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Opinion

Joe Biden’s very serious #MeToo problem

Joe Biden in South Carolina
Former Vice President Joe Biden broke his silence Friday and denied an accusation that he sexually assaulted a staffer in the 1990s.
(Melina Mara / Washington Post)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, May 2, 2020. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

Good news, dear readers: We begin today with a topic that has all the trappings of pre-pandemic normality. Problem is, “normal” doesn’t necessarily mean “good” (and in this case, I’d say it qualifies as bad), but at least it isn’t the coronavirus.

What’s unsettlingly typical about this week is the fact that one major political party will probably nominate for president a man credibly accused of sexual assault, and I’m not talking about Donald Trump. For weeks, former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, ducked direct questions about the allegation that he assaulted his former Senate staffer Tara Reade in the 1990s, as his surrogates recited denials that grew increasingly tenuous as inconvenient facts emerged. The L.A. Times Editorial Board called on Biden to commission an independent investigation of Reade’s accusations, saying that “the message of the #MeToo movement was that an accusation of sexual impropriety by a powerful man should be taken seriously — including by the subject of the complaint. Even as he protests his innocence, Biden needs to honor that principle.”

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For his part, Biden broke his silence Friday and unequivocally denied Reade’s allegation, which ought to hearten the candidate’s supporters if his claims hold up, writes Michael McGough. Still, it’s impossible not to note the slow, persistent buildup of reporting on Reade’s accusation and compare it to the breathless coverage of Brett Kavanaugh, Al Franken and other credibly accused men. Recalling Melissa Batchelor Warnke’s April 13 Opinion piece, “I will vote for Joe Biden in November. And it will kill me,” I find myself in a similar predicament: This November, given the choice between Biden and arguably the most malevolent and incompetent president in history, I will vote for the man accused of one sexual assault instead of at least two dozen.

And it will kill me.

Back to the “new normal” of a pandemic: If a governor tells people not to crowd the beach, does anyone in Orange County hear it? Not enough of them do, apparently, so last weekend’s concerning display of social distancing denialism prompted the governor to tell Orange County — and only Orange County — “no beach weekend for you.” But, says the editorial board, the state’s mishmash of beach and trail closures is not sustainable, and new evidence suggesting that the risk of coronavirus transmission outdoors is low ought to prompt the reopening of public spaces in a consistent and cautious manner. L.A. Times

Should surfing be allowed in California? Of course: It’s healthy, it’s safe (from a pandemic standpoint), and for most surfers, it’s therapeutic. So why have residents staked out beaches to shame surfers out of the water, and why have authorities up and down the California coast threatened surfers with $1,000 fines? “Our governor, Gavin Newsom, and other state authorities don’t seem to care much about surfing as a way of life,” writes Zoltan Istvan. New York Times

Trump actually wants Michigan’s governor to “make a deal” with armed protesters. Dozens of men and women, some wielding assault rifles and other weapons, stormed the Michigan statehouse this week over Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order, and guess whose side the president leading the federal government’s pandemic response took? Scott Martelle asks, “Since when is it a good idea for the president of the United States to encourage political leaders to cave in to demands by armed protesters?” L.A. Times

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Climate change is still happening, even in the pandemic, and there are worrying signs we’ll resume our carbon profligacy once we’re all driving to work again. First, President Trump’s bizarre and reckless order requiring meat processing plants to stay open, even as their workers are hit hard by the coronavirus, suggests there’s no appetite for forgoing the most carbon-intensive portion of the American diet. Second, anti-density advocates such as Joel Kotkin are already linking the success of Southern California, relative to New York, in flattening the coronavirus curve to the region’s car-powered urban sprawl.

Speaking of climate change, the L.A. Times has a new weekly newsletter on the existential crisis of our time, called Boiling Point, written by our own indispensable energy reporter Sammy Roth; go here to sign up. The other crisis of our time (seems to be an abundance of those right now), the COVID-19 pandemic, also has its own newsletter; go here to sign up for that.

Stay in touch.
If you’ve made it this far, you’re the kind of reader who’d benefit from subscribing to our other newsletters and to the Times.

As always, you can share your feedback by emailing me at paul.thornton@latimes.com.
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