It’s still a smoke-filled room

If you’re wondering why I have so little to say about the possible impeachment of Donald Trump, it’s because I deeply doubt this has anything whatsoever to do with the high-minded principles its advocates claim. From an issue of the Irregular Bullshit, about two months ago:

What’s harder to shake is the fact that Hunter Biden’s career is undeniably shady in the way that only the son of a longtime Washington insider could muster, failing upwards into positions of influence and power on the merits of his last name.[1]

Ordinarily, I’m not into dragging family members into political discourse. Even Jimmy Carter had a brother. But . . . .

David Von Drehle begins to put a finger on it.[2] What we’re seeing is that Joe Biden seemingly thinks it’s just fine for his son to take a job in Ukraine, a country which has plenty of problems already, that doesn’t require him to do anything and that pays lots of money. As if that wasn’t some sort of attempt to gain favor with a powerful U.S. politician.[3] It’s really the same arrogant assumption of privilege as the “touchy feely” misogyny.[4] It’s really the same arrogance that says we should overlook his racism.[5] And it’s really the same arrogance that says we should overlook when they’re even rolled up together.[6] It’s the notion that he’s a powerful white man entitled to hold over from an earlier era and that we should treat his faults as insignificant because he’s entitled. And he’s entitled even to enable his son’s corruption.

It’s just all supposed to be okay. Every last stinking slimy bit of it.[7]

Now we have:

[Joe] Biden was asked again about his son’s role with Burisma during a wide-ranging interview with Telemundo’s Jose Diaz-Balart.

“There is nothing he — there is nothing to . . . that he did anything that was illegal. Nothing,” Biden said, according to a transcript of the interview.

“Not saying illegal,” Diaz-Balart clarified. “Is it wrong?”

“Look, here’s what I’m not gonna do. I’m not gonna — and I know you’re not intending to do this — play the game to take the eye off the culprit. The culprit here is what may have looked bad but wasn’t anything wrong is totally different than whether a president has held up $400 million in aid . . . that is criminal.”

The impeachment probe centers on a July 25 phone call Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky in which he asked him to investigate the Bidens and their activities in Ukraine as “a favor.” . . .

Hunter Biden, in an interview with ABC News in October, said that joining the Burisma board was “poor judgment” because it gave his father’s opponents an opening to attack.

“Was it poor judgment to be in the middle of something that is . . . a swamp in — in — in many ways? Yeah,” Hunter Biden said. “I gave a hook to some very unethical people to act in illegal ways to try to do some harm to my father. That’s where I made the mistake. So I take full responsibility for that. Did I do anything improper? No, not in any way. Not in any way whatsoever.”[8]

Which is still to suggest that it’s all supposed to be okay. The problem here isn’t a son relying on his politically powerful father’s name to get a do-nothing job from a company in a besieged country that needs all the political influence it can get. It is only that Donald Trump wants the Ukrainians to investigate the matter.

This is an example of the morality of polarization[9] at work. Yes, I’ll grant that it was wrong for Trump to do what he did. But Joe Biden refuses to substantially address the question of whether it was wrong for his son to do what he did and unless you’re a Trumpster, you’re just supposed to ignore it. It is here inconceivable that both parties might be at fault; rather, Trump’s actions are impeachable because he’s on the “other” side and Hunter Biden’s admitted “poor judgment” may be overlooked because he’s on “our” side.

And I remain deeply skeptical that we would be where we are with impeachment had Trump targeted any other contender for the neoliberal (Democratic) party nomination. Which would be to say that Trump’s actions would have been overlooked had he simply chosen the right side in the neoliberal party’s internal dispute.

And that this is the neoliberal party’s way of seeking sympathy for its preferred candidate.[10]

  1. [1]Kate Aronoff, “We need to talk about Hunter Biden,” Guardian, October 5, 2019,
  2. [2]David Von Drehle, “The Hunter Biden story is a troubling tale of privilege,” Washington Post, October 4, 2019,
  3. [3]Adam Entous, “Will Hunter Biden Jeopardize His Father’s Campaign?” New Yorker, July 1, 2019,
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Joe Biden blows his #MeToo moment,” Not Housebroken, April 5, 2019,; Brett Samuels, “Biden: ‘I’m not sorry for anything that I have ever done,’” Hill, April 5, 2019,
  5. [5]Mark Z. Barabak, “Seven takeaways from Democratic debate Night 2: Sparks from Biden and Harris, honesty from Buttigieg,” Los Angeles Times, June 27, 2019,; Stephen Collinson, “Joe Biden gets in his own way on race,” CNN, June 20, 2019,; Stephen Collinson, “Joe Biden throws own campaign into turmoil after Harris attacks his record on race,” CNN, June 28, 2019,; Scott Detrow, “Democrats Blast Biden For Recalling ‘Civil’ Relationship With Segregationists,” CNN, June 19, 2019,; Maeve Reston, “Harris’ attack on Joe Biden steals spotlight at Democratic primary debate,” CNN, June 28, 2019,; Greg Sargent, “Joe Biden is badly undermining his ability to challenge Trump,” Washington Post, June 20, 2019,; Matt Viser and Sean Sullivan, “Biden faces backlash over comments about the ‘civility’ of his past work with racist senators,” Washington Post, June 19, 2019,
  6. [6]Elise Viebeck, “Joe Biden was in charge of the Anita Hill hearing. Even he says it wasn’t fair,” Washington Post, April 26, 2019,
  7. [7]David Benfell, “Good Ol’ Boy,” Irregular Bullshit, October 7, 2019,
  8. [8]Colby Itkowitz and Matt Viser, “Biden says his son’s foreign jobs ‘may have looked bad’ but weren’t wrong,” Washington Post, December 5, 2019,
  9. [9]David Benfell, “The morality of polarization,” Not Housebroken, September 21, 2018,
  10. [10]Joe Biden has a substantial lead in endorsements. As FiveThirtyEight explains it in “The 2020 Endorsement Primary,” December 5, 2019,, “Party elites use endorsements to influence not only voters but also each other, hoping to get other powerful party members to rally behind the candidate they think would be most acceptable.”