Saturday, May 02, 2020

Brett Stephens on Joe Biden and the Shifting Standards of the Left

Regarding Tara Reade’s allegation that she was sexually assaulted by Joe Biden in 1993, and what the allegation could mean for Democrats this fall, some stock phrases come to mind. Hoisted on their own petard. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Be careful what you wish for.

Above all: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Let’s not start with the Brett Kavanaugh precedent. Or with the vindictive excesses of the #MeToo movement, typified by the Aziz Ansari story, the “Shitty Media Men List” and Al Franken’s resignation from the Senate. Go back further than Juanita Broaddrick’s appearance, like Banquo’s ghost, at the second debate in 2016, which did so much to blunt the Clinton campaign’s case about Donald Trump’s moral unfitness for office.

Rewind instead to 2011, when then-Vice President Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced a new policy of “comprehensive guidance” on matters of sexual violence and harassment for any school, college or university receiving federal aid. The guidance, issued in the form of a “Dear Colleague” letter, demanded that campus administrators use a “preponderance of evidence” standard — also known as “50 percent plus a feather” — to adjudicate accusations of sexual assault.

As with so many such policies, the intentions were irreproachable. To take a zero-tolerance attitude toward every form of sexual abuse. To transform the way that women thought of their experiences of abuse and of their rights. To teach men to think much harder about their behavior and their responsibilities. As Biden put it in a 2015 speech, “We need a fundamental change in our culture. And the quickest way to change culture is to change it on campuses of America.”

But if the goal was laudable, the means frequently were not. It’s one thing to use a “preponderance of evidence” standard in a civil case. It’s another when there’s a 50 percent minus a feather chance that an innocent person might have his (and occasionally her) reputation destroyed and life wrecked by a dubious accusation.

Within a few years there were at least hundreds of such cases. Accused students, sometimes facing charges based on ambiguous sexual encounters, were left to fend for themselves in campus tribunals with little regard for due process. Guilty verdicts in these kangaroo courts tended to run high, but so did stories of financial settlements between schools and the families of the accused.

Read the rest here.

(Note: I had previously posted this with links from the Times in the text. Unfortunately, for reasons beyond my 1980's technical knowledge, the html seems to have wiped out the blog's sidebar. So if you want to read the whole thing with the original links embedded, just click above.)

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