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Hunter Biden Was Convicted. His Dad’s Reaction Was Remarkable.

June 12, 2024

The president’s response is another stark reminder and important contrast with Donald Trump.

 

On one of the worst days of his life, President Joe Biden showed the best of who he is. He affirmed his faith in his son, Hunter Biden, who was convicted on three felony gun charges. And he affirmed his faith in the justice system that held his only living son to account. Not only that, but hours after his son was found guilty, the president delivered a forceful speech on gun control that underscored his deep humanity, decency, and determination to stay focused on the problems of average Americans rather than drown in bitterness, self-pity, revenge and victimization. He spoke of hope in the face of loss, comforting those who’ve lost loved ones with his own story of grief.

 

It was yet another stark and important contrast with former President Donald Trump, who believes that his self-created legal problems are matters of the state. Trump has vowed revenge if he returns to the White House, and Biden has said he respects the outcome of his son’s trial.

The last two weeks have crystallized who these men are and who they would be in the next four years as president like no other stretch of the campaign so far. It is the old and honorable man versus the corrupt con artist. If elected, Trump will try to wipe away his own legal problems — including conviction on 34 felonies. He will weaponize the Justice Department, and spend his first days in office as a dictator, pardoning many of the Jan. 6 insurrectionists. In contrast, when asked by ABC’s David Muir if he would rule out pardoning his son, Biden said yes because he believes in the rule of law — unlike Trump.

Politically, Hunter Biden’s conviction has complicated GOP claims of a two-tiered justice system where his father is the puppet master. It has also created strange bedfellows. Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, a well-known agent of chaos and conspiracy theories, posted on X that the “Hunter Biden gun conviction is kinda dumb, tbh.” The Trump campaign called the verdict a distraction from “the real crimes of the Biden Crime Family,” a narrative with no evidence that Republicans have been trying to sell for the last few years. An earlier draft of the statement ended with a rare note of compassion: “As for Hunter, we wish him well in his recovery and legal affairs.” But the vengeful Trump campaign has little room for compassion. The Hunter line was edited out of a revised statement that was sent later, according to CNN.

That Hunter Biden found himself standing in a courtroom hearing guilty verdicts was the result of his own behavior, but it was also the result of a years-long effort by Republicans to taint President Biden. Even if Trump’s allies didn’t recognize that Biden’s strength as a politician came from his resilience as a dad in the face of his tragic family story, Trump seemed to understand it viscerally. So much so that he tried to ensnare a foreign leader into smearing Biden and his son over foreign business deals. That didn’t pan out, but Trump’s allies have spent the years since trying to make good on Trump’s initial plot. It sounds a bit Shakespearean, but the plan was always about erasing Biden’s reputation as the grieving and devout family man and replacing it with something seedier. Hence the GOP’s relentless focus on Hunter Biden, who has struggled with drug addiction.

This effort has proved successful in many ways. Yet, this difficult time for Biden’s family is also proof of his core goodness, his unwavering sense of decency, his enduring faith in God and his relatability, the very traits the GOP wants to obscure. Millions of Americans struggle with their own addictions and those of family members.

Biden’s struggle is their struggle.

“I am the President, but I am also a Dad,” Biden said in a statement. “Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today.”

After giving a moving speech on gun control, telling the families of people lost to gun violence to never give up hope, Bidenflew back to Delaware to be with his son and family.

On the tarmac, Biden embraced the son he almost lost five decades ago in a car crash that killed his first wife and baby daughter. His eyes closed as if in prayer, embodying the kind of unshakeable love, faith, and hope this country desperately needs.

NIA-Malika Henderson/Bloomberg Opinion

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