Hunter Biden and Donald Trump: Not remotely equivalent — but still a problem for Joe Biden

Hunter Biden and Donald Trump: Not remotely equivalent — but still a problem for Joe Biden

Everything isn’t equal.

A traffic ticket isn’t a robbery charge. A scratch isn’t the same as a bleeding gut wound. And the charges against Hunter Biden are not the same as those against Donald Trump.

Trump and his minions have struggled against the facts with a long-running deceitful narrative that benefits only themselves: They claim that Hunter Biden is a larger-than-life criminal, perhaps a Michael Corleone figure in a family criminal enterprise that threatens our way of life.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy would have you believe that Hunter Biden’s plea deal is evidence of a “two-tiered” justice system. Mind you, just a few days ago he was among those complaining that Trump had been indicted and the younger Biden had not, so that was definitive evidence of a two-tiered justice system. Now McCarthy just doesn’t like the deal Hunter got after pleading guilty. Let’s let Trump plead guilty and then we can argue about the deal he makes. This claim of a two-tiered system, coming from the GOP, is not only laughable but about as disingenuous as claiming that Kevin McCarthy is a capable public speaker.

To say there’s a two-tiered justice system in America is a credible argument — but only for those who have actually experienced it. Republicans in Congress use the expression even though they are a group of privileged politicians who have almost nothing in common with those who are actually subjected to that system. They do this because it resonates with those who have suffered, and cons voters into backing them. This works sometimes, because the poor and the under-educated in our society are smart enough to understand that there really is a two-tiered justice system, even if some of them make the unaccountable mistake of believing that Donald Trump is on the lower tier.

That is an insult to every person of any color or creed who has been killed, roughed up, beaten, jailed or abused by our system for little or no reason. Donald Trump has never had a cop put a knee on his neck. Donald Trump has never been randomly beaten, or subjected to “stop and frisk” based on no probable cause. Donald Trump has never even had a mugshot — although he’s been indicted for felonies twice, in two different jurisdictions, just this spring.

Donald Trump has casually flaunted his disrespect for the law ever since he crawled from the primordial ooze that spawned him. He’s a rich, entitled aging white guy with a bad combover, a private jet and a knack for inciting violence. He’s a grifter with no soul, a black spot on America’s lungs that only metastasizes further each time he draws breath.

To claim there’s a “two-tiered justice system” in America is legitimate — but only for those who’ve encountered it, which does not include Donald Trump or the Republicans in Congress.

He has been arraigned for two felonies without ever being handcuffed. He hasn’t spent a minute in jail. He hasn’t had to worry about a bail bond, or getting a ride home from jail, or being denied the ability to travel. He hasn’t lost his passport even though with his private plane he’s a prime flight-risk candidate. He’s been afforded every courtesy a man of money and power has come to expect, even as the Justice Department investigates him. 

Trump is even being investigated by people he appointed to office! Who among us has had that privilege? That’s a special tier all by itself.

He continues to incriminate himself in public, and while he claims he did a great job in his recent Fox News interview with Bret Baier, very few people outside the prosecution team were cheering. Maybe special counsel Jack Smith congratulated him, but his own lawyers, according to Chris Christie, were headed for the windows and ready to jump.

Still, Trump holds a commanding lead over all his 2024 Republican opponents, even as his legal problems mount. The GOP faithful continue to scream that he’s getting screwed by the Justice Department, even though he appointed the head of the FBI that investigated him, and appointed the judge who is trying his case. All the evidence in the Mar-a-Lago indictment came either directly from him or people who worked for him.

And now Hunter Biden is his fall guy. Trump will continue to lie about the president’s son and take advantage of a man who has obviously battled addiction and a range of other personal demons, for as long as he possibly can.

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As for Joe Biden, he has no one but himself to blame for letting Trump get away with it. Biden is an excellent strategist. On the international stage he’s unparalleled. He’s had extensive success domestically, and he’s a caring and loving father. 

Despite all those qualities, Biden’s administration remains terrible at communicating his accomplishments. Part of that is because his aides fear putting the aging president out in public too often. At one recent public appearance, he shouted, “God save the queen,” and no one knows why. Trust me: We asked. Another reason Biden doesn’t speak often is because his administration has this arrogant idea that he doesn’t have to: “Actions speak louder than words,” as I and others covering the White House have been told on numerous occasions.

In fact speech is a form of  action. There’s no good reason to remove that arrow from your quiver. When Biden actually does speak in public, it is usually pointed, effective and often poignant. His dismissal of Vladimir Putin during Biden’s visit to Poland is one example. The off-the-cuff comment that Putin couldn’t be allowed to “remain in power” was actually embraced by some Trumpers.

Essentially the only thing Joe Biden has said about Hunter is “I’m proud of my son.” As a father myself, I understand exactly what he means. His son took responsibility for his actions. That’s something Donald Trump will never do. 

But by Wednesday morning, stories were circling that Sen. Joe Manchin was considering a run for the White House. Rep. Lauren Boebert was tweeting out a threat to introduce a motion to impeach Biden, while Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene called Boebert a copycat, saying that she thought of it first. Jim Jordan, Kevin McCarthy and a slew of others took to the airwaves, streaming services and social media, shouting about the evils of Joe Biden via proxy in pulpits, grocery stores and on playgrounds across the country — even as McCarthy told Boebert that her motion to impeach was a dumb idea.

Who was pleading Joe Biden’s case? Other than the president’s restrained comment about his son, and a few news articles pointing out that Hunter Biden probably got a heavier hand from the Justice Department than your average Joe would have — precisely because he is the president’s son— little has been said.

Sirius radio host and Salon contributor Dean Obeidallah pointed to legitimate reasons to investigate Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, considering their dubious business dealings during Trump’s tenure in the White House. “If the GOP is truly concerned with relatives to a president profiting off their proximity to power, then they should be launching an investigation into both Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner” for reaping “billions in profits” while Trump sat in the Oval Office, he said.

But it isn’t up to journalists and commentators to make Biden’s point for him. He has the bully pulpit. The job is his. “The buck stops here,” Harry Truman famously told us. Where is that level of responsibility in the Oval Office today? Trump replaced it with “I take no responsibility,” and for whatever reason, Biden appears to believe he is above the fray. I stress the word “appears” because we don’t know. The president of the United States has allowed Trump and his Congressional Chorus of Con Artists (the CCCA, for short) to take center stage. Their broken record plays nonstop. They grow exponentially bolder as they get little pushback to their warped narrative. They are the political equivalent of the droning sound of mating locusts in late summer. 

All those Trump Republicans like to talk about a failure of the system.

The only failure in the system that I can see is that we labor under the misconception that sane, rational adults would participate either in running for public office or in voting for those who run for office. Our forefathers crafted a government that gave power to the people, but they assumed the people would more or less understand what government was for — and also that we all shared a set of facts and were more or less in the same boat.

Today, there’s none of that. We have seemingly endless civil strife because we cannot find the harmony we all share. Take away the politics for just a second. Answer a few simple questions. Do you want to be able to choose your own health care? Do you want to walk in public without the palpable fear of being gunned down? Do you want paved streets? Do you want functioning hospitals? Do you want your police department to treat everyone equally? Do you want your children, and everybody else’s, to receive a decent education? If your house catches fire, do you want the fire department to answer the call? If you kept government documents that weren’t yours (even though you claimed that you didn’t have them and also that you did have them because you’re entitled to them) wouldn’t you expect to face criminal charges? Wouldn’t you expect to have a mugshot taken, to be fingerprinted, handcuffed and put in jail until you made bail?

Joe Biden has had a great run and a historic first term. But if he doesn’t have the energy for the “final battle,” as Trump calls it, he needs to tap out and give someone else a chance.

That brings us to the stalking horse and stooge, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. He’s 69 years old, but some consider him a youthful option next to Biden and Trump. He’s neither youthful nor a real option. He’s there to spoil the race and throw the handful of swing states that will determine the 2024 election into disarray, which can only benefit Donald Trump. If you want to know how crazy he is, he is supported by Joe Rogan and Elon Musk.

But here’s the thing: Right now, RFK Jr. is generating more press than the president of the United States. His crazy ideas, constantly spouted on a variety of platforms, have enable him to seem almost legitimate.

The battle for democracy, for a country of, by and for the people — meaning all of us, not just a few of us — is ongoing and coming to a crescendo. Joe Biden either needs to step up, or step off.

He has had a great run and a historic first term under remarkably challenging circumstances. If he doesn’t have the energy to complete the job and vanquish Trump in the “final battle,” as Trump calls it, he needs to tap out and give someone else a chance to build a coalition that can defeat the dark side of the force.

But  this isn’t just about the president getting energized. What does it take for the majority of people — those who get it, who  cannot abide  women losing their health care rights and are appalled by the Nazi-like takeover of the Republican Party and the acute threat to democracy — what does it take for those people to get energized? If you wait much longer, the Republicans’ voter suppression measures will make sure it’s too late to act.

President Bident represents a clear majority of the people. This is where and when we need true leadership to battle against the unending tide of noxious excrement heaped on us daily by Trump and those in his party who only serve themselves.

If Biden and his administration really understand the battle we currently face, they’ll get up off their flaccid backsides and start telling us why we should vote for them. Otherwise they cannot depend on a majority of  the American voting public — under a daily barrage of disinformation from Trump and his minions –— to come to a rational decision next November.

Not pushing back against Trump’s reign of error is insane, and this country has had enough insanity.

Donald Trump has lost the ability to convince millions of people that he should be the next president — but he still has the ability to cast doubt on Joe Biden’s viability for a second term. That will be enough to persuade some folks to vote for Trump.

In fact, Biden still has far more credibility than Trump. Things are not equal. But Biden and his people apparently do not understand the seriousness of the issue.

It is not enough to be pointed and poignant.

It’s time to be loud and proud.

After all, there’s an election coming.

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