. Joe was not the first choice for many Democrats, but he remains a perfectly palatable option—for Dems as well as moderate Republicans and swing voters sick of the president’s malarkey.

Absent some vodka-infused October Surprise, Trump is doomed in November. In six short months, he’s toast. He is painfully aware of this. So: are we to believe that a desperate man, a mob property, who was perfectly willing to extort an ally by denying them weapons needed to fend off a hostile foreign power, would not stoop to whatever level it took to smear Joe Biden? Do we really think Trump will stop trying to find a charge that sticks?

That the dirty-trickster arm of the GOP would promote a sexual assault allegation against the Democratic nominee was a mortal lock. If Bernie Sanders were the candidate, believe me, there would be allegations against Bernie from his kibbutz days, and the press would right now be discovering the “rape fantasy” letter to the editor he penned in the early seventies. (Not that this has stopped Rose Twitter from disseminating with gusto anything to do with the latest Biden smear campaign). This is one of the many, many, many reasons I preferred to have a woman atop the ticket.

It’s easy to picture them in some West Wing conference room, the sleazy Trump campaign swells, tossing around underhanded ideas on how to swift-boat Joe Biden: “Well, we know he’s handsy. He’s a hugger. He sometimes gets too close to people. What would be great is if we had some sexual assault claim on him. It would be hard for him to defend himself from something like that, without pissing off the MeToo femi-Nazis. You know, all that ‘believe women’ horseshit. This could splinter the Democratic Party and turn suburban women against Joe. There’s got to be something, surely.” I mean, there’s no way the CREEP 2.0 comrades did not have some version of that conversation.

The party that shoehorned Brett Kavanaugh onto the Supreme Court does not give a base-metal kopek about women, but it knows that for Democrats, women’s rights are a key issue. Thus sleazebag GOP operatives try to use our our kindness and compassion against us. Like Buffalo Bill luring Catherine into the van in The Silence of the Lambs, Republicans prey on our good natures. If Trump is accused of rape—which he has been, many, many times—Republicans say “Bill Clinton” three times and shrug it off. If Biden is accused, Democrats feel morally obligated to stop and investigate. They may not believe all women, but unlike the GOP, they certainly give all women the benefit of the doubt, and the courtesy of an objective investigation.

And that is the context to keep in mind when considering the allegations of Alexandra Tara Reade (or what’s left of them). We’ll get into the claim itself in a moment, but on a macro level, the charge could not have been more useful to Trump if it had been banged out two weeks ago on Roger Stone’s Underwood.

The Ukraine story had the dual benefit of smearing Joe Biden and inoculating Trump’s own children from similar charges of nepotism and corruption. Junior and Vanks could say, “They are only saying we laundered money in Baku for the Iranian National Guard because Hunter Biden took a sinecure in Kiev.” Likewise, the sexual assault claim effectively deprives Democrats of the ability to bring up Trump’s own disgusting history of rape and sexual assault (not that the press covers this at all).

Say what you will about the Al Franken imbroglio, but by insisting on his resignation as decisively as she did, Kirsten Gillibrand maintained the high ground for her party. She preserved the Democrats’ moral authority. Because of her, the GOP cannot rely on whataboutism, the age-old KGB tactic they employ all the time, to defend their rapist-in-chief. They can’t invoke the sins of Bill Clinton, either, because Joe Biden is not his wife.

All they can do is try, disingenuously, to equate Tara Reade with Christine Blasey Ford:

But Biden is not Kavanaugh. As Eric Boehlert writes in his PRESS RUN column, Biden has been truthful, while Kavanaugh lied the whole fucking time, and under oath withal!

Speaking out against Al Franken cost Gillibrand dearly. It effectively ended any chance that her presidential campaign—a good one, by the way, with a clear and powerful message focused on women—would succeed. The flip side is, because the Democrats did not reflexively protect Franken, they are now free to defend Biden without being accused of partisanship. This is going to be extremely valuable in the weeks ahead.

The Tara Reade op—and whatever she may believe about what happened to her, the weaponization of her allegation by Russian bots, Bernie diehards, and the GOP is absolutely, positively an op—is particularly noxious because it must, by its very nature, be refuted by women. By survivors. By victims of rape and sexual assault. Joe Biden can deny the allegations all he wants (and he did so, effectively and plausibly). Men like Michael J. Stern can cast objective doubt upon the story. But only women have the real moral authority to call bullshit.

Fortunately, many smart, thoughtful women have done so. The indefatigable Bianca Delarosa has covered Tara Reade extensively for many weeks, on her podcast, on her “Brave News” blog, and on Twitter:

“I do not know if Tara Reade is lying,” Delarosa concludes. “I only know that she has not convinced me, and I’m a rather easy touch.”

Elizabeth McLaughlin, Sally Albright, Jill Wine-Banks, Jennifer Rubin, and Cheri Jacobus have also done their homework on Reade, and are also unconvinced:

I hold with Delarosa, McLaughlin, Albright, Wine-Banks, Rubin, and Jacobus. Those are the women I believe—not the one whose story changes every five minutes.

Isn’t it fishy that the same woman who made the accusation against Joe Biden is an apologist for Vladimir Putin, the Russian mob president who owns Donald John Trump? Seriously, click the link back there. Alexandra Tara Reade wrote a fucking ode to Putin!

It gets weirder. This thread by Lizburgh is astonishing:

Therein, Liz points out that many of Reade’s tweets read as if composed by someone for whom English is not a native language—and contrasts the Russian-accented writing style of the tweets with the purple prose Reade has employed in the past.

I have no idea what this all means—although it does not mean that Reade is a Russian “spy;” that is patently ridiculous—but it certainly doesn’t add to the credibility of her accusation. Neither does this:

It is telling, too, that none of the Democratic politicians who endorsed Joe Biden have rescinded their endorsement. Barack Obama is still on board. Nancy Pelosi is still on board. Kirsten Gillibrand, first to call for Al Franken’s resignation, is still on board. Kamala Harris, who joined Gillibrand in that call, is still on board. Hillary Clinton is still on board. Heck, Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard are still on board (for the moment, anyway).

In the final analysis, whose mind will be changed by the Reade allegations—or the similar stories sure to come? The same MAGA who defend the serial rapist in the White House, the bosom chum of pedophile sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, will insist, preposterously, that the media is letting Biden off the hook—even as the same MSM that blithely ignores Trump’s history of sexual assault breathlessly recounts the Reade allegations as if they were in the fucking Mueller Report, and not in constant flux (looking at you, Chris Hayes). They will continue to boost the intellectually facile Biden/Kavanaugh comparison:

Meanwhile, Democrats will be, um, unlikely to change their vote:

Will enough swing voters, moderate Republicans, and independents be turned off by the whole thing to make the vote a bit closer? Will they be so disgusted with both sides that they stay home? That is what Trump wants. And he has every incentive in the world to make it happen.

The Tara Reade gambit only works if we fall for it—if we allow it to hurt Joe Biden, as it is intended to do. The way to combat it is not to refute the facts of the allegation, but rather, to fly above the clouds, and see it—and call it out—for what it is: a Trump/Russian op.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore. Former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden speaking with attendees at the 2020 Iowa State Education Association (ISEA) Legislative Conference at the Sheraton West Des Moines Hotel in West Des Moines, Iowa.