Last summer, in an excruciatingly detailed New Yorker profile, former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter came clean about his struggles with addiction, his foreign business dealings and his run-ins with the law. If the piece was meant to inoculate Hunter’s father against a drip-drip-drip of revelations about Hunter that would distract from Joe’s presidential campaign, it was an abject failure.
Hunter has become the Republican Party’s new punching bag.
“The vice president’s son gets paid $50,000 a month and gets hired by a company in an industry he has no experience in and, oh, that’s fine?” said an emotional Rep. Jim Jordan, the Ohio Republican, in a heated back and forth with CNN’s Jake Tapper last month.
I burst out laughing when I heard Jordan’s faux outrage.
Hunter has fared so well in business because his last name is Biden? No duh.
His entire career is based on his last name: Out of law school, he worked for a bank holding company in Delaware that was a big donor to his father. He got a job in the Clinton Commerce Department thanks to family connections, then launched his own global consulting firm.
In 2013, he accompanied his father to China and helped arrange for the vice president to shake hands with his Chinese partner. (“How do I go to Beijing, halfway around the world, and not see them for a cup of coffee?” Hunter explained to the New Yorker. Well, maybe don’t go to Beijing with your daddy in the first place?)
But when you have Trumps and their surrogates suggesting that this kind of nepotism is intolerable, we have reached a new level of malignant hypocrisy.
May I remind anyone yammering about Hunter Biden’s conflicts that the burden of Middle East peace, immigration reform, not to mention the opioid crisis, has fallen on the slight shoulders of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who had absolutely zero government or policy experience before being named a senior White House advisor. He has solved precisely none of those problems, but — in good news for the Kushners — he’s developing international relationships that will help keep his family’s coffers full.
In 2017, journalist Vicki Ward reported in her book “Kushner Inc.,” that Kushner dined with some Chinese financial executives who were considering investing in his family’s real estate white elephant, a tower at 666 Fifth Avenue.
No deal ensued, and the building was eventually refinanced by a real estate company with strong Qatari ties.
Last week, in astonishingly good news for Democrats, it was reported that Kushner is in charge of Trump’s impeachment strategy.
Nepotism is one of the oldest political grifts in the world. A certain percentage of political relatives is always going to exploit a last name to get ahead.
We have seen, in the last few years, three famous political daughters get professional breaks that would never be available to no-name women, no matter how talented or smart. This is simply how it works.
Take Chelsea Clinton, who was given an astonishing $600,000 annual contract as an NBC contributor in 2011. She was paid $50K a month for puff pieces, including an embarrassing interview with the Geico gecko. (“Now gecko, do people recognize you on the street? ... Is there a downside to all this fame?”) Do you suppose NBC hired her for her journalism chops … or because her father had been president and her mother planned to be?
Jenna Bush Hager, daughter of former President George W. Bush, has been a correspondent and host at NBC since 2009. She is now co-hosting the fourth hour of “Today.” Good for her, but she was working as a teacher in Baltimore when a “Today” executive producer plucked her from the classroom and put her on the air. After that, NBC News was the first network to score an interview with her daddy after he left office. Coincidence? I mean, come on.
Nor should we forget the ascendance of Republican bad girl Meghan McCain, who launched a blog in 2007, when her daddy was running for president, and is now the token, beleaguered conservative co-host on “The View.” In exchange for a salary reported to be close to a million dollars annually, she brings to the table a sharp tongue, an aggrieved attitude … and a very famous last name.
Nothing, however, beats the chutzpah of the three eldest Trump children, who have leveraged their last name and their father’s office to line their pockets, and his.
During a recent appearance on Fox Business, Eric Trump called out Hunter Biden for trading on his last name: “Can you imagine if I took 3 cents from the Ukraine or 4 cents from China?”
As my colleagues Noah Bierman and Chris Megerian reported this week, Eric and his brother Donald Trump Jr. run the Trump Organization, which takes in tens of millions of dollars a year in the U.S. and around the globe.
“The company,” they wrote, “is forging ahead with projects in Ireland, India, Indonesia and Uruguay, and is licensing the Trump name in such turbulent areas as Turkey and the Philippines.” (Which leads to the obvious question: Did Trump pull American troops out of northern Syria, which enabled Turkey to slaughter our Kurdish allies and the predicted revival of Islamic State, to protect his Istanbul hotel license?)
Ivanka Trump has a Zelig-like knack for horning in on meetings with heads of state, including those in countries where she has done, is doing or hopes to do business — especially China.
“On the same day Trump and his daughter dined with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago in Florida in April 2017,” wrote Bierman and Megerian, “China awarded her three preliminary trademark approvals for jewelry, handbags and spa services.”
Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, using your daddy’s political position to gain a financial advantage is unethical, morally repugnant and unfair. It’s also, sorry to say, as American as apple pie.