Leaders, including Biden and Trump, challenged as women gain power

The final field exercise in Marine Corps basic training was the one time men and women recruits trained together. The task was to carry heavy ammo cans across a rope bridge.

A young man was in charge. A young woman trainee suggested to him how to move the cans without a person having to bear the full weight. The men were strong enough to do it, he said, and rejected her idea.

When the men struggled, she grabbed a can and showed them how to do it. They followed and the cans were moved in time, according to the New York Times story. Later, the designated leader told her, with what the reporter called “a tinge of humor,” that “the females can sometimes think.”

Congress had passed a law ending gender-segregated Marine basic training. But Marine generals still interpret the law to allow dual systems.

The story teaches a couple of lessons. First, there is a “dark state” in which unelected government officials pursue their own agendas. Critics may worry about anonymous liberal bureaucrats, but it turns out some of them are Marine generals.

The second and more important story is that women must be recognized. This case was a simply matter of brains over brawn. In a broader sense, the historic domination by men has to give way to the equality of the sexes.

This is the major change that society in many parts of the world is undergoing. Canada, the U.K., Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Liberia, Chile, India, Israel, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Ireland and Belgium have all had women leaders.

But not the U.S. Some criticize Joe Biden, the presumed Democratic nominee, for narrowing his vice presidential choice by vowing to select a woman. He may see picking a woman as the best way to be sure that his successor will be the first woman president.

But Biden faces his own problem relating to women. Public opinion demands close scrutiny of the hidden history of some men using their power to sexually exploit women. Tara Reade, a former member of his Senate staff, now accuses Biden of sexual harassment in 1993.

Like many other such cases, it is probably impossible to verify the charges by direct evidence. Instead, information about the behavior of both the accuser and the accused may influence judgments about the truth. Each person applies her or his criteria or opinions in evaluating the available information.

When he testified on his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh faced a charge made by Christine Blasey Ford about his alleged abuse of her. He heatedly denied the charge, and it was left to each senator to make a judgment. The Republican Senate confirmed the nominee of a Republican president.

Direct evidence was lacking. Not lacking was the clear evidence of Kavanaugh’s angry and undisciplined reply. Senators might have opposed his appointment, not because of the Ford charge, but because of his intemperate response, displaying demeanor far below what is expected on the Supreme Court.

Biden’s response also raises concern, though for the exact opposite reason. After Reade made her charge, Biden did not immediately provide a personal response and or make all his records available. He did not subject himself to any questioning. His slow reaction allowed suspicions to be raised. Does this say anything about his conduct as president in a crisis?

Should Biden get a pass because he is running against Donald Trump, against whom there is evidence of sexual abuse? After all, it might be argued, we need urgently to defeat Trump and Biden is nowhere nearly in the same league.

That is the kind of judgment people will have to make. The truth about Reade’s claim may never be known, but Biden could have helped himself and shown more respect for women, if he had been prompt and forthright in his response.

The media is also implicated. Trump’s exploitation of women was revealed during the 2016 campaign and since he has been in office. But he never conceded any charge and forgave himself for his own words.

The media recognizes that Trump was elected despite his record with women, They have allowed the election to let the issues fade. Meanwhile, they demand that Biden come completely clean about any possible charges Reade may have filed 27 years ago.

Fair enough on Biden. But this is a new presidential campaign. Every time the media makes demands of Democratic candidate Biden, it should be making the same demands of GOP candidate Trump. The new campaign should not mean he gets a free pass just because he is president.

Gordon L. Weil

About Gordon L. Weil

Gordon L. Weil formerly wrote for the Washington Post and other newspapers, served on the U.S. Senate and EU staffs, headed Maine state agencies and was a Harpswell selectman.