Joe Biden’s Secret Dilemma

Today was a federal holiday, but that didn’t stop White House staffer Ximena Nkwame Fong-Biswas-Sanchez from visiting my office for an urgently booked consultation. She practically leapt into the chair directly in front of my desk, scooted up close, pulled out a government laptop, opened it with an air of grim determination on the edge, then placed an iPhone with the Voice Memos app running between her computer and me. “I’ll be taking notes on this, Collins,” she cautioned, “as well as recording the session. Any objections?”
“None at all,” I replied, “it’s your consultation. You can post the transcript on the Whitehouse Web site for all I care. To what do I owe the honor of this visit, as if I didn’t know?”
“The Republicans are all over over it!” she fumed. “Fox News can’t stop harping on it! It’s driving President Biden nuts!”
“Well,” I observed, “you must admit, recent developments have made him look somewhat… how shall I put it… rash? Foolish? Silly? Hypocritical? Idiotic, perhaps?”
“He’s none of those things!” she roared.
“Of course not,” I agreed. “But you must admit, he has a severe case of foot-in-mouth disease. I mean, seriously, did he really have to wax so sanctimonious in his 60 Minutes interview? When Scott Pelley asked him what he thought when he saw the FBI’s display of classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago, did he really have to say, ‘How that could possibly happen, how one anyone could be that irresponsible,’ instead of something less likely to come back and bite him in the posterior, like, ‘a person in his position might discover that they have classified documents stored outside of a SCIF, but how they handle that situation is the important factor,’ or something else a bit more like what, say, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama might have come up with?”
“He can’t help it!” she objected. “That’s Joe Biden being Joe Biden!”
“Right,” I noted. “Biden can’t stop himself from committing outrageous gaffes, and J. Bruce Ismay couldn’t stop himself from bragging that the Titanic couldn’t be sunk. And in Joe’s case, his proclivity for shooting himself in the foot has finally resulted in a Titanic-sized disaster for the Democrats, hasn’t it?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she challenged.
“Just that now,” I explained, “using Trump’s mishandling of classified materials as a way to send him to jail – or even only get him permanently disqualified from holding federal office again – has been completely vitiated.”
“Legally,” she insisted, “there’s no comparison! Trump willfully held on to hundreds of classified documents he took out of the White House when he was no longer President and lied about them! Biden’s attorneys discovered a few classified documents from when he was Vice President years and years ago, and notified the National Archives and Records Administration about them immediately! And what’s more, NARA knew about the classified documents Trump had taken and asked for them back right away, while NARA had no idea about the classified documents at the Penn Center – or the classified documents in Joe’s garage, for that matter – they weren’t even aware they were missing until Joe Biden’s team told them! Biden notified the Justice Department about the discovery of his classified documents as soon as it happened! Trump fought over the classified documents he had taken and lied about them to the Justice Department for months! Trump obstructed justice, Biden upheld it! It’s the difference between an accidental minor fender-bender and driving a ten-thousand pound Hummer into a crowd of pedestrians at sixty miles an hour!”
“And I am not a lawyer,” I reminded her. “and what you are saying to me is what you should be saying to one of them. Or perhaps you are repeating what one of them has already said to you. Whatever – let’s get real here, shall we? Joe Biden’s sloppy document management practices and stupid choice of words have totally tanked any chance of using Trump’s violation of US national security laws as a means for removing him as a future totalitarian threat. Look – any reasonable person need not be the Attorney General to see that Donald Trump belongs in prison for what he did at Mar-a-Lago. But that’s not the point of your visit here today, is it? This isn’t about the law. What you need is a political strategy to turn Joe Biden’s latest steaming pile of mistakes and misstatements into a crock full of gold for the Democrats, isn’t it?”
“I wouldn’t put it like that, exactly,” she sighed, “but yes, essentially, something along those lines, anyway. What do you have in mind?”
“The only way Biden can turn this situation around politically,” I advised, “is through contrast.”
“Contrast?” she repeated in a slightly bewildered tone.
“Yes,” I confirmed, “that’s what I said – contrast. Here we have Donald Trump and Joe Biden in what, politically speaking, are equivalent circumstances. As far as low-information voters, which is to say, ninety percent of American voters, are concerned, there’s no difference – they’re both presidents, and both of them had classified federal documents in their homes and offices when they shouldn’t have. And as far as those voters are concerned, from what they know about classified federal documents from TV dramas, airport spy novels and thriller espionage movies, is that messing around with classified federal documents is a serious crime. And they also know, from similar stories provided by the same sources, that people get framed for federal crimes, and that it’s up to US attorneys to see that the bad guys are punished and the good guys are not. So Joe Biden has to play the good guy to Trump’s bad guy.”
“Okay,” she allowed, “that shouldn’t be too hard. Trump’s obviously a bad guy.”
“Obviously to you, maybe,” I parried, “but not necessarily to somebody polishing his AR-15 by the fireside in Arizona – or even to a suburban housewife in New Jersey. What Joe Biden needs to do is behave in a manner that demonstrates to everyone – even that Republican gun nut in Tucson, that he’s the good guy in this fortuitous face-off, and Trump’s the villain.”
“And how,” she asked in a skeptical tone, “is Biden supposed to do that?”
“Well,” I opined, “he’s off to a reasonably good start, what with him being so brave and honest and forthright about things, but that alone isn’t going to feed the bull dog. He needs to keep that up, of course, while Special Counsel Robert Hur investigates, and, I would recommend, completely ignore any parallel House Republican investigations, no matter how much noise they make. His next steps will depend on whether or not Hur identifies any breach of federal law.”
“What then?” she inquired, leaning forward curiously.
“First of all,” I continued, “if he doesn’t, the fact that Hur is a Trump appointee should settle the matter politically, and Biden should apologize for his inadvertent mistakes, proclaim that the American justice system worked, praise its many virtues, and go forward without any further action, other than to continue ignoring the Republicans and keeping his big Irish foot out of his big Irish mouth in the future. On the other hand…”
“If the special counsel finds wrongdoing?” she interrupted with an apprehensive tone.
“Then Joe has to turn up the contrast to eleven,” I told her. “He has to admit to committing it, whatever the wrongdoing was, and make a plea deal with DOJ.”
“A plea deal?” her jaw fell like a duck shot from the sky. “Are you insane?”
“No,” I assured her, “but Trump is, and if Biden does that, it will drive him straight over the brink.”
“You mean,” she extrapolated, “when Trump sees Biden, a sitting President, someone whom DOJ itself has said it would never prosecute, admit guilt and ask DOJ for a plea deal for the same thing he did, Trump will realize he hasn’t got a chance of staying out of prison himself, and consequently, goes berserk?”
“Yep,” I confirmed. “The chances of Trump doing something else in reaction, something unrelated to mishandling classified federal documents, that nevertheless involves severe criminal activity are virtually certain. He might try to mount another insurrection, he might try to incite his followers to commit other types of crimes, such as murdering people, he might try a financial fraud of some sort, the possibilities are endless for a sociopath like him. And whatever those thing are, they can be used to indict and convict Trump, thereby giving you Democrats what you so dearly desire, that he be put away where he can’t cause any more trouble for the United States, ever again. An objective,” I added, “that many other people who aren’t Democrats – or even Americans – would certainly not mind you achieving. Actually, truth be told, there are plenty of Republicans who’d like to see him behind bars, too – they just don’t have the guts to say so, at least not in public, anyway; God knows I’ve heard enough of it from them here in this office. Considering where he’s managed to get himself to now, all Trump needs is enough rope to hang himself, combined with a good stiff push in an appropriate direction and he will self-destruct.”
“And Biden’s plea deal would be the rope and the push?” She pressed.
“Well,” I allowed, “In my opinion, it would certainly be one combination of the two with a significant potential for success.”
“And what,” she demanded, “do you propose the terms of Joe Biden’s plea deal would be?”
“He pays a million dollar fine,” I replied, “does one hundred hours of community service…”
“Community service?” she interrupted. “What kind of community service?”
“How about,” I suggested, “one hundred hours making classified document security training videos for federal employees and contractors? I’m thinking, something like, ‘Hello, I’m Joe Biden, former President of the United States, and in this video, you will learn how to properly handle classified federal materials. All federal employees take a solemn oath to protect and defend the United States Constitution, and an important part of fulfilling the responsibilities of that oath is to ensure that our enemies and adversaries never have access to the vital secrets America needs to remain powerful and free. There are important federal laws that everyone serving in our government must obey when creating, transmitting, reviewing and using classified information, and our first unit will be to learn about those so that you have a complete understanding of their requirements and penalties.’ What do you think?”
“I think I want to know what you mean by saying, ‘former President of the United States,’ that’s what I think!” she barked, throwing me a withering scowl.
“You didn’t let me finish,” I remarked, “I meant to say, a million dollar fine, one hundred hours of community service, complete revocation of his security clearance for the rest of his life and resignation from the presidency.”
“Resign?” she shouted. “How could you possibly suggest that?”
“I’m not suggesting it,” I clarified, “I’m vigorously recommending it. Consider Joe Biden’s place in history if he does that – when a duly appointed special counsel finds wrongdoing by a President, he admits it, accepts the just consequences, resigns and does penance. Ask yourself, could that happen anywhere but the USA; a situation where the most powerful person on the planet steps down and accepts punishment in deference to the rule of law over the rule of men? Talk about profiles in courage! Talk about an object lesson for all the evil despots strutting their stuff in Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang, Kabul, Tehran, and a score of other countries where the oppressed yearn to breath free! Talk about showing the young people who volunteered to be in our military what they are fighting for, against the dictators’ thugs, fanatics and mercenaries they oppose! Talk about showing the nation – and the world – the difference between the values of the twenty-first century Democratic Party and the craven, amoral, shameful and cowardly shadow of itself that the Republican Party has become!”
Upon completion of what I must confess was a perhaps overly emphatic pitch for my idea, a protracted silence ensued as Ms. Fong-Biswas-Sanchez stared at her federal government laptop screen.
“Seriously,” I finally wondered aloud, “does a person such as yourself have a problem with the concept of a President Kamala Harris?”
“Not… really,” she slowly responded. “But I’m not so sure Joe Biden doesn’t.”
“Fine,” I shot back. “Brief the Vice President on my consultation first.”
“Maybe I will,” she vouched as she snapped her laptop shut, stowed it in her backpack, picked up her iPhone and rose from her seat.
“And one more thing: Talk about demonstrating an orderly transfer of power,” I said as she made for the heavy oak doors leading to the reception area of my office. “Tell her to listen carefully to the last two minutes of that audio file you recorded.”