Is this really the best we can do?

In breaking news today, Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed a special counsel to continue the investigation into Hunter Biden. The President’s son has been charged with a variety of gun, drug, and tax crimes, and faces further allegations of profiting from illicit business dealings with various foreign countries. Many Republicans have concluded that some of the income from these deals must have been funneled to Joe Biden himself, which would make him at least an accessory to any criminal activity related to those transactions.

Untangling the details of these claims is far beyond the scope of this column, but Hunter Biden does have a uniquely sordid history for the child of a President. His use of hard drugs has been widely publicized, and led to his discharge from the Naval Reserve shortly after his commissioning. He has a daughter with an adult entertainer, conceived while he was in a relationship with his deceased brother’s wife, whom the Biden family has only just publicly acknowledged. And he’s worked in a series of high-level private industry jobs and political appointments that seem implausible on the basis of any demonstrated merit other than being the son of a Senator turned Vice President turned President.

None of this is direct proof of legal culpability on the part of Joe Biden himself, but it’s reasonable for the American people to want a full accounting of any laws that may have been broken in Hunter’s business deals and any favors that passed either to or from the current President as a result. And, to his credit, Garland’s appointment of a special counsel is a step in that direction.

Of course, that step is being taken amidst the Department of Justice’s other high-profile criminal case, that of former President Donald Trump, who currently faces federal indictments for four felony counts for attempting to overturn the 2020 election and 40 more felony charges related to stealing national security records and obstructing their return. Trump also faces 34 felony counts in New York State related to hush money payments to cover up an affair with a porn star and is likely to be indicted here in Georgia in the next week or two on state charges related to the 2020 election.

Many of Trump’s supporters claim all these charges are meritless and politically motivated, and of course Mr. Trump does have the right to a legal defense. But we saw his efforts to change the outcome of the 2020 election play out right in front of our eyes, live on TV and in social media. And the details were corroborated in open Congressional testimony from Republican officials, many of whom were appointed by Trump himself. 

It’s said when there’s smoke, there’s fire. In Hunter Biden’s case, there’s certainly enough smoke that we should investigate whether the fire has spread to his father and his administration. With Trump, we’re standing in a burning building, choking on the ash, and being asked to believe that fire is nothing but a Democratic conspiracy.

Who are our other choices? At this point, second and third places in GOP polling are going to a candidate who’s running as Trump with better administrative skills but without the charisma, and a candidate who’s running as Trump, but younger and edgier and of Indian descent. A variety of other Republicans have also declared, but are polling in the low single digits. 

Biden’s only declared challengers are Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an unhinged conspiracy theorist who’s more appealing to the alt-right than to anyone actually identifiable as a Democrat, and Marianne Williamson, a cult enjoyer who at least manages to stake out coherent if far-left political positions. Neither will move the needle in a Democratic primary whether or not Biden stays in the race.

But there is a model for picking better candidates, and we’ve followed it in Georgia. In 2022, our statewide elected Republicans were up for reelection, with the exception of Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who chose not to run for a second term. But these officials had also refused to help Trump overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia, and thereby earned both his wrath and a slate of Trump-endorsed candidates running against them in the primary.

With four years of successful conservative administration under Governor Brian Kemp’s belt, there was little room to run against him on policy. Former Senator David Perdue and the rest of the “Trump slate” essentially declared themselves single-issue candidates, with the issue being overturning the 2020 election. 

And they got stomped. Every single Trump-endorsed candidate running against an incumbent Republican lost the primary without a runoff, in Perdue’s case by more than a 3-to-1 margin. Even amongst Republican primary voters who tend to support Trump, effective conservative leadership wins big over a platform whose sole plank requires time travel to implement.

Those incumbents went on to win reelection against their Democratic opponents. And the candidates on both sides were able to campaign on what they had done or what they would do for the voters, instead of whether their opponents’ histories of corruption and criminality were worse than their own.

Voters should insist on the same standards in 2024. I, for one, would like to vote for a candidate who’s better than his or her opponent, and not against a candidate because he or she is ever so slightly more provably crooked than mine is.

Most Americans have never been indicted on numerous federal felonies or had close relatives bring in millions of dollars in questionable business deals while addicted to crack. It shouldn’t be this hard to find a couple of candidates for President who meet this extremely low bar. I deserve better. And so do you.

One Reply to “Is this really the best we can do?”

  1. I don’t live in GA, I don’t believe in conservative politics, and as most of my comments on here have shown I tend towards being an asshole. But I fully agree with you here. I would hate to see Brian Kemp as president, but at least he’s not crazy. I think his policies would be bad for the majority in the US, but I don’t think he would be proposing any of them out of spite. But goddamn it would be nice to finally have GOOD candidates to vote for, rather than LESS BAD. It would also be nice to not be led by a gerontocracy but that’s an argument for a different post.

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