No matter what happens in this presidential election, it has been deeply satisfying to watch the Joe and Hunter Biden scandal hooey explode on the launch pad.
Republicans have long been adept at smearing the opposition with lies. In 1988, they said that Michael Dukakis polluted Boston Harbor and unleashed black rapists in the white suburbs. In 2000, they said Al Gore boasted of having invented the internet. In 2004, they said that John Kerry’s Vietnam medals were phony. And in 2016, they said Hillary Clinton was an existential threat to national security because of her emails … blah blah, you know that story.
This time, the gist of the GOP’s purported October surprise – concocted by President Trump’s hacks and hyped by the right-wing echo chamber – was that Hunter ginned up business in Ukraine and cut his father in on 10 percent of the profits. Or something like that. I won’t bother to detail the claim lest I risk dignifying it. What interests me is why the smear on Joe never got traction with the public that lives outside the MAGA bubble.
1. There’s no proof that Joe ever took a dime. Two Republican-run Senate committees — Homeland Security and Finance — delved into the claims but found zero evidence that Joe had taken any money, committed any misdeeds or compromised American policy toward Ukraine while he was vice president. On the contrary, the Republican Senate’s investigators spoke with witnesses who said Joe was clean.
2. The story about how Hunter left an incriminating laptop in a Delaware computer repair shop surfaced in the right-wing New York Post, and it was so dubious that reporters wanted their names removed. Not even Fox News was able to verify it. Nor could The Wall Street Journal. In the end, that newspaper declared in a headline that “Corporate records reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show no role for Joe Biden.”
3. The main characters seeking to flog the Hunter-Joe malarkey were tainted Trumpists Steve Bannon and Rudy Giuliani. ‘Nuff said.
4. Yeah, Hunter Biden drummed up some business for himself by leveraging his father’s famous name – a routine form of legal corruption. That’s a legitimate story as far as it goes. But in the words of sane conservative commentator Matt Lewis, Hunter’s deed is the equivalent of “being told there is gambling taking place at Rick’s Cafe. Heaven knows, the Trump kids and their spouses do this and more … In the context of what happens in Washington, (Hunter) is small potatoes. Donald Trump is guilty of much, much worse.”
5. Speaking of President Trump, the guy wasn’t even capable of hyping the faux Hunter-Joe narrative with any semblance of coherence. Maybe the MAGA cultists could decode the gibberish he spouted during the final presidential debate, but the average person could not – and didn’t care to.
6. Hunter is not on the ballot, and whatever he did has nothing to do with the lives of voters. Nearly 230,000 Americans are dead and eight million more are infected while Trump brays about how we’ve “rounded the turn.” That’s what voters care about. Even Trump toady Ted Cruz has said of the Hunter narrative, “I don’t think it moves a single voter.” Erick Erickson, the Trump-leaning conservative pundit, laments that the Hunter narrative is “obscure” and “a distraction at this point.”
Meanwhile, last week, conservative newsman Tucker Carlson was blathering on air about how he’d possessed damning Hunter materials, but that they’d mysteriously vanished in the mail. But wait, the USPS finally found the materials, so they hadn’t mysteriously vanished after all … or something like that. Then he did a 180-degree turn and told viewers: “Probably too strong to say we feel sorry for Hunter Biden, but the point is pounding on a man, jumping on, and piling on when he’s already down is something we don’t want to be involved in.”
Seems about right.
Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at DickPolman.net. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.