Tag: joe biden
Why Republican 'Investigations' Are So Lurid -- And So Empty

Why Republican 'Investigations' Are So Lurid -- And So Empty

No matter how often they are disappointed, Republicans perennially repose their political hope in baroque scandals and conspiracies. The further to the right they lean, the more fascinated they are by the most absurd and lurid narratives — a tendency that spawned the full-blown destructive cult known as QAnon, which blends authoritarian politics with gory fantasies of pedophilia and cannibalism among the elite, usually topped with a smudge of antisemitism.

Not every self-styled "conservative" shares the perverse imagination of QAnon cultists like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, and more than a few may have noticed just how many child pornographers and sex offenders have turned up among QAnon's top influencers.

But as America approaches another presidential election, we must expect top Republicans to declare ever more noisily that the scandal of the century has engulfed President Joe Biden, who is a Democrat and therefore guilty before any charges are specified, let alone proved. The project of smearing Biden began during the last election, in a still murky operation involving a laptop computer owned by his surviving son Hunter. Honest news outlets have openly questioned whether anything on that machine can be taken at face value, after it has passed through the hands of almost-disbarred Rudy Giuliani, grifter Steve Bannon, fraudster Guo Wengui and other discredited figures.

So, while far-right outlets still market "salacious" images from the Hunter Biden laptop, Congressional Republicans are out there pushing other supposedly incriminating themes and memes.

The latest is a document in the possession of the FBI, which is said to reveal a "tip" from a foreign figure about alleged influence peddling by Joe Biden back when he was vice president. Both Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., who chairs the House Oversight Committee, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, whose specific role is obscure, have threatened to find FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt for withholding this document, although both now admit that they have seen it already.

Asked by reporters what the FBI document shows, Comer and Grassley have refused to divulge its allegedly explosive contents. Then Grassley exposed the hollowness of their "investigation" during a Fox News interview on June 1, when he said, "We are not interested in whether the allegations against Vice President Biden (sic) are accurate or not." He and Comer were only concerned, the Iowan declared, to make sure the FBI "is doing its job."

Evidently the FBI finished that particular job some time ago, when former President Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr still controlled the Justice Department. According to CNN, Barr distrusted the document's validity and its origins among Giuliani's sources in Ukraine (who are notorious for providing voluminous amounts of fabricated information). And neither the FBI nor prosecutors could find any corroboration of its claims about Biden.

In short, the new improved scandal is going down the same soiled chute as so many others that have targeted Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and nearly every Democrat who has run for president since 1980.

For instance, Americans recently learned that when Trump left the White House, the federal investigation of the Clinton Foundation finally ended, with no evidence whatsoever of wrongdoing. Not only did the nonprofit that former President Bill Clinton founded more than two decades ago save and improve millions of people's lives across the world, but it has also achieved those objectives with transparency and integrity. Yet Republicans spent millions of public dollars on endless investigations, aiming to degrade its reputation for partisan advantage.

The smear attacks on the foundation began with a 2015 book called "Clinton Cash," sponsored by Bannon, promoted by The New York Times, and cited by Trump to justify the FBI probe during his presidency. Its litany of false accusations damaged Hillary Clinton badly during her presidential campaign, just as they were concocted to do.

Proof has since emerged, ironically enough, that it was Bannon who profited from a fraudulent nonprofit, swindling rubes who wanted to "build the wall" on the Mexican border — and that it was Trump who operated a family foundation to evade taxes and glom large sums for his own benefit. Indicted for those financial crimes, Bannon accepted a pardon from Trump, who had already been forced by New York authorities to dissolve his own phony foundation. By then the political damage to the Clintons, and the nation, had been done.

When Grassley confessed that he doesn't care whether the accusations his party publicizes are true, he blundered into a profound truth. The Republican Party's leaders are no more interested in uncovering corruption than they are in reducing deficits or preventing child abuse. They care about power and its rewards, and nothing else.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Joe Biden

Biden's Debt Ceiling Victory Destroyed The Right's 'Senility' Smear

It is part of the right-wing canon that President Joe Biden is senile, with his mental faculties deteriorated to the point where he must be confined out of sight in his basement to avoid embarrassing himself publicly. This talking point was always a dubious and opportunistic political attack. But Biden’s successful negotiation of the debt ceiling deal demolishes the claim – and the right hasn’t figured out how to handle that.

Republicans and their allied media apparatus have hyped claims of Biden’s purported dementia since the 2020 presidential race. Trumpists on Fox News and elsewhere frequently highlighted Biden’s speech flubs (he has a stammer) and out-of-context video clips to draw attention to his admittedly advanced age and suggest he was “struggling.” At the same time, they attacked Biden for purportedly “hiding in the basement,” suggesting that Biden was eschewing public rallies not due to the pandemic but rather because his campaign was hiding him from voters to avoid scrutiny of his mental acuity.

Biden’s electoral victory did nothing to quell such attacks, with Fox figures regularly and casually describing Biden as “senile,” and extremely online Republican officials like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis talking on the campaign trail about the need to send “Joe Biden back to his basement.”

The last week has been brutal for this theory, with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Biden personally negotiating a debt ceiling deal that right-wing media figures call a “total cave” to Democrats that produced “a typical DC swamp sewer bill.” In March, McCarthy offered to bring the president “soft food” to kickstart negotiations, an obvious crack at his age. But on Sunday, after striking a deal, the speaker described Biden to reporters as “very professional, very smart. Very tough at the same time.” The resulting legislation passed the House on Wednesday night and now moves to the Senate.

The right is having difficulty coming to terms with how, as Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) put it on Twitter, “Republicans got outsmarted by a President who can’t find his pants.”

Some, like Fox prime-time host Sean Hannity, are treating Biden’s purported senility as entirely unrelated to the result. Hannity was discussing foreign policy as the House began voting on the bill, and said of the president, “We all know he's a cognitive mess, and he has no idea that today is Wednesday.” Minutes later, after the bill passed, Hannity complained that Republicans’ “hand was stronger” and expressed disappointment that they didn’t get more out of their hostage-taking. But he did not apparently consider how a president who didn’t know what day it was had managed to outnegotiate McCarthy.

Others, like Fox’s Jesse Watters, are continuing to talk up Biden’s purported mental frailty while ignoring the debt ceiling negotiations altogether. Watters did not mention the debt ceiling deal at all during Wednesday’s show. But he found time to amplify an actor’s claim that Biden has “obviously declining mental faculties” and to claim that Biden is “going to stay at home, he's not going to campaign” for reelection.

And a third group, headlined by Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo, is trying to cope with the tension here, albeit without considering that perhaps the problem is that their talking point isn’t true.

It is an embarrassing failure for Bartiromo and company to have spent years telling their audience that Biden is practically a “vegetable,” leaving them woefully unprepared to grapple with evidence of the president’s actual faculties. But don’t expect anything to change – they are all too deeply committed to the bit to alter course at this point.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Kevin McCarthy

McCarthy Admits Biden 'Walled Off' Social Security And Medicare In Buidget Talks

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on Wednesday that he wants to create a commission to look into future cuts to Social Security and Medicare because President Joe Biden refused to allow any cuts to the programs during negotiations over raising the debt ceiling.

“We only got to look at 11 percent of the budget to find these cuts. We have to look at the entire budget,” McCarthy said during an appearance on Fox News.

When anchor Harris Faulkner asked McCarthy why Republicans didn’t see the entire budget during debt ceiling talks, McCarthy replied, “The president walled off all the others.”

McCarthy said: “The majority driver of the budget is mandatory spending. It’s Medicare, Social Security, interest on the debt.” He told Faulkner that Congress was not done cutting spending out of the budget: “You know what, I’m going to make some people uncomfortable by doing that, but I’m not going to give up on the American people. … This is the first step. I’m going to announce a commission coming forward from the speaker, from bipartisan on both sides of the aisle,” to look for possible further budget cuts.

It’s unclear who would be on the committee, or how it would be different from the House Budget Committee, which exercises oversight of the annual federal budget. A McCarthy spokesperson did not return a request for comment from the American Independent Foundation regarding the committee’s makeup.

But Democrats are already slamming the proposal.

“The Speaker is once again making it clear that Republicans cannot be trusted to protect these lifesaving programs and that’s why voters will relegate them back to the minority next year,” Viet Shelton, a spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democrats to the House, told the American Independent Foundation.

McCarthy and House Republicans had been refusing to raise the debt ceiling without any cuts in federal spending, claiming the national debt is out of control and needs to be reined in. Republican lawmakers, however, played a large role in the debt, voting to pass a massive tax bill and multiple COVID-19 packages that added $7.8 trillion in debt during former President Donald Trump’s tenure, according to a report from ProPublica.

In remarks prepared for his State of the Union address in February, Biden asked Republicans to agree that they would not force cuts to Social Security and Medicaid in exchange for raising the debt ceiling:

Let us commit here tonight that the full faith and credit of the United States of America will never, ever be questioned. Some of my Republican friends want to take the economy hostage unless I agree to their economic plans. All of you at home should know what their plans are. Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset every five years. That means if Congress doesn’t vote to keep them, those programs will go away. Other Republicans say if we don’t cut Social Security and Medicare, they’ll let America default on its debt for the first time in our history. I won’t let that happen. Social Security and Medicare are a lifeline for millions of seniors.

When Republicans booed Biden’s comments, he ad libbed, “As we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now, right?”

As a result of Social Security and Medicare cuts being taken off the table during the debt ceiling negotiations, White House concessions to House Republicans were confined to caps on discretionary spending for the next two years, some cuts to IRS funding, and new work requirements for food stamps.

Republican hard-liners have railed against the deal, which would suspend the debt limit through January 2025, after which it would raise the cap by one percent, saying it did not make enough cuts.

“No. Republican. Should. Support. This,” Rep. Chip Roy, a Texas Republican leading the opposition to the deal, tweeted on Tuesday.

Combined, Social Security and Medicare account for nearly one-third of the federal budget, according to data from the Treasury Department.

But cutting funding to the programs, which provide retirement, survivor, disability and health care benefits to Americans, is deeply unpopular among voters.

An Associated Press poll published in April found 79 percent of voters oppose cutting Social Security benefits or raising the eligibility age, while 70 percent oppose raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67.

A Fox News poll from March found that 71 percent of voters thought it was more important to keep the Social Security and Medicare programs funded at current levels than to reduce the deficit.

Democrats have applauded Biden for the deal he negotiated.

“I commend President Biden for his leadership in fending off devastating cuts and protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid,” Rep. Kevin Mullin (D-CA) tweeted early Thursday morning.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Tara Reade

Tara Reade's Long Journey To Moscow Was All Too Predictable

On April 3, 2019, Tara Reade, a former staff assistant who worked briefly in Joe Biden's Senate office in the early 1990s, told a reporter from The Union newspaper in California that Biden had touched her in a way that made her feel uncomfortable, by putting his hand on her shoulder and neck. Just under a year later, on March 25, 2020, Reade gave a very different account of events. Appearing on a podcast with Katie Halper, Reade claimed that Biden slammed her against a wall, put his hand under her skirt, forced her legs apart, and penetrated her with his fingers.

The account immediately garnered national attention, with headlines in major newspapers and frequent coverage on news networks. In particular, Reade’s story was heavily supported by The Intercept reporter Ryan Grim and by that organization’s cofounder, Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald’s support for Reade included multiple appearances on Fox News and an article for Fox in which he argued that Reade “was not going away.”

Except she did. On Tuesday, Reade appeared on Russian state media to announce that she was defecting to Russia. In a statement delivered while sitting next to convicted Russian spy Marina Butina, Reade claimed that she no longer felt safe in America, but “luckily the Kremlin is accommodating.” Which is understandable, considering that Reade began supporting Putin well before she made her claims about Biden.

When they first appeared in the media, Reade’s accusations were shocking. Soon after appearing on Halper’s program, Reade filed a police report stating that she had been sexually assaulted in 1993. As with all such claims, the first response was, and should be, to take them seriously and start from an assumption that the victim is just that: someone who was on the receiving end of an assault for which they shared no blame.

Reade’s statements were taken seriously in the national media. Other women who had been subject to sexual assault and harassment spoke up in her support. That she had waited 27 years to file a report created some doubt, but since Reade had been a young woman dealing with a man in a powerful position, many expressed understanding at her delay. In Reade’s case, she is also a single parent and documented victim of domestic violence, which could certainly reinforce both fear and reticence.

Attention to Reade’s statements increased following a report in The New York Times where Reade provided an even more detailed account of Biden’s reported assault. That article also included a single sentence saying that “A friend said that Ms. Reade told her about the alleged assault at the time, in 1993.” Such contemporaneous accounts are vital to proving many cases of sexual assault and are often considered the best form of evidence. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called concerns about the assault described by Reade “significant and relevant.”

However, soon after Reade spoke out, there were a growing number of reasons to doubt her statements. Many of those who worked on Capitol Hill noted that the area where Reade claimed the assault took place was public and highly trafficked by both members of Congress and their staff. Reade was insistent that the area was “semi-private,” but couldn’t provide a clear location or a time—something that would have allowed her account to be checked against Biden’s calendar.

Reade claimed that she had reported the assault to three members of Biden’s staff. All three of those former staffers denied any such conversation. Those staff members didn’t just deny it in an “I don’t recall” manner; they denied it in a way that left little doubt that, in their opinion at least, Reade was not being truthful. Broader interviews of other staff members at the time, including interns who had worked with Reade, found no one who supported her claims.

Eventually NPR interviewed 74 former staffers for Biden, 62 of whom were women. Their statements were consistent when it came to Biden's actions while in the Senate.

None of the people interviewed said that they had experienced sexual harassment, assault or misconduct by Biden. All said they never heard any rumors or allegations of Biden engaging in sexual misconduct, until the recent assault allegation made by Tara Reade.

As with all such reports, it’s critical to neither blame the victim or engage in an effort to drag up events from their past as a means of diminishing their testimony. However, writing in USA Today, columnist Michael Stern looked through Reade’s claims and found several other reasons for doubt. That included a claim by Reade that she had filed a complaint with the Senate personnel office. No one at that office could find a complaint and Reade could not produce a copy of the complaint.

When it came to how she left Biden’s office, Reade told a shifting series of stories, including claiming she left voluntarily after Biden demeaned her by asking her to serve drinks at a campaign event. On other occasions, Reade claimed she had been fired in retaliation after filing the official complaint. In NPR’s extensive interviews, other staffers reported that she had been fired for poor job performance, and specifically for failing to properly handle constituent mail.

WhenPolitico interviewed a number of people who knew Reade, either as acquaintances or former coworkers, their report was even less flattering. They described a pattern of behavior in which Reade “ingratiated herself” to people, then borrowed money, skipped out on payments, or walked away from bills. One description was of a “‘manipulative, deceitful, user.”

When it was all assembled, none of the people in Biden’s office supported Reade’s claims, and there was no record of her Senate complaint. Her past acquaintances reported multiple instances of deception. Not a great start. And when Reade provided The New York Times an extended list of people she claimed had been told about the assault shortly after it occurred, not one of them recalled any such conversation.

All of this only made Reade a better subject for those like Grim and Greenwald, who pitched the whole thing as a massive conspiracy of silence around Biden. Efforts to do so included pushing a clip from a woman phoning The Larry King Show in 1993 who claimed her daughter had “a problem with a prominent senator,” but chose not to go to the press “out of respect for him.” This anonymous call was paraded out as Reade’s mother, with Greenwald promoting this as a “bombshell” against Biden.

But every look into Reade consistently showed one thing: Until 2017, she regularly praised Biden, supported him on social media, and promoted his ongoing work to combat sexual assault.

Those statements alone are, of course, not any sort of condemnation of Reade or her story. It’s common that women who have been assaulted by men in prominent positions may feel compelled to continue supporting that man in public out of fear for how it may affect their lives or careers in the future. Speaking out against that kind of pressure was the very essence of the #MeToo movement.

What’s different in Reade’s case is that, somewhere in the 2017-2018 period, it appeared her views on a number of subjects did a 180-degree flip—in particular, her views on Russia and on the United States. Over that period, she went from writing and “liking” statements that spoke out against Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and his actions in the 2016 election to dismissing those actions entirely and turning her fire on the “imperialism” of the United States.

In November 2018, Reade authored an article for Medium titled “Why a liberal Democrat supports Vladimir Putin.” In it, she declared that America is “not a democracy at all but a corporate autocracy.” She praised Putin for bringing order to Russia, for his “political genius,” and for how he looked “with or without a shirt”

President Putin has an alluring combination of strength with gentleness. His sensuous image projects his love for life, the embodiment of grace while facing adversity. It is evident that he loves his country, his people and his job. … President Putin’s obvious reverence for women, children and animals, and his ability with sports is intoxicating to American women.

By the time she made her accusations against Biden, Reade had deleted the Medium article (the link above is through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine). When confronted with these quotes, she claimed that they had been “taken out of context from a novel she was writing.” Which was, simply enough, a lie.

At this point in her domestic politics, Reade had turned away from Biden, bounced off at least two other campaigns, and was all in for Bernie Sanders. Members of Sanders’ team helped to push Reade’s claims, and the broad coalition who saw this as an opportunity to weaken Biden in the primaries pressed the idea that anyone who had ever expressed faith in claims by another woman, but cast doubt on Reade, was a hypocrite.

However, by May, Reade’s own attorney dropped her after it emerged that she had also lied about many aspects of her background, including her fictional college degrees and claims that she had been a faculty member at Antioch College. The Intercept slogged on, with Grim trying to extract some aspect of the story that could be used to defend their earlier promotion. But most publications simply allowed the Reade story to fade away, the lengthening number of false claims and the lack of evidence ultimately weakening her accusations against Biden.

Reade continued to be a frequent guest on right-wing media over the past three years, including an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s program in 2022. Carlson was, of course, highly supportive. Following her appearance on Sputnik, during which she made a litany of complaints about America (including that American roads are too bumpy) and “humbly” asked for Putin to “to fast track her citizenship request,” some media outlets continued to support Reade.

No one should expect Greenwald, The Intercept, or anyone else on the right to apologize for spending years pushing an ugly story for no other purpose than to harm Joe Biden. Meanwhile, Russian state media is already using Reade as a source in attacking U.S. policies and the U.S. military. She’s working for them now—just like she was in 2020.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.