The Briefing, Vol. VII, Issue 47

The Briefing, Vol. VII, Issue 47

This week:

  • Biden’s admission of Hunter’s corruption
  • Buttigieg stands to benefit from impeachment
  • Kemp appoints Loeffler to the Senate 

Biden: As of Sunday, Joe Biden now promises to rein in his son Hunter if he becomes president. That’s probably a good thing for America — Hunter has long been out of control, as news reports about his alleged crack-smoking (and worse) at Washington strip clubs makes clear.

The fifty-year-old father of at least one illegitimate child (whom he has very consciously avoided supporting until recently) and son of the former veep will no longer be permitted to engage in obviously and overtly corrupt foreign business, the way he did throughout Joe Biden’s time as vice president, if Joe Biden ultimately becomes president, the former veep told Axios. This is a good thing. It’s also an admission that Hunter’s activity in Ukraine was corrupt.

Biden tried very hard to frame this as not having to do with the obviously corrupt nature of Hunter’s activity in Ukraine, for which he was paid a ridiculous sum for a no-work job at a shady Russia-tied energy company. Biden, in fact, tried to blame the Trumps in announcing that his progeny will not be doing shady things like they were doing when he was Obama’s number two.

“They will not be engaged in any foreign business because of what’s happened in this administration,” Biden told Axios. “No one’s going to be seeking patents for things from China. No one’s going to be engaged in that kind of thing.”

But as for the patents in China, it is important to note that Trump and his family sought those because Chinese firms had been stealing his name — selling counterfeit products that had nothing to do with Trump using the name “Trump.” The patents were intended to stop this, as Ivanka Trump’s attorney explained to the New York Times (although the Times naturally buried this several paragraphs deep into a story insinuating that there was something shady about the patents).

Hunter Biden’s foreign profiteering actually could not be more different from this careful exercise in protecting the family brand. Whereas the Trumps are trying to protect their name by obtaining patents in China that will prevent the sale of cheap knock-off merchandise and even voting machines, Hunter put his father’s name at risk in foreign countries just to make a buck. 

At heart, Hunter was just plain old monetizing his dad’s name, not at all trying to protect it. And that is based on the most charitable interpretation — the one that assumes Joe didn’t intervene on Hunter’s behalf or do anything corrupt himself in order to help spare his offspring from an embarrassing prosecution.

And so for all of Biden’s protests, he is quite clearly admitting to Hunter’s wrongdoing — which is a step forward. Hunter’s business was indeed shady, the way Trump has been trying to frame it. 

Buttigieg: Meanwhile, Pete Buttigieg has gained the lead in polls of Iowa and New Hampshire. This could be a sign of voter discontent with Biden, Warren and the rest of the Democratic field, but it could just as easily not matter — after all, can a Democratic candidate with no black support win the nomination?

As little as talk of Trump making inroads with black voters is taken seriously — and yes, it’s out there, but never taken seriously —  Buttigieg is the Democrat who could make it happen. The South Bend mayor who fired his town’s black police chief and presided over police shootings, is just the guy to deflate whatever partisan political meaning there is behind Black Lives Matter.

When you hear Trump campaigning against Biden and talking about Ukraine, keep that in mind. He has a vested interest in making sure someone else is nominated against him.

Swing states: Meanwhile, a new set of polls from the Republican firm Firehouse Strategies confirms what an earlier set of polls from the New York Times first showed — that impeachment is helping Trump in key states. But this time, he leads even Biden and in the key states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It is still way too early to take this as a definitive sign of how impeachment will play out. But for now, the recent “professors hearing” seems emblematic of what it has become — an entirely partisan affair that simply lacks seriousness in most people’s minds. If it gets Trump re-elected, it will become one of the great cautionary tales of American political life.

Senate 2020

Georgia: Conservative Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to appoint of Kelly Loeffler to replace the retiring Johnny Isaakson in the U.S. Senate is being framed in some quarters as an act of defiance against President Trump. On those grounds, it has caused a bit of a kerfuffle. But it’s unclear exactly what’s at the heart of it. Some pro-life groups have sided against the co-owner of Atlanta’s WNBA franchise, some in favor. 

It helps to get a bit of local perspective. Erick Erickson, a Georgia conservative whose independent conservative credentials are pretty decent, wrote this: “I have been told by multiple people that Loeffler is a devout, pro-life Catholic with a worldview that reflects that. I have no reason to believe otherwise….parts of the conservative movement are out to destroy Loeffler without knowing anything about her…”

It’s anyone’s guess what sort of senator or Senate candidate Loeffler will be, but generally speaking, Loeffler is already making clear she will align herself with Trump — as expected — and (obviously) against the current partisan impeachment effort.  Republicans who worry about where she stands would probably do well to consider who just appointed her.