The right is positively giddy over the so-called Twitter files. House Republicans called a press conference to declare that their very top priority will be investigating Hunter Biden’s laptop. Rep. Elise Stefanik promised in July that if given the majority, Republicans would get “accountability” from the “Biden crime family.” The victim narrative — that big Tech rigged the 2020 election by suppressing the Hunter laptop story — is all the rage on the right.
“We’re learning in real-time how Twitter colluded to silence the truth about Hunter Biden’s laptop just days before the 2020 presidential election,” Rep. Kevin McCarthy tweeted, and the whole right-wing chorus has sung along. They haven’t been this energized since the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago. Laura Ingraham cheered Elon Musk on for uncovering the “fact” that Twitter “worked overtime” to elect Biden. Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel offered that “If Joe Biden were a Republican, this would be getting nonstop coverage by the mainstream media. Their blatant bias would be unbelievable except it happens EVERY SINGLE TIME.” Self-described “psychedelic adventurer” Joe Rogan suggests that this proves that “The deep state is 100% real. The swamp is real. They’re real monsters, and they were really trying to get rid of him (Trump) by lying.”
The notion that a laptop delivered to the New York Post by Rudy Giuliani two weeks before the election and rejected by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News and others should not have been treated skeptically is the dicier proposition. Further, the hyperventilating about the assault this represents on the First Amendment is risible. Twitter, a private company, was free to ignore the request. Even if Biden had been president at the time, there would be no violation of the First Amendment. Government officials not infrequently request that journalists refrain from publishing material, often about military secrets. Newspapers sometimes comply and sometimes not. It’s only a violation of the First Amendment if the government coerces the journalists.
Nor did Twitter’s temporary suspension of the Post’s account sway the election. As Cathy Young notes, 1) the ban lasted only about 36 hours; 2) the ban may have heightened interest in the story rather than suppressing it, and in any case, the story was available via a Google search; and 3) the whole narrative about Biden’s participation in Ukrainian corruption, the gravamen of the laptop story, is false.
So what is this really about? Consider the timing.
For seven years, the right has been explaining, excusing, avoiding and eventually cheering the most morally depraved figure in American politics. That takes a toll on the psyche. You can tell yourself that the critics are unhinged, suffering from “Trump derangement syndrome,” but then Trump will do what he always does — make a fool of you. You denied that Trump purposely broke the law when he took highly classified documents to Mar-a-Lago and obstructed every effort to retrieve them. And then what does Trump do? He admits taking them! You scoff at the critics who’ve compared Trump with Nazis. And then what does he do? He has dinner with Nazis! (And fails to condemn them even after the fact.) You despised people who claimed Trump was a threat to the Constitution, and then Trump explicitly calls for “terminating” the Constitution in order to put himself back in the Oval Office.
Hunter Biden seems to be a mess. But there is nothing relevant to public policy or civic virtue here. Joe Biden is hardly the first president to have troubled family members. But Joe Biden didn’t hire Hunter at the White House, and if there is any evidence of the president using official influence on Hunter’s behalf, we haven’t seen it. The Department of Justice under Trump opened an investigation into Hunter Biden. President Biden has left it alone. It’s ongoing.
The right has a deep psychological need for the Hunter Biden story. They desperately want Joe Biden to be corrupt and for the whole family to be, in Stefanik’s words, “a crime family” because they have provided succor and support to someone who has encouraged political violence since his early rallies in 2015, has stoked hatred of minorities through lies, has used his office for personal gain in the most flagrant fashion, has surrounded himself with criminals and con men, has committed human rights violations against would-be immigrants by separating children from their parents, has pardoned war criminals, has cost the lives of tens of thousands of COVID patients by discounting the virus and peddling quack cures, has revived racism in public discourse, and has attempted a violent coup d’etat.
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They know it. But here’s something else they need to meditate on: Even if everything they’re alleging about Joe Biden were true; even if he did pull strings to help his son and even profited unjustly thereby, it still wouldn’t amount to a fraction of what Trump did. And it still won’t wash out the “damn’d spot.”
Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the “Beg to Differ” podcast. Her most recent book is “Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense.” To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.