How Lawfare Became Biden’s Campaign Strategy

Christian Parenti

How Lawfare Became Biden’s Campaign Strategy

The offensive has begun. The Trump indictments are coming down like artillery. Behind these political explosions vast armies of lawyers have left their trenches and now advance into no-man’s land. And like the sclerotic old generals who presided over the carnage of World War I, the establishment media tell us this assault is different. Is it?

Once again, Trump’s alleged crimes appear to be comparable to wrongdoings imputed to Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and others who avoided prosecution. Did Trump conspire to cover up the fact that he retained documents? Maybe. Will we also find out that Biden had conversations about the documents that he took home?

Keep in mind that despite everything, Biden is barely beating Trump in the head-to-head polls. The RealClearPolitics average has Trump up by 1.8 points. Both men have abysmally low approval ratings. Trump is almost 40 points ahead of any of the other Republicans and is almost certain to clinch the nomination. These are reasons for Democrats to be worried.

Biden, meanwhile, has created problems of his own by seeking to avoid a primary campaign. This has been done by moving the South Carolina Democratic primary up to Feb. 3, 2024. Recall that Biden was almost considered dead in the water until James Clyburn and the South Carolina Democratic Party machine saved him during the 2020 primary. The DNC is also making it seem as if there will be no primary debates. That could change if Robert F. Kennedy keeps gaining momentum; one CNN poll showed Kennedy garnering 20 percent support among Democratic and Democratic-leaning respondents.

At first glance, attempting to avoid a Democratic Party primary may seem cunning—a means to conserve resources for the real conflict. But even fans of Biden note that the president’s avoidance strategy is risky.

The Nation’s D.D. Guttenplan and John Nichols have recently lamented Biden’s lack of vision, and have rather fantastically urged him to lean left. As if it weren’t already clear what Democrats do: They campaign to the left, then rule to the right by starting new wars and agreeing to austerity. Nonetheless, Guttenplan and Nichols make a good point. By so aggressively avoiding a primary struggle, Biden loses the opportunity to make his case. He avoids potential humiliation, but he misses the chance to get out and prove that he isn’t senile.

The problem is the policies. Biden’s Labor Department has been good; his creeping privatization of Medicare and his vaccine mandates have been bad. He wouldn’t even extend the Covid-era expansion of Medicaid. But worst of all, and connected to everything else, is the terrible war in Ukraine.

Progressives largely fail to realize that voting for war is an environmental policy, an education policy, a health-care policy, and an economic policy. The opportunity costs are enormous, when one considers what else could have been done with the $113 billion in US taxpayer money that was allocated to Ukraine in 2022, most of it for military spending. Yet The Squad and Bernie Sanders and Ro Khanna have supported the war, notwithstanding the harm it does to the causes they supposedly cherish. Nor is it lost on everyone that the sum of the cuts agreed to in the debt-ceiling negotiations are roughly commensurate with America’s Ukraine splurge.

Connected to Ukraine is the question of Hunter Biden. The First Failson, as the New York Post’s censored-but-vindicated Hunter Files_ _reporting showed, was earning $83,000 a month to serve on the board of Burisma, a shady Ukrainian energy firm, and in 2015 arranged meetings between its executives and his father, then the Obama administration’s point man on Ukraine.

The FBI is currently sitting on a document that is rumored to directly implicate President Biden. There’s already enough from Hunter Biden’s laptop to justify serious exploration of what exactly he was doing on the board of Burisma. And what exactly did “10 held by H for the big guy” mean in an email related to a Chinese deal in which Hunter was involved?

“The Trump indictments serve to crowd out news that might hurt Biden’s reelection.”

These questions have been ignored by liberal outlets, but Republicans in Congress are pressing them. The Trump indictments serve to crowd out news that might hurt Biden’s re-election. No doubt Biden will muster energy for a final sprint in which he talks up his bipartisan infrastructure bill and his student-debt-cancellation efforts, but the heart of the campaign is lawfare against Trump.

A certain kind of Republican and independent voter will be enraged by the blatant double standard. I know a few former Never Trump Republicans who now give Trump money not because they like him or his policies, but rather because they are so disgusted by the Trump derangement circus. That said, an equal or greater number of former or potential Trump voters will turn away from the election as the legal troubles mount.

Meanwhile, out on the hustings, Donald Trump—the only man to serve four years as president without seeming to age one day—is speaking to his people. Steadily bringing up the counter arguments, doing his thing, playing the martyr, and with total confidence promising to end the war “in 24 hours.”

War-drunk Democrats don’t even notice Trump’s pro-peace rhetoric, which during the four years of his presidency was matched by relatively pro-peace policy. But I suspect many voters will.

Christian Parenti is a professor of economics at John Jay College, CUNY. His most recent book is Radical Hamilton.