On Classified Documents

[Warning:  Viewer Discretion Advised.  There is absolutely nothing in this post that you haven’t already thought, heard, and/or read.  Sometimes, one cannot resist adding two cents.  🙂 ].

We had family visiting most of the past week, and accordingly, were only able to absorb smatterings of information regarding the classified documents from President Joe Biden’s term as vice president that were discovered first in Mr. Biden’s private nongovernmental office, then in his Delaware home, and apparently then in his garage … near his Corvette.  I did see one video clip in which the President sought to minimize the severity of this security breach by noting that the garage was locked [I’m sure that his garage door lock would have proven impregnable to Russian or Chinese specialists  😉 ], and actually uttering the word, “Corvette.”  (D’oh!)  At another point we did hear that a Special Counsel has been appointed to investigate the situation.  (Ouch!)

[At least as far as I am aware, no Top Secret documents have yet been found in a school backpack in Hunter Biden’s childhood bedroom. 🙂 ]

In the one edition of MSNBC’s decidedly-liberal Morning Joe we saw last week, the members of the panel, while conceding that these discoveries were terrible political optics for the President, almost literally tried to stand on their heads to distinguish the Biden discoveries from the discoveries of classified documents at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.

From a legal perspective, they may well be right; national security laws were never within my legal purview.  That said, perhaps because we formed our impressions from only the highlights of the reports on the discovered documents — much as do working Americans who don’t have the time to absorb nuances of current events – I would venture that there is very little chance that the average citizen is not going to conceptually equate Messrs. Biden’s and Trump’s security breaches.

This Biden classified document fiasco markedly corrodes what I consider the President’s core “brand” attribute among objective Americans:  competence.  Through his marshaling of NATO assets to help Ukraine confront Russia and the undeniably-impressive array of legislative achievements passed during the first two years of his term, before the recent revelations Mr. Biden had seemingly expunged the taint of incompetence engendered by our bungled Afghanistan withdrawal.  What’s worse for him is that, unlike the Afghanistan debacle – which an open-minded American might conclude resulted from Mr. Biden’s understandable reliance on U.S. military and intelligence sources’ erroneous assessment of our Afghan allies’ readiness to withstand the Taliban – this blunder can be laid directly at the President’s feet.   

Both parties indulge in “Whataboutism,” and the Republicans excel at it.  That said, I have recently suggested in these pages that the Republicans sometimes tend to let their hyper-partisan venom get in their own way; that their attacks on the Biden Administration’s student loan forgiveness initiative and the Administration’s attempts to retire certain Trump Administration southwest border immigration limits actually appeared to me to help Mr. Biden politically and/or substantively.  While it seems overwhelmingly likely that Republicans will yell loud and long about the Biden discoveries as justification for defending Mr. Trump, I would venture that if they indeed adopt that course, they will again be too smart by half.  Surveys indicate that most Republicans, even those that retain an affinity for Mr. Trump, want a different presidential standard-bearer in 2024; Paul Ryan, former Republican Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives turned Board Director for the Murdoch Family-controlled Fox Corporation – and thus, now a mouthpiece of Murdoch sentiment — recently called Mr. Trump “a proven loser” on CNN.  If conservative media outlets are savvy – and hopefully they aren’t this shrewd – they will pivot their coverage and use the recent Biden document discoveries as a cudgel to politically bludgeon both Messrs. Biden and Trump.

May Democrats, and President Biden himself, not be so Pollyannish as to think that Republicans – still yelling not only about Hunter Biden’s laptop, but about the Steele dossier, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails, and how unfairly the autocratic Pharaoh was treated by Moses — will let the President’s classified document peccadillo drift away.  While actually I am aware that most legal specialists have opined, based upon reporting to date, that Mr. Biden probably isn’t in any criminal trouble for this embarrassing mess, I am hoping that the President, presumably still mulling whether to run for re-election, is aware that Republicans will be talking about this not only as long as he is in office, but, if Ms. Clinton’s experience is any example, perhaps as long as he is alive.  It’s a weight, along with his age, that he can’t afford in a re-election bid.  I will submit that if Mr. Biden’s unauthorized retention of classified documents had been discovered in the weeks before the 2020 election, Mr. Trump would have been able to exploit the controversy to eke out a narrow victory.

So for those of us that laud Mr. Biden’s accomplishments to date, but fear that any run he makes for re-election will be fraught with peril for American democracy (given the likely attitudes of whomever is the Republican nominee), there is perhaps a silver lining in this clumsy snafu, although it is not among the rationales painfully posed by liberal talking heads.  As a close friend emailed me last week:  “Perhaps a silver lining is that this is the lever that gets Biden not to run again.” 

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