Draining a swamp comes with inherent risks: infectious diseases, rat bites, and, most common of all, the propensity to go Ben Gunn rank among the worst fates. But swamp creatures face troubles all their own by imagining the bog a bathtub. Drowning in the muck seems one such environmental hazard.
Former Vice President Joe Biden overlooked this last risk. He embraced his role as the Obama administration’s point man on Ukraine at the same time that his son embraced millions of dollars in compensation as a board member of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, despite no background in such matters. These undisputed facts alone make for a glaring conflict of interest. But, like all swamp creatures, Biden imagined himself above the mud and slime. Did he imagine anyone without his last name would see him as clean, too?
Unfortunately for the country — this one and Ukraine — Joe Biden used his office in a way that benefited his family’s financial interests. He withheld a billion dollars in aid in way that ensured his son’s millions flowed. Worst of all for him, he bragged about this in front of television cameras.
“I said, ‘I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars,’” he boasted of his threats to Ukrainian leaders. “I said, ‘You’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in’ — I think it was about six hours — I looked at them and said, ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’ Well, son of a bitch — he got fired.”
That prosecutor confirms he investigated Burisma. Hunter Biden resigned from that board, after serving on it for five years, the same month his father announced his presidential run earlier this year.
The resignation follows the release of Peter Schweizer’s Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends. Schweizer, who influenced the 2016 election more than any other journalist through his book Clinton Cash, last year published Secret Empires, which includes a chapter on Ukraine dealings of the Bidens and figures to influence the upcoming election in a similarly profound way. Schweizer uncovered bank records showing monthly payments of $83,333 entering into Hunter Biden’s bank account from Burisma. Beyond this, he describes why the company he profited from earned such a shady reputation. The book, which goes hard after Republicans trading their last names for family profits abroad, remains hard to dismiss as a partisan hack job. Don’t judge a book by its cover, but even illiterates can see with Mitch McConnell and Jared Kushner on the dust jacket that Schweizer plays no favorites.
The quid pro quo alleged in Donald Trump’s phone call did not result in Ukraine unearthing dirt on Hunter or Joe Biden. Ukraine received its aid from the United States. No quid, no quo; that means impeachment a no-go, right? Well, not exactly. The rules, swamp creatures insist, apply differently to inhabitants than they do to outsiders. Trump’s nihil pro nihil rises to the level of impeachment for swamp things. Biden’s clear quid pro quo, on the other hand, becomes “unfounded” and a “conspiracy theory” in the mouths of cable news talking heads. Even swamp denizens feel the need to muddy the waters.
Appropriately, Donald Trump urged an investigation into what appears to anyone living outside of the swamp as a corrupt arrangement. The swamp shouts, “No fair!” Political opponents, they argue, merit immunity from criminal investigations urged by an administration of another party.
Of course, this mindset did not prevail during the 2016 presidential election. The administration Joe Biden served launched an aggressive investigation — based on opposition research paid for by the Clinton campaign — into the Trump campaign for allegedly colluding with Russians to steal the presidential election. They used unprecedented methods far beyond merely encouraging foreign leaders to investigate prima facie wrongdoing in an opponent. Did the Trump administration place spies in his opponent’s campaign, use the U.S. intelligence apparatus to electronically surveil a Biden aide, or rely on a foreign agent to dig dirt? No, but one can imagine the reaction from those who cheered on the Obama administration for proceeding in such a heavy-handed manner. Again, the standards change depending upon who holds power.
Ultimately, in the United States, the people hold the power. They elected Donald Trump. And they elected a Senate unlikely to remove him from office. What, then, is the endgame? This energizes Donald Trump’s supporters. It undermines the candidacy of Joe Biden, the candidate best positioned to win back blue-collar voters key to Trump’s 2016 success. It creates a clearer path to the Democratic nomination for Elizabeth Warren, a formidable campaigner who nevertheless embraces positions outside of the mainstream that make her a weaker, beatable general election candidate. Democrats so irrationally hate Donald Trump that in their zeal to attaint him they overlook the damage that such an attempt poses to their electoral fortunes. This is not a profile in courage but a profile in idiocy.
The people do not side with the politicians because, unlike the politicians, they do not inhabit the swamp, embrace swamp rules, or endorse swamp tactics. Joe Biden traded their billion. As a result, his son received his millions. Only in the swamp does investigating such a transaction — and not the transaction itself — look like the crime. The American people do not see the world through swamp-covered glasses.