Robin Abcarian is an opinion columnist for the Los Angeles Times.
A little over two years ago, when Hunter Biden was promoting his memoir, “Beautiful Things,” on “CBS Sunday Morning,” he told an interviewer he was “100% certain” that at the end of a Department of Justice investigation into his finances, “I will be cleared of any wrongdoing.”
Well, he wasn’t.
On Thursday, after a plea deal he had worked out fell apart, the feds announced that they had charged Biden with three felony counts of lying about his illegal drug use in order to purchase a firearm in 2018, when he was in the throes of a crack cocaine addiction.
It remains to be seen how special counsel David Weiss, appointed by Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland, will handle the misdemeanor tax evasion charges that were part of the failed plea deal. And even though it’s very rare to be prosecuted for lying on a gun form, it doesn’t look like Hunter Biden is getting off easy.
He’s the prodigal son of a president whose unconditional love for his children has blinded him to the political peril of being used by his drug- and alcohol-addled kid to make a buck, or a few million of them.
With a presidential election looming, Hunter Biden, 53, has transcended being a mere distraction and has now become a pawn in the country’s partisan political wars.
And yes, it really is his own fault.
Biden is the one who carelessly left a laptop with evidence of his personal disintegration in a repair shop. He is the one who took naked selfies while high. He is the one who recorded himself in meandering drug-addled conversations with his brother’s widow. And he’s the one who wrote a memoir about his harrowing, long-term crack addiction, which is essentially an admission that he lied to buy a gun.
“I made a lot of decisions I probably shouldn’t have made,” Biden told “CBS Sunday Morning,” in what seems like the understatement of the decade.
By now, the operatic outlines of the Biden family story are familiar:
As young boys, Hunter and his older brother, Beau, were nearly killed in a car accident that took the lives of their mother and baby sister. Their father was sworn in to his first Senate term at their hospital bedside. Hunter, the underachiever, struggled with sobriety and lived. Beau, the overachiever, was elected attorney general of Delaware, served in Iraq, was diagnosed in 2013 with brain cancer and died.
After his brother’s death in 2015, Hunter, who had been to rehab in 2003 and 2012, relapsed with a vengeance. The long-married father of three girls spiraled into weeks-long binges with drink and drugs, hookers and hangers-on, all the while reaping millions of dollars from deals in China and Ukraine. He failed to pay taxes on more than $1.5 million in income. He impregnated a woman he claimed not to remember meeting. A tumultuous affair with his brother’s widow ended disastrously. His marriage ended disastrously.
At some point in all that, he bought a.38-caliber handgun. He did not use the gun to commit a crime. But he was obviously using drugs during that period.
I don’t have much invested in Hunter Biden’s fate.
He’s a child of privilege who failed to use his powers for good. And while I believe, as many brain researchers do, that addiction is a disease not a moral fault, you can’t say the same for using your family name to reap unearned millions. (And yes, the latter applies to adult children on both sides of the political divide.)
Biden is still on the nepotism gravy train, having reinvented himself as a Malibu-based painter who commands indefensibly high prices for his work. He is remarried, with a young son named for his late brother. I wish him well in sobriety and hope he pays his taxes.
It’s also worth noting, for anyone interested in the corrosive effect of substance addiction on entire families, that his ex-wife, Kathleen Buhle, published a memoir of her own last year, “If We Break: A Memoir of Marriage, Addiction, and Healing.”
Marrying into a family like the Bidens, who are blue-blooded in behavior if not in actual fact, who are high-profile, political and protective of their public image, would be a shock to anyone who grew up in an unstoried middle-class environment. Not surprisingly, Buhle lost herself in the process of becoming a Biden.
The layers of secrecy, dishonesty and anger around Hunter Biden’s drug and alcohol use contributed to a kind of family denial that eventually wrecked the couple and led to his current legal peril.
Buhle cops to all that, and to her own complicity in Hunter’s unraveling. (For example, he was under intense pressure as the sole family breadwinner, and while she loved to spend money, she never asked questions about where their money came from or how much they had.) It wasn’t until at least his third rehab stint, maybe even later, that she was involved in any family therapy with him.
And the children, who informed Kathleen that Hunter and Beau’s widow were having an affair, were kept in the dark about most of their father’s rehabs and relapses.
Whatever happens to Hunter, I hope that voters don’t hold his failings against his father, whose advanced age occasions fretting that threatens to overshadow his solid first-term record of achievement.
MAGA House Republicans, urged on by the much-indicted former President Trump, are doing their best to tarnish Joe with Hunter’s sins, going so far as to open an impeachment investigation in the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing by the president, unless you count supporting his son, perhaps to the point of indulgence, as a high crime or misdemeanor.
This farcical House undertaking is reminiscent of Rudy Giuliani’s famous line about nonexistent 2020 election fraud, as quoted by Arizona’s then-House Speaker Rusty Bowers to the Jan. 6 committee: “We’ve got lots of theories, we just don’t have the evidence.”
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