Joe Biden
Credit: Michael Stokes/Flickr

During Thursday’s debate about the impeachment articles against Donald Trump, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee wanted to talk about anything but the evidence against the president. Dartunorro Clark reports on one of the things they did want to talk about.

Republicans dragged Hunter Biden’s name through the mud Thursday at the House Judiciary Committee meeting on two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump…

During the committee meeting, Gaetz introduced an amendment to strike a reference of former Vice President Joe Biden from the articles of impeachment and put in Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, and Hunter Biden, who sat on the board of that company.

Commenting about the hearing on CNN, Jeffrey Toobin suggested that poses a dilemma for journalists.

“The idea that we are sitting here…debating the impeachment of the president of the United States, and over and over again we get how all these questions about the behavior of Hunter Biden, the president’s perhaps most likely opponent, the son of [Joe Biden] and I just don’t know what our responsibility is as journalists because it’s not the point, but this is the news. And this is what’s there,” Toobin said.

Here’s a suggestion for Toobin: journalists could remind everyone that Hunter Biden is not running for president. Joe Biden is the one who currently leads the Democratic primary, and his record is very clear.

While serving as vice president, Joe Biden pressured the Ukrainian government to fire a corrupt prosecutor. That was not only the official policy of the United States, it lined up with similar pressure from some of our most important allies and meant that Burisma would be more likely to face charges of corruption under a new prosecutor. In other words, Joe Biden prioritized the interests of the United States and our allies over the financial interests of his own son. That’s the story. If the goal of journalists is to prioritize the truth over balance, those are the concrete facts. It’s that simple.

The flip side of that story is the fact that Rudy Giuliani and his team are working with some of the most corrupt figures in Ukraine to peddle lies as part of their extortion racket. There is plenty of material for journalists to explore on that one.

Given the fact that Joe Biden is likely to be Trump’s opponent in the 2020 presidential election, Philip Bump provided the evidence to expose the strategy we’re seeing from the president and his enablers. It all starts with what might be the most important data point coming out of the 2016 election.

As it turns out, while people who liked Trump and didn’t like Clinton voted heavily for Trump (as you’d expect), the current president also had an edge among people who disliked both him and Clinton. He won those voters by 17 points nationally — and by margins in the closest states that were likely enough to hand him the electoral college victory he needed…

By the numbers, exit polls had Trump leading Clinton among those who didn’t like either candidate by 37 points in Wisconsin, 25 points in Pennsylvania and 21 points in Michigan.

In other words, one way to interpret the president’s victory in the electoral college is that he had a huge lead among voters who disliked both candidates. The Trump campaign was able to ensure that voters disliked Clinton by successfully exploiting the media to spread their “corrupt Clinton” theme, as the Berkman Klien Center at Harvard documented so thoroughly. In that process, they got a major assist from former FBI Director James Comey when he announced the re-opening of the investigation into Clinton’s emails.

As Bump points out, if Trump faces Biden in the 2020 election, the president’s team has some work to do in order to replicate what they accomplished in 2016. According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, Biden holds a 33 point lead over Trump among voters who dislike both candidates.

Trump’s modus operendi has always been to launch negative attacks against his opponents, abandoning truthfulness in order to spread lies. As an aide of his told Maggie Haberman, “the president, whose own approval ratings have stayed upside down, needs voters to feel negatively not just about his opponents but about longstanding institutions.” We now know how Trump’s campaign will attempt to do that with Joe Biden. If another candidate emerges, we can expect the same thing to happen to them.

None of that should pose a dilemma for journalists unless they are willing to get played once again. Their job is to tell the truth. In the case of the Biden’s, that means making it clear that Hunter is not the one running for president and Joe’s actions demonstrate the kind of integrity we’ve been missing over the last three years, but are right to expect from any public servant.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!