Former vice president Joe Biden has a chance to redeem himself at Tuesday night’s Democratic debate. He has not done anything ethically wrong, mind you — he carried out President Barack Obama and the West’s anti-corruption agenda in pushing out an ineffective prosecutor — but he has run a mediocre defense of himself and his son Hunter.
While the younger Biden did not say anything objectionable in an interview with ABC broadcast Tuesday morning, I am at a loss to explain the strategy involved in putting him up for examination and thereby giving a lift to President Trump’s false equivalence. Moreover, Hunter Biden acknowledged and underscored the one legitimate area of criticism. “Was it poor judgment to be in the middle of something that is … a swamp in many ways? Yeah,” he said. “I gave a hook to some very unethical people to act in illegal ways to try to do some harm to my father. That’s where I made the mistake. So I take full responsibility for that. Did I do anything improper? No, not in any way. Not in any way whatsoever.”
Perhaps we can feel a bit sorry for a man who has had his share of personal issues and knows he gets used because his last name is Biden, but why in the world are we talking about Hunter Biden when the real issue is first, Trump’s impeachable conduct, and second, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s gross corruption in making money while working in the White House. Seriously, why has Joe Biden not gone on offense there, demanding they divest or leave the White House?
The former vice president will have his chance Tuesday night at the debate when moderators will almost certainly ask him about his and his son’s role in Ukraine. Biden should come out blazing. His answer might go something like this: “Let me get this straight: You’re asking about my son who has been repeatedly exonerated of any wrongdoing and my own work fighting Ukrainian corruption while the guy in the White House solicited help from Ukraine in violation of campaign laws and wanted them to manufacture dirt on my son and help prove his wackadoodle theory that the Democratic National Committee server was in Ukraine?” Biden might continue, “I’m going to talk about the most serious betrayal of American democracy and the Constitution in U.S. history, a president not only going to a foreign country to interfere in our elections but also to extort help using the promise of a meeting and release of aid.”
Biden would do well to give a mini-course in the impeachment revelations. (Such as: “All around him people knew this was wrong and tried to hide evidence of a disastrous phone call.”) He should reiterate that Trump is doing all this because he sees Biden as the one Democrat exempt from “socialist” accusations whose ties to working-class voters is second to none. He might also dare his opponents to pledge their own kids would take the same pledge of noninvolvement in overseas business as Hunter Biden has.
In sum, Joe Biden’s record of honorable public service evidences no whiff of actual wrongdoing. His campaign to date, however, raises questions about the “electability” of a candidate who cannot capitalize on his opponent’s impeachment. He can go a long way Tuesday night toward impressing voters that Trump is right in fearing Biden as the Democratic nominee.