How Hunter Biden’s ‘Beautiful Things’ memoir played out in DC

Photo: Pari Dukovic / Archives Trunk

Hunter Biden was flying over Highway 10 in the Sonoran Desert. Heading east behind the wheel of a rented Lincoln Town Car, exhausted and running at 80 km / h, he had closed his eyes just long enough to get off the road and into the air, twirling to land in the opposite lanes. Desert weeds tangled around the underside of the car. He sat there, stunned, as two police cars approached. They didn’t even slow down as they passed him. A tow truck brought Biden back to a Palm Springs Hertz, where he picked up a Jeep Cherokee and drove back to Sedona.

It was fall 2016, and he was expected to show up for a yogic rehab retreat 12 days earlier. Instead, he had gone on a bend, meandering across the United States in search of crack, which he could find anywhere. Biden was proud of it. Now he was running on the freeway all night, lost his mind, chain-smoking stimulants to stay awake: crack, then cigarettes, crack, then cigarettes. He saw a barn owl – a real or a mirage, he wasn’t sure. He dove over his windshield and flew away. The bird seemed to guide Biden as he meandered through the red rocks, shielding him from disaster, leading him to salvation. He arrived at his destination at 3 a.m. with drugs in his system. When he dropped off his replacement rental car, he forgot to take with him to rehabilitate his gear – along with his phone and wallet – prompting him to call the police, the secret service and the future President of the States. -United.

These sordid details do not come from a tabloid fever dream or the confused mind of Rudy Giuliani, but from Hunter Biden himself in the pages of his new memoirs, Pretty Things. A tale of a life defined by pain and privilege, both poignant and dark, it is both an extremely candid story and a very unusual political document.

A member of the first family publishing a book is not without recent precedent: Ivanka Trump released Working women, a frilly ode to Girl Boss capitalism, in 2017, and her brother Donald Trump Jr. later published Sets off, a rant on awakened dogma, and Liberal privilege, a screed against Joe Biden. But that was just superficial marketing literature designed to promote the Trump brand. In 2021, on the other hand, a veritable First Fuckup gut-spiller, detailing in his own words all of the major personal issues that the right-wing media have tried and failed to militarize for years – which had the potential to derail a presidency. . Still, Hunter Biden’s Black Sheep Ballad has landed quietly in Washington.

“I am shocked,” said a senior White House official. “I get dog stuff all the time. I was so surprised that I didn’t have anything on Hunter. Whether they prepared for a media frenzy or not, members of the administration Joe Biden report that, internally, the arrival of Hunter’s book (which was written by journalist Drew Jubera) on April 6 didn’t was not a big event. Very visible but hardly noticed, everywhere and nowhere at the same time: this is the nature of the history of drug addiction in America and the nature of the history Of the history by Hunter Biden. “It’s just not something people are talking about,” a second senior White House official said. “It’s the atmosphere that is in place. I don’t think it’s out of fear or because it’s “forbidden”. It’s just not very nice.

No big strategy meetings, no staff memos, no frantic conference calls, they say. “That’s what they do: close ranks,” said a person familiar with White House dynamics Biden. The few people the president trusts are familiar faces from his decades inside the Beltway. “It’s very possible that Ron Klain, for example, never read the manuscript. Mike Donilon would have done it. Kate Bedingfield – I wouldn’t be surprised if she had to pressure someone above her to give it to her, ”the person said, referring to the president’s chief of staff, senior adviser and the director of communications. “Information hoarding is a powerful tool of power. It’s not easy working for Joe Biden, and it’s the way they maintain their power, how they define what power is and who wields it. In Obamaworld it was, Who should go to the meeting? In Bidenworld, it is, Who gets to know the thing?

Take a bubble. What do you see? For me, it’s the prismatic sphere that transports Glinda the Good Witch across Munchkinland to meet Dorothy and Toto, or schools of soapy drops popping up on the grass outside my childhood home. Bubble suggests frivolity and lightness, a thin and impermanent barrier against the world. Our media bubbles have become something more difficult. As a topic, Hunter Biden highlights how political polarization and the democratization of the media have created a “Choose Your Own Adventure” information environment for consumers. Right-wing and mainstream media covered Russian interference in the 2016 election and the indictments of Donald Trump, in extremely opposite ways (even in different versions of reality) but much the same. cut. There is no such harmony when it comes to Hunter. Even though he puts himself on commercial display with a book that tells a lot – but not all – of his story, the mainstream media remains cautious and uncertain about how or even whether to approach him. The tabloids and the right-wing media, meanwhile, are on their own.

the Daily mail used the publication of the book as an excuse to post more private material allegedly obtained from Hunter’s personal devices. THE EXCLUSIVE promised to reveal what Hunter didn’t in his memoir. This included footage of what appears to be Hunter engaged in an enthusiastic (and rather crowded) sex act, as well as interacting with his father and therapist amid the throes of his addictions – violations so pervasive they’re hard to handle. watch. Do I even describe them here? Fox News aired the photos in prime time.

In the 2020 election, Trump overestimated his hand with Hunter, slapping himself in the face instead of his opponent, resulting in his first impeachment and trapping the idea of ​​Hunter-the-bogeyman in the realm of conservative media. Any story about the Democratic candidate’s son risked appearing not only as a crass attack on a recently recovered drug addict, but also as a form of encouragement for a right-wing plot. Joe Biden discussed Hunter sparingly, and the more Trump delved into his miscalculation of how the public would judge Hunter’s addiction, the easier it was to dismiss any other question. In a debate, Trump clouded his argument that the Bidens were corrupt by referring to Hunter’s drug use, offering his opponent a chance to defend his son’s recovery as something he could be proud of, which eclipsed the complicated mess of China and Ukraine and all that swamp. business. Trump just made it too easy.

The momentum persists now. As Trump used to ask, constantly: Where’s Hunter? As he struggles to reclaim his own story, it’s as if he still can’t cross the barrier between media worlds. The mainstream is afraid to touch it, the people who care the most are its enemies, and the White House has no reason to help promote it. White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates told me: “As the President and the First Lady said in February, we deeply support that Hunter is telling the painful story of his painful experiences with the drug addiction, which takes a tremendous amount of strength and courage and comes at the same time. when so many Americans face the challenges of addiction themselves and need to know that they are not alone at all.

The White House has received advice from the book’s publisher, Gallery Books, detailing Hunter’s tightly-controlled television appearances. The limited promotion included two CBS morning shows and a fun adventure with Jimmy Kimmel. Hunter declined all cable news and print interviews. His book struggled to maintain its position in Amazon’s top ten. But it served her purpose – and her father’s. In the memoirs, he describes a decision to speak to the press without alerting his father’s campaign: “I knew what the story would really do: inoculate everyone with my personal failures. I wanted to do it so that there could be nothing on my father’s head.

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