Huntergate was meant to be the WikiLeaks 2.0. Trumpworld hoped the story of the contents of Hunter’s laptop would mimic the trajectory of the story about the contents of Anthony Weiner’s laptop. It was literally a reprise of October 2020. Rudy Giuliani hoped another laptop might save the self-devouring Ouroboros snake of fuckery that is the Trump campaign.
Hunter Biden, of course, had a drug problem. The bet in Trumpworld was clearly that the rest of America would think of addicts as hopelessly damaged, corruptible, and beyond hope, and that Joe Biden is somehow at fault for loving his addict son.
The jump Trumpworld wanted you to make was to deem Joe morally deficient for having an addict son or somehow compromised for loving an addict. This whole scenario is made slightly more ironic by the fact that Trump had an alcoholic brother, and there is at least circumstantial evidence that other members of the Trump family also struggled with substance abuse issues.
Giuliani made a gamble that 2020 would play out the same way 2016 did. But while American newspeople still makes tons of mistakes, they have gotten harder to manipulate, and Rudy’s oppo dump wasn’t covered in quite the same way as Hillary’s emails were. Also, the contents of the laptop was pretty innocuous; though Hunter Biden’s selfies did fuel a mini news cycle. Rudy couldn’t even find a reputable venue for the story.
In the end, the half-baked nonsensical story ended up on the cover of Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post. The “story” was co-authored by a former Hannity producer, Emma-Jo Morris. The problem with the story, besides its dubious origin, is that it hangs on the supposition that addicts are morally bad and not actually suffering from the disease of addiction.
Trumpworld has delighted in making fun of Hunter for his addiction. Trumpy congressman and dentist, Rep. Paul Gosar, tweeted out a photo of Hunter lying in bed with a pipe in his mouth. The caption was, “Crack pipe: ‘Good night Hunter. I love you.’ Hunter: ‘I love you too my little friend.’” This got the hashtag #crackpipebiden trending. Never one to let an opportunity to embarrass himself pass, Fox News pundit Greg Gutfeld said he was going to dress up like Hunter for Halloween with only a crack pipe.
But more and more, as scientific knowledge of addiction deepens and with an opioid crisis across the country trapping decent people in dependency on pain pills because they happened to hurt their back at work, addiction is looked at as a disease and not a moral failing.
So making fun of Hunter with a crack pipe is like making fun of a cancer patient with a chemo drip or making fun of a diabetic for needing insulin. Sickness, especially during a pandemic, seems less than hilarious.
Another reason that Trumpworld doesn't want to alienate addicts and alcoholics is that they need the votes. America is a country riddled with addiction. Roughly one in 10 adults struggles with addiction. A lot of those addicts are represented by Republican congress members, according to Axios: “The abuse of prescription painkillers is worst in the South and Appalachia, which are predominantly represented by Republicans.”
And let’s not forget that Trumpworld had lots of promises about how it was going to combat America’s opioid problem. Wasn’t Chris Christie the chair of the Trump administration's commission on opioid abuse? Whatever happened with that? Next you’re going to say Mexico isn’t going to pay for rehab centers.
And the Joe/Hunter texts are almost having the opposite of the desired effect. Last Friday, the New York Post ran an excerpt of the Hunter-Joe text messages: “I’ll run but I need you. H is wrong. Only focus is recovery. Nothing else,” and the very damning “Your girls are so smart truly amazing. Very focused. Naomi very upset with K,” and the super-damning “When you can and feel like it call. Positive my text etc a target. Love.”
The problem for Trumpworld is that most Americans don’t think of addicts as suckers and losers. Most normal people would look at those text messages and see a loving dad and a son struggling to overcome an addiction, fighting to get his life back.
Even conservatives didn’t respond well to the messaging that addiction somehow equals a moral failing. Conservative pundit Jonah Goldberg tweeted, “I watched my brother’s addictions take a brutal toll on my Dad. It aged him physically and spiritually. The idea that Joe Biden’s text of encouragement to his (obviously messed up) son is somehow damning or embarrassing really disgusts me.”
I got sober when I was 19 years old. I’ve been sober longer than I was alive when I got sober. When I went to Hazelden, my mother wrote me letters (it was 1997) like Joe wrote Hunter. There are pictures of me strung out on drugs and ruining hotel rooms. Addiction is a ruinous disease. Drug overdoses killed more than 70,000 people last year. I believe that I was born with the disease of addiction and I came to it by no fault of my own. Hunter Biden is an addict (reports indicate that he is clean now). Addiction is a heartbreaking riddle. Trumpworld is treating it like a punchline to a joke.
Rudy promised The Daily Beast that Trump will “probably [will] talk about the drug addiction.” The Beast noted, “Giuliani insisted it could constitute a “major national-security threat” because it could have opened up Hunter, and therefore his father, to potential blackmailing efforts.” And he’s not the only Trumpy sycophant with his eyes still squarely on the former vice president’s son. Disgraced former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, who is currently out on bail, is teasing more Hunter Biden revelations. Maybe it’ll be some therapy notes about how Hunter felt when he lost his mother and baby sister in a car accident, or poetry he wrote when his brother Beau died of a brain tumor in his forties?
I know I should be used to the cruelty and callousness of Trump and his sycophants, but for some reason I always hope they’ll be better, and they never, ever are.