Bill Maher: Rachel Maddow would be freaking out if Trump's son sat on the board of a Ukrainian company

Bill Maher: Rachel Maddow would be freaking out if Trump's son sat on the board of a Ukrainian company

Via the Examiner, does anyone on either side of the impeachment debate disagree? If there’s an argument that Hunter Biden joining Burisma while his father was VP wasn’t a brazen attempt at influence peddling, I’ve yet to hear it.

Philip Klein is shrewd about the politics of this issue on the Democratic side, though. Under any circumstances, the liberal commentariat would swat away concerns about the Bidens’ dealings with Ukraine as a feeble attempt to change the subject from Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. But after the GOP used Emailgate so effectively against Hillary in 2016, Democrats will be even more aggressive about enforcing a “no distractions!” rule this time. They insist that this election be a referendum on Trump, period.

[T]here are plenty of important lines of inquiry for Biden. For instance: Was he aware of Hunter’s deal? Did he think it was OK? Did he raise any concerns within the Obama administration about potential conflicts of interest, especially if he was being made the messenger on Ukraine policy? Furthermore, looking forward, how would he, as president, handle potential conflicts of interest should corporations try to influence policy through his son? After all, as president, he would no longer be the messenger but the decider…

In the liberal narrative of the 2016 election, the media paid too much attention to Hillary Clinton’s private email server and thus overlooked all of Trump’s corruption. They see any questioning of Biden on this matter as falling into the same trap. Democratic opponents are also reluctant to bring up the issue because they don’t want to appear as if they’re echoing Trump’s talking points.

Democrats have a self-interested reason to ignore questions about Hunter Biden, Klein adds, but the media does not. To which I’d add a caveat: Some Democrats have a reason to ignore those questions, but not all. Obviously it’d be right in the wheelhouse of Elizabeth Warren’s “drain the swamp” campaign to make an issue of an obvious appearance of impropriety in her chief rival’s contributions to Ukraine policy as VP. It’s too risky for her to do so right now when it’s still unclear whether Democratic voters will rally to Biden’s side against Trump or abandon him in the belief that this Ukraine matter will erode his “electability” in the general election. But grassroots left-wingers who loathe the idea of nominating Biden obviously have every reason — for now — to pursue the Hunter Biden story. They don’t even need to accuse Biden of anything, merely to wring their hands about how bad the whole thing looks in hopes of convincing swing voters in the primary that Warren would prove more “electable” than Biden in the long run after all.

Biden’s advisors are naturally keenly aware of how dangerous this story is to him and, per the Times, are doing their best to choke off media coverage of Hunter Biden’s Ukraine business:

Biden advisers, who argue that Mr. Trump’s focus on the former vice president underscores his fears about Mr. Biden, have mounted a ferocious offensive against reporters who have questioned Mr. Biden’s record on Ukraine or raised his son’s business dealings. It is a strategy they say will continue; whether Mr. Biden faces doubts from voters over those issues will become clearer in the coming weeks.

Privately, some of Mr. Biden’s advisers and allies said this week that they would like to see the former vice president speak out more forcefully against Mr. Trump, in a way that channels the outrage of the party’s base and the resolve of Democrats in Congress.

Biden is keeping his comments about Trump and Ukraine mostly low key for now, probably because he too is uncertain how the politics of the Ukraine matter will shake out. If he gets theatrically indignant about it and starts lambasting Trump in order to show the left that “he fights!”, he risks making Hunter a bigger factor in the campaign than he is right now. If instead he continues to lie low and focus on policy, he’s destined to be knocked for not fighting hard enough and for ducking the sort of legitimate questions Klein raised in the excerpt above.

Everyone’s waiting for polling. Trump, Biden, Warren, Pelosi, McConnell — everyone. If Biden gets a sympathy bounce in the polls — “the Orange Grinch is scapegoating Joe for his own scandal!” — Warren may steer clear of making Hunter Biden an issue for the time being, fearing it would alienate Democratic voters. If instead Biden sinks, it’s open season. The lower-polling candidates may end up doing her dirty work for her, in fact; it’s easy to imagine Kamala Harris trying to knife Biden about the Ukraine episode at the next debate in hopes of generating a little buzz for herself. However it plays out, Trump seems increasingly likely to end up stuck inside a “Twilight Zone” episode in which his Ukraine ploy to destroy Biden worked a little too perfectly, sinking Grandpa Joe before he won the nomination and leaving Trump himself weakened by an impeachment scandal as Warren prepares to face him in the general election.

Speaking of Biden fading, here’s some interesting gossip from yesterday:

Rumors about Biden writing off Iowa and even New Hampshire have swirled before. I don’t think it’s the Ukraine matter that has him panicked, though; I think it’s the round of polling that showed him neck and neck with Warren *before* the Ukraine story really took off that’s left him anxious. News broke a few days ago that Biden might roll out a Warren-esque plan to tax Wall Street financial transactions, an obvious pander to try to buoy up his support. Another story claimed that Biden supporters might break the informal “no Super PACs” pact that Democratic candidates have forged and unleash an outside group on Biden’s behalf. The guy’s clearly worried about his chances, especially now that Ukraine will be front and center in American politics for the next several months. As he should be.

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