The Far Right Seems To Think Liberals Are A Bigger Threat Than Rampant Corruption. It's Not So

Vice President Joe Biden is pictured with his son Hunter Biden, left, Aug. 17, 2016. (Visar Kryeziu/AP)
Vice President Joe Biden is pictured with his son Hunter Biden, left, Aug. 17, 2016. (Visar Kryeziu/AP)

Elizabeth Warren’s ascent in polls explain why, at Tuesday’s debate, the Massachusetts senator took “buckshot [in] the rear end,” to borrow Howard Dean’s pungent phrase. Hoping to pull her back down to earth, rivals slammed her support for Medicare For All, with Amy Klobuchar declaring that Warren was “making Republican talking points right now in this room” by pushing an excessively costly plan.

Beto O’Rourke lunged at Warren’s support for a wealth tax, saying that “sometimes, I think Sen. Warren is more focused on being punitive or pitting one part of the country against another.” To Klobuchar, Warren seemed less punitive than smug, assailing competitors “just because we have different ideas and get to the same place.”

Living in Massachusetts, I can attest that there are indeed progressives smugly unaware of the kinks in some of Warren’s famous plans (see here and here), or that their team doesn’t always have the answers to every problem. But Klobuchar’s comment about “Republican talking points” reflected a commonly voiced concern among anti-Trumpers that Warren’s lefty stances make her unelectable. Which begs the question, “Against whom?”

The answer, assuming Donald Trump’s taxpayer-funded address next year remains the White House and not Leavenworth, is: against a man who’s wallowed in corruption his entire adult life — his tax finagling, his government grafted with grifters, and his possibly impeachable recruiting of foreign governments into his presidential campaign. The concern, in other words, is that many voters may consider liberalism a greater threat to the republic than corruption.

If they do, they’re moral eunuchs and fools. Those pejoratives apparently include people who should know better, like Larry Hogan.

Maryland’s governor is a Democrat’s ultimate oxymoron: a responsible Republican, one of just three GOP governors to support the impeachment inquiry (including Massachusetts’s Charlie Baker). Yet when asked last week about a hypothetical match-up between the president he wants investigated and Warren, Hogan declared, “Obviously, I could not possibly think of supporting Elizabeth Warren. It’d be disastrous for the country.”


Leave aside that the country has survived, even thrived under progressive presidents from FDR to Barack Obama, and that other countries prosper with politics that make Warren’s look as bland as a Rotary meeting. More importantly, Hogan perhaps forgot that, minutes before, he’d endorsed inquiring into whether Trump merits impeachment for corruption, and that Warren has made anti-corruption Job Number One should she win.

For all his moderation, Hogan voiced the hard right’s paranoid view that liberalism imperils us even more than Trump’s family-separating, bigoted corruption; his fly-by-his-seat incompetence (ask the Kurds); the crooks orbiting him in his administration. Coming the same week that two cronies of presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani were arrested (with one-way plane tickets abroad — you can’t make this stuff up) for alleged campaign law violations involving info-gathering from Ukraine, such tribalism should be rejected by people of all political stripes.

Trumpeters’ deflection — that the president’s infamous phoner with Ukraine’s president sought legitimate intel on Biden family nefariousness — won’t wash. In that phone call, made after he stalled desperately needed military aid to Ukraine, Trump alluded to Joe Biden’s support, as vice president, for canning a Ukrainian corruption prosecutor. The veep supposedly feared the investigation would target his son Hunter, who had a board seat with a Ukrainian energy company suspected of malfeasance.

Trump’s concern (if he really was concerned for justice as opposed to torpedoing a political rival) is pure conspiracy theory. Joe Biden was part of a global chorus, including anti-corruption activists in Ukraine itself, demanding the prosecutor’s ouster for foot-dragging in his investigation. Had Hunter Biden done anything wrong, his father was, if anything, jeopardizing him by seeking a more aggressive law enforcer.

It’s arguably true that Hunter would have been flipping burgers if he’d had a different last name, not pulling down $50,000 a month from his seat on the board. But there’s no evidence that he broke any laws. What he did do was play Washington’s time-honored, seedy game of profiting from family connections.

Not unlike Trump’s own progeny. Ivanka’s China-approved trademarks, obtained as that nation seeks to pacify her father in his trade war, raise the question of whether the Bidens are entitled to an I’m-rubber-you’re-glue retort to the president. More questions surround whether Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner has been manipulated by foreign powers, or whether he supported an Arab blockade of Qatar after it stiff-armed his family’s business.

Public shaming (or perhaps a come-to-Jesus talk with Dad?) prompted Hunter Biden to resign from an unpaid seat on a Chinese company board and to voluntarily shun work with foreign companies if his father wins the White House. We should enact legislative insurance to make such conflicts of interest less likely, by requiring politicians to disclose family members’ foreign dealings.

Meanwhile, Warren’s reform package would be a down payment on the swamp-draining that Trump, breaking a campaign pledge, has flooded rather than reversed.  In addition to stiffer regulations, and in some cases bans, on lobbying by former political leaders and federal workers, she’d require presidential and vice presidential candidates’ tax returns be made public (Trump never released his), while a new office would be created to enforce ethics laws.

Republicans like Hogan disserve the public with facile equating of political disagreements to potentially impeachable offenses. And tribal voters who believe such twaddle should rethink what would offend them as Americans: to have the world regard us as a liberal country, or a crooked one.

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Headshot of Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow Cognoscenti contributor
Rich Barlow writes for BU Today, Boston University's news website.



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