If nothing changes, there’s a good chance Trump’s attempt to “both-sides” the Ukraine extortion scandal away will work. Trump tweet-screamed about FAKE NEWS, THE REAL STORY and SPIES all of yesterday and is at it again today, now with the full Fox News/GOP elected officials chorus.
Someone made a slick video ad for him that intersperses clips of mainstream media yapping heads (NYT’s Ken Vogel [see here], ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, NBC’s Brian Williams, etc.), all breathlessly speculating about the propriety of Hunter Biden raking in money abroad while his father was VP.
The ad also features a clip of Biden as VP bragging about giving the Ukrainian government an ultimatum to fire the (corrupt!) prosecutor within “six hours” or kiss billion-dollar loan guarantees bye-bye. If you’re not aware of the context (and remember, maybe 3% of Americans are aware of the context), it’s the most both-sidesiest thing ever.
Now, folks who pay attention know the allegations that Biden had the prosecutor fired to protect his son were investigated and amounted to nothing. From what I’ve read, it wasn’t just the US and Biden who urged the Ukrainian government to get rid of the corrupt prosecutor and generally clean up its act; NATO allies took the same “tough love” approach, and they weren’t doing it to protect Hunter Biden. But if you’re explaining, you’re losing. Trump is counting on that.
He’s also counting on the general public’s cynicism about corruption and influence peddling in politics — a cynicism Trump himself has amplified exponentially with his emoluments factory hotels and resorts, hush-money payments, felonious campaign staff, shockingly unqualified nepotism hires and cabinet members’ sundry scams. But Trump learned in 2016 that he doesn’t need to get the public to like or trust him; he just needs to make his opponent seem as bad or worse than he is, and the media will eagerly assist in this project.
It’s already happening, as y’all have noted in justifiably angry comments in a boatload of threads this week. It’s Butter Emailz II, with similar drip-drip-drip potential.
Now, this part might get me clubbed like a baby seal in comments, but I’m going to say it anyway: This issue will resonate in part because voters will rightly wonder what a foreign gas company was buying when it paid Biden’s son $50K per month (along with John Kerry’s already fabulously rich stepson).
It was all perfectly legal. So was General Mattis’s acceptance of a wad of cash to serve as board member of scammy Theranos and General Kelly’s membership on a private prison board that makes money off the Trump child separation atrocities Kelly oversaw.
I don’t mean to suggest an equivalency there but rather to point out that there’s a pattern in which well-connected people with no special relevant skills collect gigantic paychecks because of who they know. It’s legal. It’s routine. Mostly, it’s Republicans, but some Democrats do it too. And I don’t blame voters for thinking the whole thing stinks, because it does.
The Obama administration understood that, which is why some officials were uncomfortable with Hunter Biden’s activities back in 2014. From The New Yorker:
Several former officials in the Obama Administration and at the State Department insisted that Hunter’s role at Burisma had no effect on his father’s policies in Ukraine, but said that, nevertheless, Hunter should not have taken the board seat. As the former senior White House aide put it, there was a perception that “Hunter was on the loose, potentially undermining his father’s message.” The same aide said that Hunter should have recognized that at least some of his foreign business partners were motivated to work with him because they wanted “to be able to say that they are affiliated with Biden.” A former business associate said, “The appearance of a conflict of interest is good enough, at this level of politics, to keep you from doing things like that.”
The article was published July 1 and is entitled: “Will Hunter Biden Jeopardize His Father’s Campaign?” It’s a good article, IMO, and sympathetic. But it also underscores that the Bidens knew what was coming while gearing up for a run against the most corrupt person to ever occupy the Oval Office.
The Republicans are overwhelmingly corrupt, so it’s not fair that “optics” are held against Democrats while Trump openly loots the Treasury. It sucks that the media pirouettes from a shocking abuse of power by Trump to debunked claims about Biden in the same breath. But the double standard is nothing new, and whoever the nominee is, Trump’s campaign will use “both sides” plus obfuscation as a wedge to persuade millions of eligible voters who didn’t bother to show up in 2016 to stay home in 2020 too.
So, what can we do about this shit show? I think we need to go on offense, and the most effective theme of that offense — the issue the Trump administration is crying out to be clobbered with, repeatedly, is anti-corruption. We could start by opening impeachment hearings on Monday. Not an impeachment vote — formal impeachment hearings with full subpoena power.
Go at Trump and everyone associated with him hard on the blatant corruption, abuse of power and obstruction of justice in this target-rich environment. Take every subpoena-flouter to court and hold them in contempt. (Some of this work has already begun, but it’s time to formalize it, publicize it and ramp it up.) When Trump toadies deign to show up or are forced by the courts to appear, get that Burke fellow back to do the questioning instead of letting the members alternate bloviations.
Democrats should relentlessly focus on Trump and his sleazy administration’s corruption in hearings and in the media too. They should learn not to answer media questions posed in Republican framing. When reporters ask about Hunter Biden, ask why Trump passed over the legal successor to former DNI Dan Coats and put a hack in that important job so he could illegally withhold a whistleblower complaint.
When asked about the Department of Justice, ask why William Barr’s father hired known degenerate college dropout Jeffrey Epstein to teach at a fancy prep school, and follow up by asking why Barr lied about the contents of the Mueller report and why he’s interfering in the DNI whistleblower case. In a thousand ways, go on OFFENSE instead of allowing the sleazy prick in the White House and his propaganda outlets to paint the Democratic Party’s current frontrunner as yet another corrupt pol.
It’s a leap of faith, impeachment hearings, because once they begin, they have to end one way or another, and we know the Senate won’t convict. There aren’t currently enough members in the House who’ve indicated they’d vote to impeach, but that’s okay because the purpose of the hearings is to establish evidence of the crimes.
We have to be confident the weight of the evidence will be sufficient to move a sufficient number of Democrats to vote to impeach, and my God, aren’t we confident of that? Air every bit of that dirty laundry in public and hang it around Republicans’ necks at every opportunity.
Another offensive play should include a renewed, party-wide pledge to be the anti-corruption party, the party of honest government. The Obama administration set the gold standard in modern times on this score — not a single indictment in eight years. Obama administration officials worried about how Hunter Biden’s perfectly legal activities looked because, in the Obama administration, appearances mattered because they matter to the public, and they drive the press, at least when a Democrat has questionable “optics.”
As a party, we should aspire to be that sensitive to public confidence in the integrity of government again at every level. And we should go even further by codifying what have been informal agreements on what is and is not kosher, an honor system Trump and company have trampled. Elizabeth Warren’s Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act is a good starting point, regardless of who is the nominee.
Any of our candidates could run on an anti-corruption platform that promises to address the white collar crime wave. Klobuchar, Harris or Warren would be especially well suited, but Biden could pull it off too. He was a key figure in a squeaky clean administration, and he could even turn the baggage from his long career as “Senator from MBNA” into an asset if he fully embraces the issue now. If sleazy, corrupt slimeball Trump could sell “Drain the Swamp,” Joe Biden could sell a campaign to restore public trust in democracy by driving out the swamp monsters in the the most scandal-laden administration in history.
I know there’s a lot of skepticism and distrust about what role the media would play in all of this — impeachment hearings, the campaign, etc. — and it’s justified. But we have to work with the media we have, and we can manipulate them as effectively as Trump does if we make a fucking show out of this thing.
Mainstream media outlets hunt eyeballs, not truth. Well, give them eyeballs AND truth. Make shocking claims about the venality, corruption and criminality of this administration and its Republican enablers, because right now, the truth is pretty goddamned shocking.
Maybe the media will ignore it. Maybe no one will care. Maybe this is just the way things are. If so, we might as well find that out right now. Our democracy can’t survive a complete collapse of public confidence in government and with it, the consent of the governed to abide by a set of rules that only apply to certain people.
It’s not just the right thing to do; it’s an opportunity to truly change things. It’s a unique moment in history to reverse the tide, with the perfect avatar of greed, corruption and amorality sitting in the Oval Office with his entire crooked and spineless political party supine before him. But the time is now, and we have to summon the courage to take that chance.
Okay, if you stuck around for all of this, you deserve a reward, and here it is:
doctor doolittle is *the worst*, yet it contains cinema's greatest minute pic.twitter.com/nZRgY3Db9b
— Neely O'Horror (@_katiestebbins_) September 17, 2019