I’m Sorry, But We Don’t Need Nominees with Big Blind Spots in their Mental Landscape

blind spots

There is much to admire about Hillary Clinton and much to admire about Joe Biden. And, my, how we all wish Hillary were president right now. But the woman’s picture of herself blinded her to how her actions would look to others. And she just couldn’t get her head around the rancidness of our current political situation. Joe Biden has some debilitating blind spots as well—not exactly the same as Hillary’s visual deficiencies, but roughly similar in kind.

A couple of weeks ago a columnist named David Von Drehle wrote a column “reasoning” that Democrats were unwise to proceed with impeachment because that would just let Trump tear apart their leading candidate, Joe Biden. You will immediately see that there are lots of flaws in that “reasoning” beginning with this: impeachment or no impeachment, Trump was still gonna go after Joe and his son with a bunch of big lies.

(Parenthetically, one wonders how much Mr. Von Drehle was paid to pen this nonsense. Maybe I should apply for his job.)

Yesterday, in another column, The Hunter Biden story is a troubling tale of privilege, Von Drehle shot his arrow closer to the mark. He wrote,

There’s an old saying about addiction. The man takes a drink (or a sniff), then the drink takes a drink, until the drink takes the man. It will take the bystanders, too, if they let it. Addiction is ravenous. But there was always someone in Joe Biden’s life to help him out with Hunter. It’s heartwarming when family and friends swoop in to care for the boys while Daddy serves the people of Delaware. But little boys have little needs, while big boys have bigger needs.

Soon enough, directionless Hunter has a six-figure job at a bank run by Biden supporters. When Hunter grows bored, there’s another lucrative job under the tutelage of a former Biden staffer. When Hunter wants a house he can’t afford, he receives a loan for 110 percent of the purchase price. And when he goes bust, another friendly banker mops up the damage.

Then his brother Beau contracts fatal brain cancer, and the last wobbly wheels come off Hunter Biden’s fragile self. At this point, the New Yorker piece  becomes a gonzo nightmare — much of it narrated by Hunter himself — of hallucinations, a car abandoned in the desert, maxed-out credit cards, a crack pipe, a strip club and a brandished gun.

If, as the [New Yorker] headline put it, Hunter Biden now jeopardizes his father’s campaign, the article makes clear Joe Biden feels a share of the blame. Yet, by the time the senator was vice president, the folks still willing to help Hunter were of a sketchier variety. There was a Chinese businessman who, Hunter said, left him a large diamond as a nice-to-meet-you gift. And a Ukrainian oligarch who hired Hunter at a princely sum to do nothing much. (Neither the firm nor Hunter Biden identified any specific contribution he made). Joe Biden’s response, according to his son, was: “I hope you know what you are doing.”

Hope! What family of an addict hasn’t fallen back to that last trench? Denial, they say, is not just a river in Egypt.

Von Drehle concludes with these thoughts—and here, in my opinion, is where the rubber meets the road:

In sum, the story of the Bidens, father and son, is more pathetic than nefarious. Yet it might do damage anyway. Less privileged Americans can’t be faulted if they wonder why their addicted loved ones are on the streets or in the morgue while the vice president’s son is blessed with diamonds and sinecures. Multitudes locked up for years under Joe Biden’s crime bill might ask why the author’s son traveled the world scot-free. And sober working people making $50,000 a year may be skeptical of a system in which a vice president’s addicted son reportedly collected that sum every month.

What Progressives Need to Do with Joe Biden

Thank him for his service. Hold a big party in his honor. And promise him a nice job in the next administration, but only on condition that Hunter stops trading on his father’s position.

**

This morning, I see I have some readers in Ukraine. How sweet it is. HELLOOOOO PRESIDENT ZELINSKY!

Circling the Wagons

circling the wagons

N.Y. Times, May 1, 2019 ,Biden Faces Conflict of Interest Questions That Are Being Promoted by Trump and Allies

Business Insider, Sept. 21, 2019, Here’s the truth about the allegations involving Joe Biden’s son and Ukraine drummed up by Trump and Rudy Guiliani

Republican senators, we are told, are by and large not circling the wagons around Trump. Meanwhile, it seems, lots of folks arecircling the wagons around Joe Biden. Claiming to have learned from Hillary Clinton’s missteps, they are refusing to answer questions about Hunter Biden and haranguing the press not to inquire.

Let me review the bidding here.

Hunter Biden, now aged 49, son of Joe Biden, is a Yale Law grad, sometime lobbyist, sometime business consultant, and sometime international dealmaker. Between 2014 and April of this year, Biden the Younger served as a director of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian corporation that produces natural gas. On the corporate board, Biden served along side a “high profile international” group of fellow directors assembled by the company’s principal, a Mr. Mykola Zlochevsky, typically described as a Ukrainian “oligarch.”

Some say that Mr. Zlochevsky and his company had a penchant for money laundering, tax evasion, and miscellaneous acts of corruption. These suspicions led the local authorities to investigate the alleged wrongdoing.

The extent of Burisma’s payments to Biden the Younger, and the reasons for those payments, are not clear. During all or part of his relationship with Burisma, he was wearing three hats:

  • first, as a Burisma director
  • second, as an employee of Boies Schiller Flexner, a well respected firm providing legal services to Burisma, the exact nature of which remains unknown, and, last but far from least,
  • as a principal in international consulting company that received millions in payments from Burisma.

Biden the younger has denied that his legal efforts involved any investigation of Burisma or Mr. Zlochevsky. According to the younger Biden, “I explicitly limited my role to focus on corporate governance best practices to facilitate Burisma’s desire to expand globally.” (That may or may not be the case, but one would suppose that, wearing his other hat, that of director, he would have a duty to be concerned with the company’s criminal exposure, if any.)

As for Biden the Elder, he has said that he learned of Biden the Younger’s excellent Ukrainian adventure by reading the newspapers—and that he never discussed these activities with his son. His son says that’s right.

Why Did Zlochevsky Hire Biden the Younger?

Three explanations are metaphysically possible.

One. Zlochevsky was bribing Joe Biden. Two. Zlochevsky was unsuccessfully attempting to bribe Joe Biden. (Unsuccessful, that is, because Biden the Younger paid over none of the loot to Biden the Elder, and because Biden the Elder took no account of his son’s activities.) Three, Zlochevsky regarded the payments as money well spent to create the impression that he had an in with the Vice President of the United States, who was at the time tasking a large interest in Ukrainian corruption, a topic with which Mr. Zlochevsky was familiar. Possibilities two and three are consistent with one another, and might both be true.

Joe’s Got Some ‘Splainin’ to Do

Sometimes our close friends and family do things that are unwise—even things that cause us serious harm. That’s just the way life is. A situation like that creates all sorts of dilemmas. It’s hard to know how to respond. And, in the final analysis, you can’t control the unwise decisions made by a son in his forties.

All that said, it just doesn’t work to say, when a reporter thrusts a microphone in your face and asks for comment, “Move along. Nothing to see here. Don’t ask me any more questions. And if you do ask me any more questions, obviously you’re a tool of Trump. And if you persist and keep on raising the issue, then I’ll just throw a hissy fit.”

Nor will it work to claim that “the real story is Donald Trump’s betrayal of his oath of office.”

Well, that’s ONE real story, all right.

But it’s not the ONLY real story.

I Can Relate to Biden—to the Elder and to the Younger

I can relate because I did a fair amount of legal work for bad actors on the international scene. Not to help them commit new crimes and frauds, but, yes, to help protect them from the crimes and frauds they may have committed in the past. And, in many cases, to help them clean up their act going forward.

But if my father had been a leading US politician, with a special concern over corruption in a particular foreign country, I would have had the sense to decline representation of malefactors in that country. And my father would have had a moral right to ask me to decline any such legal work.

Joe just cannot claim the moral high ground here while denying there is anything wrong and denouncing anyone who says otherwise.

That dog won’t hunt.

splainin

Ain’t Gonna Be Biden, Folks

busing

In January, a reporter contacted the nascent Biden campaign to request an interview. She wanted to ask the former vice president about lingering criticisms that were bound to come up on the trail: how, as a senator, he failed Anita Hill; his lead role in the 1994 crime bill; his vote for the Iraq war; his mixed record on abortion rights; his handsy ways; the hot mess that is Hunter.

And that little girl was me.

Maureen Dowd, Kamala Shotguns Joe Sixpack.

Read on. Read on.

There You Go Again, Joe

money bags

Paul Waldman, Biden’s comments about segregationists and the rich are deeply problematic

Jonathan Chait, Joe Biden’s Segregationist Nostalgia Is Even More Ignorant Than It Sounds

This afternoon, the talking heads are talking about Joe Biden’s eyebrow-raising comments to a bunch of rich supporters in New York. There are many things that might be said—see, for example, the two sources cited above—but let me just make two quick points.

How to Pitch the Rich

Waldman remarks,

Biden knows his audience. His pitch to them is not that we must reduce inequality because it’s a fundamental wrong, but because if we don’t, the masses will rise up in anger and you never know what might happen then.

My observation: it’s true that inequality has gotten way out of hand, and if it isn’t reduced, the poor are likely to rise up at some point and make things very uncomfortable for the rich. In other words, narrow, amoral economic self-interest on the part of the plutocracy would dictate that the plutocracy do something to let the pressure cooker vent, before it’s too late.

Biden was advocating that some rich people should give him some money. When you’re advocating, you don’t make the argument that is the best and most noble. You make the (true) argument that is most likely to appeal to your audience.

Biden is not to be faulted for telling his audience something that is true and is likely to appeal to them, rather than telling them something else that is also true, but will have less appeal. At least that’s my opinion.

But Biden’s viewpoint suffers, in my view, from quite a different, and very fundamental, defect.

Failing the Sunzi Test

Know yourself, know your enemy, hundred battles, hundred victories. Hillary Clinton lost for many reasons, but among the most important was her failure to understand what political currents she was dealing with. I very much fear that Joe Biden suffers from the same mental defect: you can make nice all you want with Mitch McConnell and his ilk, but they are not going to make nice with you.

If you do not understand whether the battlefield is hilly or level, you are likely to make big mistakes. I am very much afraid Biden does not understand where he is. And, lacking an understanding of the most fundamental facts about the current political environment, any success he may have will largely come as a matter of accident.

I do not like to depend just on dumb luck. An appropriate strategy, along with well-chosen and skillfully implemented tactics, are much to be preferred.

A Lunchtime Discussion

Today, I had the privilege of eating lunch with a person whom I greatly admire—one who has walked with princes and presidents, whose wisdom has been sought by foreign heads of state, but who has remained grounded through it all.

As we finished our lunch, my friend allowed as how Elizabeth Warren is looking better and better. I agree.

I’m still concerned that she told the Texas Bar Association that she was an Indian. I’m tempted to say that we have all done some squirrely things in our time, but, to tell the truth, I really can’t think of anything comparable that I might have done.

Still, nobody’s perfect.