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The Double Standard in Biden's Classified Documents Drama
Not that we should be surprised.
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By the time you finish reading this, another batch of improperly stored classified documents will have likely been found somewhere that Joe Biden has been. At the time of this writing, we’re on batch number four. What was initially portrayed by the White House as a single uh-oh now looks much more like a pattern of carelessness.
The media has been ruthless on Biden about this. According to the Daily Beast, Biden is a “national security risk unlike any the United States has ever faced.” The Hill says he poses a “severe danger” to the American people. USA Today claims that the revelations show a “casual disregard for long-standing security protocols.”
Just kidding. The media said all that about the Bad Orange Man w/Mean Tweets when it was discovered he had classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Tens of thousands of rage-fueled, diarrheic words were scribbled by Journalismers™ about this incident. Every headline shared the same apocalyptic tenor, with one from Vanity Fair memorably screaming, “Trump was hoarding a metric fuck-ton of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.” The media advised the American people that they should be positively furious about Trump holding onto classified documents. Biden, though? His improper retention has been described variously as a headache, a mess, and an inadvertence. The takeaway is that you should feel sorry for this man, he who nobly vanquished Trump.
Everywhere you look, the media is downplaying Biden’s mishandling and making sure to remind you that Trump’s “stolen” documents are infinitely “more serious.”1 My favorite example is Maggie Haberman of the New York Times referring to the Biden docs as “papers with classified markings,” which a host of legacy outlets have taken to doing as well, including Politico, NBC News, and AP. If memory serves, I don’t believe they referred to Trump’s materials this way, instead preferring TOP SECRET DOCUMENTS.
“How that could possibly happen, how anyone could be that irresponsible,” Biden responded.
Well, the Mar-a-Lago storage area where those documents were kept was not only reinforced with additional locks at the FBI’s request, but the area was guarded by the Secret Service and had video surveillance. In contrast, according to Biden he had no clue what classified material was in his possession or where it had been left. Indeed, documents were found not only at his think tank in Washington, D.C. (which is funded by China, mind you), but in his own garage, where even your most basic thinking man knows is unwise.
The timeline concerning these revelations doesn’t reflect well on Biden.
Richard Sauber, the “special counsel to the president” who is overseeing the White House’s response, said Biden’s lawyers discovered the classified records at the think tank on November 2—six days before the midterm elections. But the White House didn’t acknowledge that discovery until January 9, and then only after CBS News reported that Attorney General Merrick Garland had asked John R. Lausch Jr., the Trump-nominated U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, to look into the matter. Even then, the White House failed to mention the subsequent discovery of classified documents at Biden’s Wilmington home, which happened in December. That detail came out Thursday, again thanks to news reports that the White House then confirmed.
Has any of this given Biden apologists pause? Negative. In fact, some of these mental titans have crossed the conspiracy Rubicon and think the president has been set up. “Just as we’re this close to getting [Trump], somehow these documents appear,” said Joy Behar on The View.
When the Mar-a-Lago scandal blew up last year, there was an outpouring of overwrought rhetoric about how it was Extremely Dangerous to Our Democracy™. “Liberals are already inflamed by the developments with a recent NBC News poll showing that ‘threats to democracy’ have become a top issue for voters ahead of the midterms,” reported New York magazine. How odd that liberals seem anything but inflamed by Biden’s “papers with classified markings.” Apparently, it’s only a “threat to democracy” when the other side of the aisle stashes Top Secret things. The media seems more exercised about “right-wingers” who’re “revving up their outrage machine” over Biden’s malfeasance.
I’m not going to evaluate whether Trump’s case is more serious than Biden’s. There are differences in the specifics, but Trump’s behavior doesn’t set the legal standard for what is acceptable when it comes to handling classified documents, and the foundational issue is the same. I will, however, point out something that the media has studiously avoided mentioning, something that SimCom also pointed out: The Biden documents are records that he came across during his time as vice president, but the vice president doesn’t have the authority to declassify documents.2 As president, Trump did.
There’s no doubt this is a PR disaster for Biden. His mishandling of documents makes him look worse than Trump’s mishandling does. By all accounts, Trump was just being idiotically stubborn in refusing to return the material. Shocker. The hoi polloi like him exactly because he breaks the rules. He’s a bull in a China shop, and that China shop is Washington. But as political writer Brendan O’neill points out, much of Biden’s campaign was built around the idea that his ascendance to the White House was the “return of the adults to the room” and a restoration of normalcy, with the more level-headed establishment making its comeback. And then we discover that he’s been far more careless with his handling of Top Secret information—all while heavily criticizing his predecessor for the Mar-a-Lago brouhaha. The hypocrisy is rank indeed.
A criminal prosecution of Trump, which was always far from certain, now seems even more unlikely. Though it’s true that the Biden administration has a two-tiered justice system (anyone seen or heard from the FBI?), I think the political firestorm that would result from only prosecuting Trump might very well convince many centrist Americans not to vote for Biden again (who says he “intends” to run in 2024). In all likelihood, neither Trump nor Biden will suffer any consequences and all of this will be remembered as just another couple of bonehead elites getting off scot-free for something that lesser souls have been prosecuted for.
Can there anywhere be a breed of people more irritating and imbecilic than mainstream journalists?
Retired vice presidents can read classified information, but they have to do it in a “sensitive compartmented information facility.” Not in their garage.