The decade's most triggering comedy
Hunter Biden’s memoir, billed as a recovered drug addict’s acceptance of his mistakes and journey to inner peace, is instead laced with partisan rage, displaying a seething hatred for Republicans who he continues to blame for his problems.
Just days after he had last used crack, the son of the president viewed the prospect of leadership by those with different preferred policy positions as more frightening than a soulless life of depravity, saying Donald Trump’s reelection is what he “feared most,” constituting a “threat to democracy.”
The son of the now-president had been criticized for taking a lucrative position on the board of Ukranian gas company Burisma while his vice-president father was deeply involved in the affairs of that country, where corruption is rampant. Burisma proudly put a picture of Joe Biden on its website.
Hunter admits that his five-figure-a-month board fees were “a major enabler during my steepest skid into addiction” that allowed him to “spend recklessly, dangerously, destructively,” including using cocaine on a Burisma board trip.
Yet he justifies his actions with partisan rhetoric, saying that “Burisma was opposed to the direct interests of the most dangerous person in the world—Vladimir Putin,” and he still thinks it was unfair for Republicans to question his big-money international deals.
In his world, opposition to Republicans seems to justify everything else.
“If I was going to pick a side—and if I was going to get paid to pick a side—I’d choose the same way again, rather than back the person President Trump has sided with,” he writes, saying a company official told him, “You can get paid by the Russians or the people who are fighting them.”
“Do you think if any of the Trump children ever tried to get a job outside of their father’s business that his name wouldn’t figure into the calculation? My response has always been to work harder so that my accomplishments stand on their own,” he writes, even while detailing how he laid on the couch for days with a jerry-rigged bottle of vodka propped to his mouth, or spent his days lounging by the pool while going to the bathroom to smoke crack every fifteen minutes.
An email involving another potential business scheme involving China said that “H,” or Hunter, would get 20% and also hold 10% for “the big guy,” which a participant on the email thread, Tony Bobulinski, has said referred to Joe Biden. Hunter simply says comments by Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani questioning the propriety of the arrangement were part of the “up-is-down, self-dealing universe cooked up for political and personal gain by Trump and Giuliani and their circle of bandits,” part of “the ever-swelling club of Trump’s conspiratorial delusions.”
In the end, the elder Biden “beat back a vile man with a vile mission,” Hunter writes, and “I became the beneficiary of the absurdity and transparent criminality of my pursuers. … Every bogus whistleblower, out-of-context email, salacious photograph or video clip (manufactured or real), made me feel nearly invincible to their slings and arrows.”
Partisanship superseding morality and being more important than other aspects of life appears to be a recurring theme in Hunter’s memoir “Beautiful Things,” which was released Tuesday.
Decades ago, former Senator Mike Mansfield taught Joe Biden an important lesson, Hunter writes: “you can question a colleague’s judgment, whether it be a Democrat or a Republican, but you should never question his or her motives. Everybody comes to the Senate for a reason, he went on, but nobody comes for the sole purpose of being mean-spirited or un-American.”
But that no longer applies now, the president’s son writes. “Trump’s motives can and should be questioned because, hell, most of the time he flat-out states them. And take my word, those motives ain’t pretty.”
When Joe Biden joined the Barack Obama ticket in 2008, the family believed he would be the “most influential vice president ever—that is, if you discount Dick Cheney, who had the advantage of manipulating his commander in chief,” Hunter writes — before detailing how Joe Biden repeatedly shouted “Goddammit!” when his attempts to influence the Obama administration were thwarted by other advisers.
Hunter calls Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz “someone once arrested for driving under the influence in his daddy’s BMW, and who later had the charges mysteriously dropped.” However, he sneers that it is “ridiculous” to speculate that his own connections played a role in a dropped investigation against him when Arizona police found paraphernalia in a rental car alongside a Secret Service card and his brother’s attorney general badge.
Hunter’s inability to decide whether to take responsibility for his actions or skirt the details and blame Republicans is a fatal flaw for an addiction memoir, as well as possibly for his sobriety. Letting go of resentments and being honest about one’s mistakes is a key part of twelve-step programs.
Hunter writes that “The greatest value to being in rehab is the opportunity to be honest with yourself and” others, but that in his attempts, “it almost felt like I was playacting—performing a facsimile of my story rather than confessing it.” It’s not clear that anything had changed by the time he wrote the book.
He “had become resistant to traditional twelve-step-based rehabilitation—or too burned out on it, or too proficient at gaming it—for that method alone to seem like much use. It had worked for me for extended periods in the past, and there’s much about it I believe is invaluable—I still employ many of its tenets to stay sober,” he writes.
Some of his attempts an alternative approach to sobriety simply consisted of taking other drugs. “I was certain that my getting clean depended on more than just being told addiction is a disease and that it requires 100 percent abstinence,” he says, detailing how one rehab in Mexico consisted of taking the hallucinogen ibogaine, which is illegal in the U.S., and another entailed doing DMT, a drug derived from the glands of a toad.
After he drove the rental car to the treatment center in Arizona where the police found paraphernalia, he simply abstained from crack for a week and then left to go to a resort spa, proclaiming himself “physically and mentally purged.”
What is billed as his final cure consists of meeting a South African woman on a blind date, saying he loved her within minutes, and then getting married to her a week later.
In the book’s final pages, Hunter concludes that “I took solace in being attacked by such despicable opposition. When you’re assaulted by people with the capacity to take away an infant suckling from his mother’s breast and place him in a cage—well, I knew I was playing on the right side.”
But a world in which those with different political priorities are perceived as cartoon villains to be crushed is not so far off from the one he inhabited not long before, when his crack-addled roommate Bicycles believed that a serial killer was hiding in the walls.
And in a world like that, lasting serenity could be hard to find.