by Matthew Yglesias · December 5, 2019
This morning in Iowa, former Vice President Joe Biden faced off with a voter who accused him of sending his son, Hunter Biden, to Ukraine to “sell access.” Biden’s response seemed to be to challenge the questioner to a push-up contest or an IQ test, as well as accuse the man of watching too much television and being “sedentary.”
Stylistically, Biden reminds me here of John McCain, whom I always found incredibly annoying but was generally very popular and well-liked. However, the real issue is the substance — Biden doesn’t quite know what to say about Hunter.
WATCH: A tense exchange with a voter at @JoeBiden’s event in New Hampton, IA this morning, where a voter started out by telling Biden he had two problems with him: he was too old, and his son’s work in Ukraine pic.twitter.com/ok7m0ShFPd
— Molly Nagle (@MollyNagle3) December 5, 2019
Now, what I would say about Hunter is that Burisma, the energy company that gave Hunter a seat on its board, did not get any favors from Biden or the Obama administration. It would have been better for Joe, better for Obama, and probably better for America had Hunter refused to trade on his father’s name for personal gain — but Hunter is also an adult, and there’s actually nothing Joe can do to prevent his son from doing that.
More broadly, it’s pretty obvious that Hunter is an all-around mess. He got kicked out of the Navy Reserve for using cocaine, and divorce papers filed by his then-wife in 2017 alleged Hunter had a pattern of “spending extravagantly on his own interests, including drugs, alcohol, prostitutes, strip clubs, and gifts for women with whom he has sexual relations.” He later started dating his brother’s widow, and seems to have fathered a child with another woman during this same period. Given the full picture of Hunter’s conduct, it’s pretty obvious he does lots of things his dad probably wishes he wouldn’t, though on some level, that just shows you can’t control your kids.
It’s obviously asking a lot for a father to publicly denounce his son, especially given that his other son died recently and their mother had passed away when they were very young. It’s an extremely sad family story that must hang like a cloud over Biden’s successful career in politics.
Still, the fact of the matter is that Joe decided to return to public life and run for president. And the trumped-up claim that he did something inappropriate to benefit his son is at the center of the ongoing impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. Biden needs to be able to talk about that without just getting huffy.
There’s real tension between a father’s desire to defend his son and a former vice president’s need to defend the integrity of the policy process in the administration under which he once served. At the end of the day, no remotely sane person would suggest nominating Hunter Biden for anything — and Joe Biden needs to talk about his own conduct, rather than getting angry on his son’s behalf.
Vox · by Matthew Yglesias · December 5, 2019