top of page the fullest extent of the law: a plea for due process

Updated: Apr 13, 2019

J.R. Romano, Chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party, is angry with state Democrats for not favoring the prosecution of Joe Biden to the "fullest extent of the law."

I'd like to see what the fullest extent of the law is in cases regarding putting one's hands on a woman's shoulders and planting “a big slow kiss” on the back of her head. I'm not a woman, but as act like that would annoy the hell out of me; still, I don't think I'd press charges. Or what is the fullest extent of the law in cases where a man pulls a woman toward him to rub noses (!) and appear ready to kiss him. This would infuriate me, but again, I'd probably forgo the 9-1-1 call.

Again, I'm not speaking from a woman's perspective, a fact that leaves me ignorant of countless other factors. That's why in some ways I wish we could bring an assault charge against Mr. Biden. What we need is some form of due process in every case like this.

Herewith a brief history of men behaving badly:

  1. Bill Clinton was accused, lied about it, confessed it, refused to resign, and watched his approval ratings soar.

  2. Gary Hart was accused, resigned, and disappeared from politics.

  3. Barack Obama admitted to using a little "blow" as a youth. No big deal, he said. Voters agreed. Two terms.

  4. Al Franken admitted to some inappropriate acts, resigned, and disappeared from politics.

  5. Then there's the president, who lied about it, lied about it, lied about it, etc., refused to drop out of the election, and won.

If there's a lesson to be learned here, it's this: admit it and move on. Or lie and move on. But don't quit. Biden has already admitted the deeds, has even vowed to be more aware. He's a politician, of course, and expected to be "politic," but all we can do is believe him until he proves not to be truthful or not to change his ways. I don't think he should quit his possible presidential run, but due process would take this out of the realm of opinion.

Think of the Al Franken incident and Kirsten Gillibrand. It was she who demanded Franken's resignation. but what she should have demanded was due process. Let Mr. Franken stand before his accusers—even our Supreme Court rapist Brett Kavanaugh did that. Then, if the proof supports removel, dismissal, resignation, whatever, throw him out. Gillibrand's heavy-handed display still rankles me, and though she'll never be the Democratic presidential nominee, I can still take some solace in the fact that I wouldn't vote for her.

As for Biden's two recent accusers, there are some rumblings about Lucy Flores, but there doesn't seem to be any doubt about their veracity—Biden has himself provided corroboration. So what do we do now, as voters? Are these two incidents a deal-breaker? Biden does not appear ever to have assaulted anyone, but he is guilty of being stuck in a time warp when running for office involved "pressing the flesh"; and though personal space has always existed, the term has not. If we forgive him, must we forgive Trump? Are they guilty of the same indiscretions? The same assaults? Do we end up on a slippery slope if we admit to gradations of inappropriate behavior? Or do we begin to think more critically?

(My apologies: one is not supposed to load up an op-ed piece with questions; otherwise the op part goes begging. more.)

Putting politics aside for a moment, can we agree that we'll all be better off when every woman will feel at ease reacting to an inappropriate hug with, "I'm not comfortable with that, please don't do it again," and when men will feel at ease saying, "I'm sorry. I won't."

That's going to take some time, and that's why we can't simply ignore antediluvian behavior like Biden's; but we also can't summarily punish an act of seemingly benign intent which was, by both accusers' own description, non-sexual.

We are, all of us, from #metoo to @JoeBiden, works in progress. Sometimes that progress is glacially slow, hindered even more by annoying plateaus. But declaring every setback a catastrophe leaves us vulnerable: when a real one comes along, we won't even recognize it.

After all, we didn't recognize it three years ago.

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