Ahead of this evening's debate, one major question is if -- or more likely, how -- the issue of Hunter Biden's business dealings will arise over the course of the forum. I'm inclined to doubt that moderator Kristen Welker will proactively 'go there,' given the mainstream media's pathological avoidance of recent New York Post scoops on the subject, and the intense progressive bullying of those who even acknowledge it. But it's a controversy that's garnered quite a lot of attention, which is partially attributable social media platforms' knee-jerk efforts to censor the material. Biden angrily denies any impropriety whenever this matter crops up, but his irritated, blanket denials are increasingly implausible. The Biden campaign has not disputed the authenticity of the emails on the now-infamous laptop, nor have they categorically ruled out the possibility that Biden met with his son's Burisma associate, as one of the scrutinized messages suggests. Furthermore, the media's speculative, embarrassing, partisan stampede to blame Russia for "disinformation" is looking quite foolish:
Via @ClareHymes22 @CBSNews— Major Garrett (@MajorCBS) October 20, 2020
The FBI & DOJ concur with DNI Ratcliffe’s assessment that Hunter Biden's laptop and the emails in question were not part of a Russian disinformation campaign. FBI does has possession of the Hunter Biden laptop in question.@DNI_Ratcliffe @FBI
So now what? Will Welker risk fomenting liberal ire by broaching the subject and asking Biden to explain some of the more fragrant elements of the Post's reporting? If not, will President Trump find a way to insert this firestorm into the discussion, even if it's off-topic? I'd bet a large sum of money that Trump won't let tonight's 90 minutes elapse without addressing the issue in some capacity. As this general controversy percolates, it's worth flashing back to a story from 2008, when outlets like the New York Times weren't as invested in acting as a "bomb-disposal unit" for the Biden family:
NYT ‘08 flashback: As Joe Biden helped credit card industry “win passage of a law making it harder for consumers to file for bankruptcy protection, his son [Hunter] had a [$500k] consulting agreement... with one of the largest companies pushing for the changes...” pic.twitter.com/5ZcJ0n2fnA— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) October 20, 2020
At the time, Hunter Biden was in his early 30's. He managed to pull in a cool half million in 'consulting' fees from a company lobbying for changes in laws governing credit cards -- changes that Hunter's father, a powerful Senator, played a role in making. Team Obama denied any direct lobbying (a cynic might argue that skirting formal lobbying and paying for access and influence was the whole point of such an arrangement), but conceded that the issue was "sensitive." We also know that the Obama administration expressed concerns about Hunter's overseas business dealings while his father was the sitting Vice President, but Biden blew them off. What has emerged is a clear pattern of Hunter trading on his last name, and his resulting access, to enrich himself, and potentially others. This sort of thing has arisen over and over again, involving lucrative foreign entanglements across the globe. The Wall Street Journal's editorial board weighed in yesterday:
According to the emails, both Bidens were in line in 2017 to benefit from a deal with [now-defunct Chinese energy giant] CEFC. One email appears to identify Hunter Biden as “Chair/Vice Chair depending on agreement with CEFC.” It also refers to financial payments in terms of “20” for “H” and “10 held by H for the big guy?” Fox News says it has confirmed the veracity of the email with one of its recipients and that sources say the “big guy” is Joe Biden. An August 2017 email from “Robert Biden” (Hunter’s legal first name) crows that the original deal was for $10 million a year in fees, but that it had since become “much more interesting to me and my family” because it included a share of “the equity and profits.” The Biden campaign says the Veep’s tax returns don’t show any involvement with Chinese investments...
The Democratic-media refrain is that even if these latest emails are real—again, the Bidens don’t deny their authenticity—they fail to prove Mr. Biden broke any law. But felonies aren’t the minimum standard for political behavior. Mr. Biden was a private citizen in 2017 but was considering a presidential run. A transaction that would have made him—or his son—partners with an entity tied to the Chinese government raises questions about judgment and how he would handle China as President. Joe Biden ought to clear the air on this China business in his own political interest. Is he the “big guy” in the email? What happened with the deal? China will be one of Mr. Biden’s toughest foreign-policy challenges, and the unexplained documents won’t go away once he’s elected.
At the very least, much of this stinks of influence peddling and swampiness, about which Joe Biden has been less than fully forthcoming. There are fair, uncomfortable questions to be asked here, and there may be additional shoes left to drop. The media's blackout of the story, using baseless Russia panic as their excuse, is another trust-crushing humiliation. And big tech's suppression efforts are deeply discomfiting. All of that being said, attempting to pressure the DOJ into launching a politically-motivated investigation while yelling about Joe Biden's son (yes, I realize there are potential ethical and judgment-related implications for the candidate himself) does not strike me as a strong or effective way to close out a campaign:
Not only that, a negative closing argument about your opponent’s son is weak/dumb. I agree this stuff smells & at the very least there’s swampiness about which Biden isn’t being honest. And media blackout/social media censorship is terrible. But who is “Hunter!!” *convincing*? https://t.co/NuZ0ECFWKV— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) October 21, 2020
Former presidential speechwriter and conservative columnist Marc Thiessen agrees:
Right now, in the midst of a pandemic-induced recession, voters care more about their own families than Joe Biden’s family. https://t.co/80AUDM1OrI— Marc Thiessen (@marcthiessen) October 21, 2020
I'll leave you with this juxtaposition, which I think favors the challenger:
Generally, the candidate with a positive message will win.— Pradheep J. Shanker (@Neoavatara) October 21, 2020
Biden right now has a message. Trump doesn't. https://t.co/wmSlSyAmei
Trump has a golden, and perhaps final, opportunity to cut into Biden's lead tonight -- preferably by letting Biden stumble on his own, of which he's quite obviously more than capable. Trump supporters and down ballot Republicans should hope he handles this moment better than the last one.