I’m glad to learn that Hunter Biden will take responsibility for mistakes he made while he was in the throes of a cocaine addiction. He’s admitting to not paying taxes in 2017 and 2018, and also to lying about his drug use on an application for a gun license. Getting this behind him will actually help in his recovery and, provided he abides by the terms of his probation, he should not do any jail time. His case was investigated by a Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney from Delaware, and this should be the end of the controversy, but we know that the right will never stop exploiting Hunter’s addiction. They’ve convinced theirselves that he’s a monster rather than a flawed individual who is trying to atone for some deplorable behavior and get his life back together.

You can see this pattern at work in former Attorney General William Barr’s effort to talk reason to the right about the seriousness of the documents charges against Donald Trump. In order to have any credibility with the right, Barr feels it necessary to concede that there has been a double standard with respect to how Trump has been treated and how Hillary Clinton and Hunter Biden have been treated. Of course, he wrote the piece prior to learning that Hunter will face charges.

Rather, the argument advanced by Trump’s defenders is that, even though Trump’s conduct was indefensible and likely a serious crime, Hillary did the same thing. And it’s unfair that Hillary got away with it.

But if Trump engaged in the kind of brazen criminal conduct alleged, then applying the law in his case is not unfair to him. The injustice lies in not having applied it seven years ago to Hillary. You don’t rectify that omission by giving future violators a free pass. You rectify it by applying the right standard to the case at hand, and insisting it is applied to comparable cases going forward. Here, that means ensuring the same standard is applied in the pending investigations of Hunter Biden and President Biden’s handling of classified documents.

You can see the rhetorical strategy here. Barr is saying that Trump’s crimes are obvious and serious, and you can’t wipe that away by saying “what about Hillary and Hunter?”

For my part, I’ve always taken Hillary’s cavalier handling of information security more seriously than most on the left. I didn’t disagree with the government’s determination that she was reckless and I thought Trump was within his rights to make it a major campaign issue. That didn’t mean I thought she should be “locked up,” but it was a real knock against her otherwise sterling credentials to serve as president of the United States. Of course, now that we’ve seen how Trump handled sensitive documents both in and out of office, it’s obvious she was the better choice on the issue.

As for Hunter, I’ve always seen his treatment as just opportunistic and cruel. I feel kind of protective of Joe Biden considering the monumental family tragedies he’s endured, and it pains me to see Hunter’s substance abuse problems used politically to go after his father. I know this plea agreement won’t put an end to this, but it will drain some of the energy out of it. I think it will ultimately be beneficial for Hunter, too, on his road of recovery.

The “what about Hunter?” argument will have less plausibility as a defense of Trump now that the DOJ has shown itself unafraid to charge the president’s son. And the right should heed Barr’s warning: “Many loyal Republicans have instinctively rushed to the ramparts to defend Trump. I understand that impulse. But with each new revelation, they look more and more foolish.”

The key is that Trump could easily have received less than a “slap on the hand” if he had relented and turned over the classified information. He chose to commit serious felonies instead.

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