The Wrong End of the Telescope
Terry H. Schwadron
April 4, 2021
Whatever the law and ethics rules say, the practical conclusion in Washington seems to be only to go after the guy from the other side — maybe even not based on the seriousness of the violations involved. It feels upside-down and backwards, or repeated cases of looking through the wrong end of the telescope.
At least , that’s how it seems when sex, money or power is involved.
Just this week, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., asked the Justice Department anew for documents be handed over to Congress on any years-old information tying Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, to Chinese government-connected foreign nationals with whom his company tried to do business, using his family name for access.
What? Hunter Biden again? Still? To what end? It must be power.
At the same time, there’s been no congressional effort to track down actual attempts at intervention with China by former Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao on behalf of her family’s shipping interests. Those violations in greasing the wheels for trips, accesses and staff work, were detailed in a 68-page, December, 2020, investigatory report by the department’s inspector general, and criticized by ethics experts.
Yes, Hunter Biden accompanied his father on a trip to China, and yes, he eventually became part of an investment firm that approached Chinese officials. He even writes about regret in leaning on his name as part of his newly published book. But the bottom line is that Republicans see direct links to intelligence and military officials that others reviewing the situation do not.
And yes, Walter Shaub, the former head of the Office of Government Ethics, said that the actions of Chao, who happens to be the spouse of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, appeared to be a clear abuse of power on behalf of her family. That was known but never pursued by former Atty. Gen. William P. Barr. And the Chao family business has done very well, thank you. Definitely money and power.
The point here is not to argue the details of the two cases, but the unfortunate, if unsurprising and continuing of the uselessness of attacks on selected politicians or their families based almost solely on partisanship.
Meanwhile, you cannot get Republicans to pay attention to finding those behind the insurrection attempt on the U.S. Capitol, to look at gun control or health care, or to consider the fate of American democracy as states move to suppress voting rights.
But they have time for Hunter Biden.
Lots of cases
The dichotomy doesn’t end there, of course.
This week the spotlight keeps returning to the building allegations against Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican and loud Donald Trump supporter who is being cosseted from punishment by his party’s leadership for any wrongdoing arising from an investigation of sex crimes involving minors. Yet those same Republican leaders are quick to attack New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, over nine complaints of sexual harassment in speech and unwanted kisses, actions also under formal investigation.
The stories about Gaetz and his involvement in an FBI investigation of sex rings are so convoluted at this point that they defy easy untangling, never mind defense. Gaetz was known in Florida politics for bragging about women he met through a county tax collector named Joel Greenburg who has since been indicted on a federal sex trafficking charge, the Washington Post reported.
By contrast, the allegations against Cuomo are drawing as much disrepute from Democrats as Republicans.
Sex and power, both.
Naturally, no Republican leader will come out even to acknowledge that Donald Trump himself faces a defamation trial accusing sexual assault and a passel of other sexual abuse allegations, stopping way short of drawing any conclusion that those should disqualify him from any future attempt to return to office. Those “grab ‘em” comments from Trump were no reason to avoid supporting him, apparently.
But then, they also balk at endorsing a bipartisan review of Trump’s involvement in coordinating or inciting the Capitol riot or into a basketful of ethical violations by him, his campaign or his administration. And now a straight money scam as reported by The New York Times that The Former Guy, a recognized triple threat offender for sex, money or power, set out to bilk his own supporters by pre-checking a recurring box in their online donations that have ended up emptying their bank accounts and spurring demands for refund,.
Plus we still have prosecutor John Durham on the public payroll to investigation the origins of the 2016 investigation of too many Russian contacts with the Trump campaign. Will 2016 never end? Hey, a piece of the Hillary email non-issues lasted until last month, when even the U.S. Supreme Court said enough was enough.
Trump’s issued statement on the latest assailant at the U.S. Capitol weirdly instead repeated the charges that none of this would have happened if we all had caved to his claims of election fraud.
Republicans were quick to punish Rep. Liz Cheney and others who voted to move ahead with impeachment, but have refused to say anything about lawmakers in their midst who may have been helpful to insurrectionists, those who violate congressional rules by skipping past metal detectors to wear guns on the floor of the House or those who refuse to wear masks for public health purposes. Is there any wonder why we have a culture war underway?
Instead, there seems a clear line in Republican leaders’ view of justice: It’s all okay if you vote right.
For the rest of us, it all spells Distrust in Congress and politics.