When news broke the other day that President Biden’s lawyers had found a few documents with classified markings in a think-tank office he once used, we all knew that MAGA’s false equivalence cops would spring into action.
Their predictable message: Trump is innocent because he and Biden did the same thing. But they didn’t do the same thing.
This is bad for Biden, purely from a bare-knuckle political perspective. The disclosure of the Biden documents (including a second batch that Biden’s people have now found on his Delaware property) has gifted the MAGA Republicans a propaganda weapon when they needed it most – as Trump potentially teeters on the cusp of indictment. Republicans are busy asserting – with zero evidence – that the two cases are equivalent, as a way to absolve Trump of any criminal wrongdoing.
This muddying of the waters may strike a chord with the millions of Americans who have problems processing facts, but if only a few are reading these words, here’s a simple primer on how the cases differ:
The documents in the Biden case total roughly 12. The documents in the Trump case total at least 220, including at least 60 labeled “Top Secret.”
When Biden’s lawyers discovered the documents, they immediately notified the National Archives and handed over the material. Trump, for months, repeatedly defied requests from the National Archives that he hand over everything he was hoarding in Mar-a-Lago.
Biden’s Justice Department has named a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney to review the Biden documents. Trump’s long pattern of obstruction – refusing to comply with a federal subpoena; handing over some classified documents while hanging onto others – compelled the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation and execute a search warrant.
Indeed, there was a great exchange the other day on Fox News. Host Dana Perino tried to goad Republican strategist Karl Rove into playing the false-equivalence game – but Rove didn’t take the bait.Nevertheless, Rove said that MAGA Republicans have been handed an opportunity to spin a false-equivalence narrative – and thus, “in the minds of a lot of ordinary Americans,” the two cases “are going to be conflated as being roughly the same.”
Rove got that right. Trump’s hacks on Capitol Hill are busy rooting for an FBI raid on Biden. Trump, on his social media site, is already claiming (with his usual attentiveness to facts) that all the Biden documents were “HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL” and had something to do with Hunter Biden and China and “Old Crow” Mitch McConnell and McConnell’s Asian-born spouse, “Coco Chow.”
It’s only a matter of time before the “narrative” asserts that the Biden office documents reveal a plot to seize everybody’s gas stoves.
How refreshing it’d be, even in our nutcase political climate, if people could muster the ability to put things in perspective, to grasp the concept of proportionality. There’s a difference, as former Bush pollster Matthew Dowd points out, “between an accidental fender bender who stays to file report, and a homicidal maniac who purposely runs through a crowd of people then leaves scene of the crime.”
We can only hope that Jack Smith and his federal prosecutors will spot the difference.
Dick Polman is a veteran national political columnist who writes at DickPolman.net. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org