Sunday, June 20, 2021


I'm back. Thank you, Tom and Yas, for stoking the fire while I was away.

I see that Catholic bishops in America appear to be plotting to deny Communion to President Biden. (I assume they'll drag out the debate, then stage the great snub a few months before the midterms, possibly live on Fox & Friends.) Shortly after this story broke, Dan McLaughlin, a Catholic and a writer for National Review, posted this on Twitter, in response to the death of the president's older and less impulsive dog:

At NR, McLaughlin published a version of this tweet that's longer and less flippant but nearly as offensive.
It was announced Saturday that Joe Biden’s dog Champ has died at age 13. By all accounts, the family German Shepherd was – as we would say – a good boy.... That leaves the family with another German Shepherd: Major, who was kicked out of the White House for a month after reportedly biting a Secret Service agent and a National Park Service employee.

On the eve of Father’s Day, the contrast between the two dogs – one uncomplicatedly beloved, the other a constant source of trouble – put me in mind of the Shakespearean tragedy at the heart of the Biden family: Joe’s sons Beau and Hunter.
McLaughlin gives us a nasty thumbnail version of Joe Biden's life -- his "boundless ambition and self-regard" (in a politician? heaven forfend!), his election to the Senate as a young man, the loss of his first wife and very young daughter in a car accident, the unsuccessful presidential runs, the ascension to the vice presidency. ("He hadn’t made it" to the White House, McLaughlin writes, condescendingly, "but gosh, he was close.")

In McLaughlin's telling, Biden had a "good son" and a not-so-good son, and maybe the not-so-good son was not so good because Biden was a shitty father. Or maybe not!
Beau was the textbook “good son,” doing all the right things. He won statewide office. He served in Iraq. He had a wife and two kids. He was obviously being groomed to take his dad’s Senate seat before long, maybe after being governor of Delaware. Maybe he would make it that one last rung on the ladder that dad never quite reached.

Hunter, though, was another story: a drug addict, a repeat peddler of influence on his dad’s good name, a guy who used the N word. It is natural for a father, busy with his career, to be indulgent of sons who have lost the rest of the family as toddlers. It is not hard to picture Joe, seeing that the family was in good hands with Beau, being all the more indulgent of Hunter. Or maybe that’s all armchair hogwash; we have all known wise and upright parents who did everything right, and one or more of their kids just got away from them. Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do.
McLaughlin finesses this, but you know he doesn't believe that those last two sentences really apply to Biden. Biden is a personally distasteful to McLaughlin, so he got the bad son he deserved in addition to the good son he didn't. (Though let's take a moment to imagine how brutal the right would be toward Beau Biden if he were alive now and on track to a possible presidency.)

In McLaughlin's telling, Joe Biden may have indulged Hunter because he had another son who was good. Then, McLaughlin tells us, Joe Biden lost the good son -- and indulged the bad son because he didn't have the good son anymore. And also ran for president only because Beau was gone, apparently.
With no “good son” to inherit the Biden legacy, the black sheep of the family assumed unexpected prominence that nobody had planned or wanted. Joe, unable to just step back and bask in the glow of Beau’s rise the way George H.W. Bush did after 1992, decided to run again himself in 2020, visibly well past his prime. Hunter embarrassed him at every possible turn, but Joe would never turn on the only remaining son, the last remnant of the family he brought with him in 1972, no matter what ethical compromises it demanded, no matter how many people warned him about what Hunter was doing.
What never occurs to our Catholic commentator is that, for Biden, being a man of faith means trying to be a good man -- he's forgiving his bad son not seven times, but seventy times seven. He was that way when Beau was alive and he's that way now because his love is unconditional.

McLaughlin ends with a sympathetic pat on the back, which would seem like the work of a decent person if it didn't follow a punch in the mouth:
We can blame Joe Biden for all the risks he is willing to run and things he is willing to overlook in order to let his son (and his brother, Jim) cash in with shady foreigners, and for an approach to nepotism that makes a mockery of Democratic crocodile tears about the Trumps. But that is all political fair game, as it always is. We can’t blame Joe Biden for an unshakeable devotion to his last remaining son, or for the independent misbehavior of a “kid” who is now 51 years old. The tragedy of Joe Biden, in the years when he ought to be enjoying his retirement, is that being a dad means the family doesn’t always work out the way you planned it, sometimes you can’t retire when you wanted to, and the things you would do for your kids sometimes go beyond the things you might ever have done just for yourself.
To McLaughlin, hiring the children of aides for White House jobs is a hanging offense, but giving West Wing offices to Jared and Ivanka is no big deal. And being a decent father to a prodigal son is something Joe Biden wouldn't have done if the tragedies in his life had never happened. Happy Father's Day, National Review readers!

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