Catholic when convenient, pro-abortion, and now accused, Joe Biden’s defense is the polar opposite of what Joe Biden himself said when Judge Brett Kavanaugh was accused.
“It’s not true; I can tell you unequivocally, it never, ever happened.” These words should by now be familiar to anyone who has followed recent news of accusations of sexual assault against the presumed Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden. I believe him – with a caveat explained below – but his words of defense should also be familiar to readers of These Stone Walls for another reason. I used the same words in my own defense. I have said and written these words repeatedly for 26 years.
“It’s not true; I can tell you unequivocally, it never, ever happened.” I understand Joe Biden’s exasperation. Of interest, the accusations against both of us first surfaced in 1993. Would Joe Biden have extended a presumption of innocence to me? The answer to that is also unequivocal. No, he would not.
Most people do not believe it until they actually see it, but current New Hampshire law dictates that in any claim of sexual assault “The testimony of the victim shall not be required to be corroborated in prosecutions under this chapter” (NH RSA 632:a6). It was Joe Biden himself who pushed for the passage of such laws.
Former Vice President Joe Biden would probably not agree right now that there is no such thing as bad publicity. The soon-to-be Democratic nominee has the unprecedented task of waging a presidential campaign while simultaneously defending himself against the latest #MeToo frenzy and also satisfying all the demands for social distancing imposed by a global pandemic. He campaigns alone, in front of a camera, in his basement.
The Biden campaign is strangely overshadowed by sexual harassment and assault allegations brought by a former Senate staffer, Ms. Tara Reade. At the outset – before I type another word – I must go on record calling for the full spectrum of due process rights and a presumption of innocence in this matter. Without clear evidence, I believe Joe Biden to be innocent. So say we all, I hope. But that, too, is a problem. The fact that Joe Biden has not extended these same civil rights to any other accused man is not a valid reason to deny his.
There are other developments in the Biden campaign that must also make their way into this post. One of them is Mr. Biden’s recent and dramatic political swing to the left. After four decades of presenting himself as a moderate Democrat, Joe Biden is now accommodating himself to the radical progressive left.
This includes embracing abortion as a constitutional right as defined by the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, and his more recent denouncement of the Hyde Amendment that Mr. Biden had supported for decades. The Hyde Amendment – named for its original sponsor, Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R, Ill.) – was a 1976 Supreme Court decision upholding a bipartisan congressional ban on federal funding for abortion.
SHOULD PRIESTS SPEAK ABOUT PARTY POLITICS?
These are hot-button political issues, but they are also moral issues that should be seen and debated from both political and moral perspectives. Writing in a recent issue of the National Catholic Register, columnist John Clark had an op-ed entitled, “Should Priests Speak About Party Politics?” (Feb. 2-15, 2020). His general conclusion is that they should not because doing so may unduly influence the laity or, at worse, alienate them.
I could generally agree if not for the reality that the matter is not so black and white. There are those who see the demand for abortion right up until birth, and any number of other human and civil rights issues such as capital punishment, as strictly political matters for which priests should just butt out.
Some time back, I wrote a controversial post entitled, “Stay of Execution: Catholic Conscience and the Death Penalty.” It generated over forty comments. Most were supportive of my view, but a few – including some harsh and attacking ones that did not get posted – suggested that as a priest, I have no business writing about “a purely political matter.” The right to life, however, is first and foremost a moral one. I believe priests have a moral and sacred responsibility, to reflect moral truths regardless of any political fallout for doing so.
I wrote that post as a rebuttal to a letter from another priest published in Our Sunday Visitor. The priest’s letter called for expanding use of the death penalty in the United States. He cited excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but only those that articulated the right of a civil government to impose capital punishment. The priest-writer omitted the compelling excerpt (CCC 2267) which presents capital punishment as a rare last resort based only on conditions that no longer even exist in modern criminal justice systems.
Most readers of these pages gasp when faced with the reality that under the tenets of the law cited by that priest in Our Sunday Visitor, our friend Pornchai Moontri could have faced public execution. The application of justice cannot ignore conversion, repentance, and the unique circumstances in which an act is committed. It is easy to opt for death until it has a name and a face – and a soul.
So, yes, as a priest I have both a right and a responsibility to speak and write on the wide gray area between political and moral issues. I take my cue in this from two priests who I think have exhibited clear moral reasoning in their pro-life advocacy. One is Bishop Joseph Coffey, Auxiliary Bishop of the United States Military Ordinariate (pictured above).
The other is Father Frank Pavone, founder of Priests for Life, the Facebook Group for which I am a member and contributing writer. Here is Father Pavone’s March 13 Twitter message:
- “@frfrankpavone: Breaking – Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to guarantee federal funding for abortion in the coronavirus stimulus plan. People, this is the swamp! The evil and disgusting swamp @realDonaldTrump and @VP will need 4 more years to get rid of! #maga #trump2020.”
As a priest, I stop short of actually endorsing a candidate, but I have to admire Father Pavone’s courage and integrity for not framing Catholic Nancy Pelosi’s moral deceit in politically correct tones.
THE BURDEN OF JOE BIDEN’S ABORTION RIGHTS
After four decades of support for the Hyde Amendment, Joe Biden has caved to the once progressive wing that is now at the heart of the Democratic Party. He has denounced the 1976 Hyde Amendment which, for over four decades, has been the bipartisan compromise protecting U.S. taxpayers from violating their consciences by funding abortions. There is no longer a candidate – or even a place – in the Democratic Party for the pro-life cause.
In reference to abortion rights, you may have seen the legal term, “stare decisis” as an obstacle to revisiting the 1973 precedent set in Roe v. Wade. The term is Latin for “to stand by things already decided.”
“Stare decisis” is a principle of law which holds that once a case has been decided or settled by a competent court, it will no longer be considered as open to a new ruling by the same court unless it is for urgent or exceptional reasons. In a landmark post on TSW, I wrote about some of these exceptional reasons – and a precedent for overturning a precedent – in “March for Life: A New Great Awakening.”
In 1973, Roe v. Wade overturned laws concerning abortion restrictions in all fifty states. But the actual constitutional right to an abortion was decided and defined in 1992 in a split 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. To date, Justice Clarence Thomas is the sole Supreme Court justice to openly endorse overturning Roe v. Wade or Planned Parenthood.
The High Court will eventually again address abortion rights, but it is likely to be in increments. Repealing the Hyde Amendment, thus forcing taxpayers to violate their consciences, may to be a major incremental step in that direction.
But I doubt this has anything to do with Candidate Biden’s decision to withdraw his four-decade support for the Hyde Amendment. It has only to do with polls. In 1996, 58-percent of voters favored retaining the Hyde Amendment. In a 2020 Politico poll, 45-percent of Democratic primary voters favored eliminating its ban on taxpayer funded abortions compared to 38-percent in favor of keeping it, a 20-percent drop among Democrats.
Reshaping one’s moral center and conscience in pursuit of votes reveals more about a candidate’s character than his platform. Joe Biden now gives pro-life Democrats nowhere to stand within the Party. Those who are pro-life, but wary of Trump, have a burden I described in 2016 in “Clinton v Trump: “The Burden of a Vote.”
Why Joe Biden chooses to alienate pro-life voters of conscience in favor of a radically progressive left is a mystery. During the third presidential debate in 2016, Republican nominee Donald Trump delivered a more energetic pro-life argument than any previous nominee. In the face of great media scorn, he described late-term abortions in gruesome detail. Hilary Clinton responded by doubling down with a defense of the practice.
This was the deciding point for many pro-life voters, and it was a significant factor in the 2016 election. And Trump delivered, not only with his federal court nominees, but also by appearing and speaking in person at the annual March for Life, the first sitting president in U.S. history to do so.
THE BURDEN OF JOE BIDEN’S #METOO MOMENT
There are credibility issues to be weighed on both sides of the “he said/she said” sexual harassment and assault claims leveled against Mr. Biden by former Senate staffer, Tara Reade. Foremost for me has been Joe Biden’s stance and demeanor when others were similarly accused. At the time Judge Brett Kavanaugh was being grilled for the claims of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford that turned out to be entirely uncorroborated, Biden told reporters:
- “For a woman to come forward with the glaring lights of focus nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real.”
In multiple other statements, Biden stressed that “Women should be believed.” Today, he is asking voters not to believe this woman, and not to start off with any presumption that what this woman is talking about is real. As for credibility, he did not help himself in a May 1, 2020 MSNBC interview when he was asked if he remembers Ms. Reade. He did not answer the simple question. He only said, “I don’t remember any accusation of misconduct.”
Tara Reade may have some credibility problems of her own. On May 6, 2020, Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson cautioned that the news media should be very wary of being used and being lied to by both sides. He pointed out that Tara Reade, a self-described life-long Democrat, supported Bernie Sanders in the primary. In early March she issued a cryptic Twitter message alluding to waiting for something that might alter the public view. Her message was “@BernieSanders – Timing is everything… tic toc… Wait for it.”
No one knows what that means, but it is not evidence that Tara Reade is lying. At worst, it may mean there is a political motive in bringing all this forward now. Tucker Carlson at Fox News stressed a call for a presumption of innocence for Mr. Biden. I admire him and Fox News for that. You did not see that same media restraint at CNN or The New York Times when Judge Brett Kavanaugh was in the Democrats’ crosshairs.
One compelling factor for Ms. Reade is a recording that surfaced from a Larry King Live broadcast on CNN from August 11, 1993. The caller, a woman from San Luis Obispo, CA, described that her daughter had left “after working for a prominent senator, and could not get through with all her problems.”
The caller said her daughter has a story to tell, but hesitated because telling it could ruin the senator’s career and she otherwise admired that senator for his work on women’s rights. Tara Reade has stated that her mother lived in San Luis Obispo in 1993. Ms. Reade today says that she decided to come forward with her story of inappropriate touching after reading about other women who had complained of Mr. Biden touching them in ways that made them feel uncomfortable. Another factor in Ms. Reade’s favor is her 1996 divorce filing in which her former husband cited her sexual harassment at the hands of a US Senator as a turning point in their marriage.
THE BURDEN OF JOE BIDEN’S DOUBLE STANDARD
I do not understand this aspect of the story. Many in politics and the news media are stating that they have never heard of any allegations about inappropriate touching by Mr. Biden. This rings a familiar tone. The same was said by many bishops when former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was accused while the truth is that such stories were talked about for years.
Mr. Biden himself has said that he hears this concern about his tendency to impose familiarity with women with gestures such as rubbing their shoulders or smelling their hair. In some circles, he was called “Creepy Joe” even before Tara Reade’s accusations.
Mr. Biden has long been a champion for women’s rights and for the victims of abuse and harassment. His biggest legislative success was the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. He also served as the point man for the Obama Administration’s efforts to change a culture on U.S. college campuses that some saw as contributing to sexual assault and harassment.
He changed that culture by leading the charge to throw out virtually all due process rights for the accused, adopting the most minimum standard of evidence – credibility – to suffice for concluding guilt and punishing the accused. This standard has also applied to Catholic priests since 2002.
But as a result of Joe Biden’s promotion of this victim-centered presumption of guilt, multiple cases of false allegations have destroyed the rights of accused students. Recall the near condemnation of the falsely accused Duke University lacrosse players, and the “Rape on Campus” fiasco for which a disgraced Rolling Stone reporter was unmasked in a post I wrote entitled, “The Path of Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s Rolling Stone.”
The Human Rights Defense Center could by no means be described as a politically conservative endeavor. Among its publications is a monthly journal called Prison Legal News. Its March 2020 issue contains an article by David M. Reutter entitled, “Biden’s Current Prison Reform Stance Counter to His Abysmal Record.”
The article cites Joe Biden’s long history of legislating for the draconian swelling of America’s prisons by eroding the rights of accused defendants. In regard to a plan to address the war on drugs composed by President George H.W. Bush in 1989, Biden appeared on network news stating:
- “Quite frankly, the president’s plan is not tough enough, bold enough, or imaginative enough to meet the crisis at hand… to hold every drug user accountable. [It] doesn’t include enough police officers to catch the violent thugs, not enough prosecutors to convict them, not enough judges to sentence them, and not enough prison cells to put them away for a long time.”
In 2008 his presidential campaign referenced the “Biden Crime Law,” proudly touting his securing the funding to dramatically increase the U.S. prison population by building more prisons. In 2016, he was asked on CNN if he was today ashamed of that law. “Not at all,” he replied. “As a matter of fact, I drafted the bill.”
In January of 2018, Biden addressed the disparity of sentencing between cocaine and “crack” cocaine saying that it was a big mistake. “We were told that crack was somehow fundamentally different,” he said while advocating for treatment in prison for crack cocaine users. According to David M. Reutter’s article above, his son, “Hunter Biden, was a well-known crack cocaine user who had been to rehab several times, but never prison.”
In the face of accusation, the protections of due process should apply to everyone, including those like Joe Biden who have denied them to others. I have to give the last word to The Wall Street Journal’s William McGurn who in “Al Franken’s Revenge” his op-ed of May 5, 2020 concluded:
- “Meanwhile, Democrats are learning what hell is: being held to the same standards they impose on everyone else.”
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