It was President Richard Nixon who said in the midst of the enveloping Watergate scandal: "People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook. I earned everything I've got."
That standard should be applied to Joe Biden before the election. He should be pressed to explain his son Hunter's financial dealings in Ukraine and Beijing.
In a rare moment when a reporter is able to ask Biden a substantive question, Bo Erickson of CBS News wanted to know the candidate's response to a New York Post story that alleges a Hunter Biden laptop discovered at a repair shop in Delaware contains damning evidence of the Biden family profiting from Hunter's relationship with the Ukraine gas company Burisma and sharing some of the money with his father, reportedly referred to in a Hunter Biden email as "the big guy."
Sounds preposterous? Then if the story is false, as Biden supporters claim, why, according to a story in the Washington Times, has the owner of the repair shop confirmed to a Senate committee that it was Hunter Biden, himself, who dropped off the laptop?
Joe Biden didn't deny the story, but claimed to Erickson, "it's another smear campaign, right up your alley, those are the questions you always ask."
Not exactly. The media have almost universally been in the tank for Biden and his running mate, the equally invisible and inaccessible, Sen. Kamala Harris. Over the weekend, Biden campaign surrogate Jenna Arnold repeatedly refused to deny the authenticity of the alleged Hunter Biden emails. When asked by Fox News' Leland Vittert if they were genuine, Arnold responded, "I don't think anybody is saying they are inauthentic."
It was reported last January by the New York Post that Hunter Biden, his father, and other family members profited from Joe Biden's positions in government. The story cited Peter Schweizer's investigative book "Profiles in Corruption: Abuse of Power by America's Progressive Elite": ...no less than five family members benefit(ed) from his largesse, favorable access and powerful position for commercial gain. In Biden's case, these deals include foreign partners and, in some cases, even U.S. taxpayer dollars."
As the political journalist Michael Kinsley observed in 1986, "In Washington, the scandal isn't what's illegal; the scandal is what's legal."
If true, Biden's influence and positions in government were used by himself and his family for profit. People who have not yet voted deserve to know whether a man who might be elected president is a crook, or not, or at a minimum if he traded his influence for cash, even if it was technically legal. There is, after all, the matter of propriety and setting a good example for others, two assertions by Biden as to why he is a better choice than President Trump.
Thursday's debate moderator, Kristen Welker of NBC News, has an obligation to press Biden on this question, as George Stephanopoulos failed to do in his ABC News town hall with Biden. The former vice president should not be allowed to get away with the claim that he is being smeared, especially when the smear appears to be coming from his own muddy hands.