Below is a link to a YouTube clip of a heavier-set Iowa voter who, after acknowledging the untoward behavior of President Trump and his cohort in Ukraine, challenged former Vice President Joe Biden face-to-face regarding the involvement of his son, Hunter, in the Ukrainian energy company, Burisma. While the voter made an unfounded allegation – that Mr. Biden had sent young Biden over to Ukraine to get a job at Burisma for which he had no experience so as to sell the Ukrainans access to the presidency – his tone didn’t seem to me to be particularly antagonistic. Mr. Biden responded with what under the circumstances was, in my view, inappropriate fervor – not unlike how I would expect Mr. Trump to react — calling the voter, a “Damn Liar,” and not so obliquely poking fun at the voter’s physique by challenging him to do pushups. Toward the end of the exchange, Mr. Biden declared: “No one has said that my son has done anything wrong.”
Many of us have children, and we place the wellbeing of our kids above all else. We can understand your reluctance at a period in your life when your son, Beau, was dying during the waning months of your Vice Presidency, to deal with your other son, Hunter – who has by at least some reports achieved relatively little without using your name and position – and the lucrative, legal but patently sordid opportunity that was obviously offered to him only because he was your son and you were Vice President of the United States. The impeachment hearings made clear that the State Department raised concerns about the perception of conflict of interest manifest in Hunter’s Burisma arrangement. By all accounts, you’re an honorable man; we can sympathize with what we might surmise was your irritation and frustration that Hunter had placed you in such an embarrassing position.
At the same time, did you figure: What the hell? Hillary had the 2016 Democratic nomination sewed up; you’d never run for office again. In influential American circles, you were about to be somebody that used to be Joe Biden … so if Hunter could make a little money in a legal if smarmy way, what was the harm? If he managed to not fritter the money away, it might even help alleviate any worry you had about what would happen to him as you aged and died.
Any parent will get that. Play straight with us. We’ll understand if you use gentle language in describing your son, but play it straight. We already suspect that Hunter can’t run a two-car funeral on his own, and may have questionable scruples. We parents know that kids … are who they are. We’ll understand that you love your son, and wanted to see him get ahead as long as it was legal, even if he didn’t earn it.
Those reading these pages that know me personally are acutely aware that at times, I can be a bit … Irish, and that I’m very tribal about our children. Even so: Joe, you’re too obviously defensive. Don’t insult us by calling a voter who makes an incorrect but not (given the circumstances) entirely outrageous allegation, a “Damn Liar,” and impugn the voter’s physical appearance. Admit what all of us – even those of us that consider you the most qualified of the announced candidates to be the next president – know: that your son had no business on that board. It may not have been illegal, but it was, indeed, wrong. He should have declined the offer, but since he didn’t, you should have quashed it. Quit dodging it. Own it, and move on.