Since Trump began flogging the Hunter Biden story, he doesn’t have a lot to show for it. The opposition research on Joe’s son resulted in an impeachment, and not much interest outside of the Fox News world.
The accusations of family corruption and that Hunter used his father’s position to make himself rich is failing to move the polls, and even Republican Trump supporters are suggesting he change the subject.
But Trump remains obsessed.
It’s a matter of gamesmanship, trying to force Joe Biden into a moment of anger and incoherence that would illustrate his lack of fitness for office.
Trump lacks empathy or understanding of an opposing position, but he does understand bullying. Repeating epithets of adversaries was a feature (not a bug) of his 2016 campaign. “Low-energy Jeb” and “Liddle Marco” were examples of his pathetic style of denigrating and dismissing an opponent.
In the second 2016 debate with Hillary, Trump thought he could march in Bill Clinton’s accusers, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, and Juanita Broaddrick, as psychological warfare before the Debate Commission pulled the plug on his scheme.
Now Trump’s instinct is directed at the greatest personal vulnerability of his Democratic opponent.
Having survived the car crash that killed his sister and mother, Hunter has lived with the scars that make everyday life a seemingly unwinnable affair. As a grown man, Hunter would hole up in his Washington, D.C., apartment, leaving only to buy bottles of Smirnoff. His father, then the vice president, would call several times a day; he would show up unannounced to prod his son out of his darkest confines, telling him, “I need you. What do we need to do?”
Aides are reluctant to broach the subject of Hunter Biden with Joe, as sources have indicated it produces deep melancholy, touching a fragile part of the former Vice President.
And so Trump is cruelly poking Biden, not to indict the ethics of the candidate, but to provoke an unbecoming emotional outburst.
…more likely, the strategy will boomerang against Trump. When the president tried to raise the subject of Hunter in the last debate, he did manage to push his opponent into a moment of astonishing vulnerability. But instead of making Biden look disoriented or feeble, Trump’s attack evoked the sort of raw compassion and pure paternal love that campaign-advertising brains would kill to capture in a 30-second spot.
But as Rupert Murdoch’s outlets and the president himself continue to flog the scandal, spare a moment for Hunter Biden—a man who is recovering from addiction, a brother whose misery is the apparent shame of having survived his siblings, a son who is now the bludgeon that enemies hope will destroy his father. He is being sacrificed to a president who views the sadistic exploitation of a family’s tragedy as his own best hope of salvation. In its grotesqueness, this is a near-perfect closing argument, a presidency distilled.
This was at The Atlantic.