Opinion | A Laptop Window on the Oligarchy

Opinion | A Laptop Window on the Oligarchy

Joe Biden’s son Hunter speaks virtually to the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Aug. 20.



Step one, help yourself to tasty assets from the public trough. Step two, figure out how to keep them.

The best investment in Ukrainian history may be about to become even better—Burisma’s recruiting of Hunter Biden to its board. After a government minister allegedly awards himself lucrative gas rights, the Ukrainian people overthrow a regime famous for its corruption. In the normal course of events, a successor regime would seek to establish its bona fides by clawing back the disputed gas rights, except for one thing: The new government, under military threat from Russia, is desperately dependent on a U.S. administration whose vice president was Joe Biden.

It was unnecessary for Mr. Biden to do anything. The new regime was checkmated from the start in its desire to relieve Burisma of its questionably obtained assets. Now U.S. reporters frightened to be seen playing it straight in the middle of an election insist there’s nothing to see here except the sad misjudgment of Mr. Biden’s dissolute son. A normal person, though, can’t help regarding Burisma as the culminating chapter in a Hunter Biden career in which, from day one, every job and opportunity was handed to him by someone seeking influence with his father.

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Nothing may be illegal here; voters can decide what to make of it. But it ought to register with you how cravenly some in the mainstream media are trying convince you something isn’t true that they know is true. The New York Post revelations are unlike many things you’ve seen reported as “news” lately: There is meticulous, transparent sourcing. The technician who ended up in possession of Hunter’s laptop is described in detail and has now been identified by name by other news outlets and even outed himself. The named persons of Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon vouched for how the data came into the Post’s hands. Compare this to the vague, anonymous sourcing of so many Russia collusion stories or the

New York Times’s

mysteriously sourced “tax-return data” (not tax returns) of Donald Trump.

Mr. Biden is favored in the polls but he may need Democrats to win the Senate to fend off three damaging words in one Hunter email—“the big guy,” for whom Hunter is seen demanding a secret, disguised 10% share in a proposed Chinese joint venture. Fox News has since reported that the phrase refers to the former vice president.

“Oh God,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez exclaimed a year ago. “In any other country, Joe Biden and I would not be in the same party.’

She’s on to something. The economist Harold Hotelling long ago described how, in a duopoly market (such as our two-party political system), competitors gravitate toward strategies of “minimal differentiation.” Those who are distracted by the show (which is the show’s job) imagine Republican and Democratic governments are night and day. They aren’t, though the atmospherics have lately become more polarized thanks to a Big Data incentive to focus on getting a party’s sluggish supporters off the sofa rather than pursuing converts. If there is a more waxen emblem of elite monoculture than Joe Biden, none leaps to mind. Indeed, everything about the Burisma story testifies to why he would seem “safe hands” to the vested donor class symbolized by K Street.

The two-party system has served America well for two centuries, but the government it oversees has evolved into a vast rent-seeking and redistribution apparatus the founders never envisioned. Reforms Americans might want seem permanently blocked by Beltway influencers: A cost-effective health-care system. A tax code that isn’t a piñata for special interests. A primary education system that doesn’t treat its neediest customers as chattels even as it provides good service to those who can use a competitive real-estate market to force local officials to respond to parental desire for better schools.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is probably wrong about one thing: A European-style system of five, six or more parties would likely only accentuate America’s static unreformability.

Mr. Trump is an imperfect vehicle, but who in at least 2,000 years hasn’t been? His voters are the ones who have been most disrespected by the relentless dishonesty of the Democratic and media campaign to delegitimize the 2016 election. If you need any more proof that James Clapper, President Obama’s director of national intelligence, is himself a source of disinformation aimed at the American public, see his claim that the Biden laptop, with its trove of photos and messages whose authenticity the Bidens haven’t disputed, is a product of “classic textbook Soviet Russian tradecraft.”

The two-party system is not beyond redemption. In fact, we’re coming to the end of a four-year experiment testifying to its ability to generate “outsider” pressure for change. The results have been far from unpromising, notwithstanding the fog machine of an unimaginative and conformist press. And the most promising of all is that such an experiment could even take place. That lesson should continue to percolate no matter what happens on Nov. 3.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey may appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to explain the company’s unprecedented speech blackout against a New York Post story that could embarrass the Joe Biden campaign. Images: NY Post/AFP/Getty Composite: Mark Kelly

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Appeared in the October 21, 2020, print edition.

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