Biden’s Unforced Errors
Terry H. Schwadron
Jan. 24, 2023
It’s clear that something is not only politically explosive but fundamentally wrong about how a Joe Biden who promotes competence as his brand has handled the continuing discoveries of government documents, including those with classified markings.
House Republicans have chomped into the documents news at Biden’s Wilmington home with the fervor of a mad dog, offering increasingly hyped images of a president out of control.
Without confirmation of the contents of a single of the 25 or so documents that continued to surface over the weekend after Justice Department investigators spent 13 hours in the home, vocal Republicans are envisioning lines of foreign spies outside the locked garage, an open house to classified information and even a suggestion of “treason” from a Fox News anchor.
Of course, Biden has made this endless document unveiling worse through official silence, and incessant defensiveness to prove that his abuse of classified privilege differs markedly from Donald Trump’s more deliberate removal of documents. The saving grace to Biden’s claim is the importance of official cooperation, in opposition to Trump’s extended refusal to return government documents.
So, we have hyped charges met with recalcitrance in a time of deep partisan political divides — the perfect formula for exactly nothing useful to result.
Years’ Old Documents
The truth — which we are awaiting endlessly — is that government documents, including some number with classified markings remained for years in Biden’s possession with no one missing them. The Trump documents were sought, and denied, turning that into an obstruction issue, not a classified documents case.
Even with the most generous of explanations for Biden, what remains unknown is why and how Biden took classified documents home, to the Penn-Biden Center or whether the boxes they are in ever were even opened. Quite opposite from the current Republican investigative mania, we are left wondering whether Biden even looked at these materials — some of which go back more than a decade to his Senate years.
To the extent that Trump has acknowledged holding 11,000 government documents, including 300 with classified marks, Trump at least makes the claim that he thinks they represented cook keepsakes, including the letters exchanged with North Korean leader Kim Jung-Un.
Maybe I’m more conscious of all this because of recent cleanups at home in which books and documents not looked at in more than 10 years were consigned to the trash. But there is something terribly depressing about the egotistical needs of these politicians that they need whole libraries of documents — even in the garage — to remind themselves of their self-importance, however temporary.
As much as I detest the haughty tone of House Republicans who don’t even acknowledge the more serious Trump case, the constant drip of Biden document discoveries demands attention and investigation — if for no other purpose than to clear the air.
The document discoveries are further eroding public trust in Washington and are driving people away from even wanting to hear the news. That loss of trust will translate into a loss in political power and leadership at a time of rising problems and, oh yes, the start of another presidential campaign cycle.
We are tired of hearing about incompetence or worse in the simple task of following the rules for handling of classified information and confused about why so much information should be classified in the first place unless it is truly sensitive national security information.
Republican insistence on finding a reason to impeach Biden apparently is all the excuse necessary to hype the discovery of old, perhaps outdated classified information beyond reason. And the White House is making this into a demand for journalists to disclose what they will not.
In my conversations, I hear dissolution that it is these scattered discoveries that will dominate Washington, even in times when economic, immigration, education and policing issues require attention.
The next months will be filled with more discussions about executive privilege, snooty calls for selective partisan Congressional hearings, and inadequate explanations, all told by a Washington press corps that seems most annoyed by the fact that they are getting immediate answers to questions that will take time to sort.
Let’s let the Justice Department’s appointed special counsel figure out what happened here and get on with what really ails us.