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The most intriguing question of the day is this: who wanted to sabotage Joe Biden’s run for a second term? More specifically, who leaked the story of the classified documents to CBS News?
Remember that it was CBS, not the White House, which announced on January 9 that Attorney General Merrick Garland had delegated the U.S. attorney in Chicago to review secret documents found at the president’s old office at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, and that the FBI was also involved. The news outfit reported that the discovery of classified papers occurred on November 2, days before the midterm elections, and cited but did not identify two sources who revealed the probe.
Details provided by those sources were sketchy; they could not identify the topics of the documents found or their level of classification. What they did reveal is that the materials were kept in a locked closet, a convenient detail helpful to protecting the president and allowing him to claim that the papers were safe from prying eyes. Whoever was behind the leak wanted to wound the president, but not mortally.
Did the leak come from people in the Justice Department, disgusted that President Biden was getting kid glove treatment while Donald Trump’s residence had been turned upside down by an FBI raid? Was it FBI whistleblowers fed up with their agency’s slow-walking an investigation of materials found on Hunter Biden’s notorious laptop – a probe which could entail national security risks and could well lead to the Oval Office?
That seems unlikely. If the information had come from the organizations involved in either initiating the investigation or the follow-up search, presumably they would have known more about the materials found in the closet.
An alternative theory is that it was someone inside the White House, who wanted Joe Biden out of the 2024 race.
Joe Biden, after all, was on the cusp of formally announcing that he would run for a second term. Buoyed by the unexpectedly favorable results of the midterm elections and a subsequent bounce in his approval ratings, the president was feeling chipper. He was ready and willing to stand up to the MAGA Republicans, as he calls them, and go for a second term.
Others in his party might not have been so optimistic. They knew that the Republicans’ poor showing in the midterms was in part due to the Supreme Court’s Roe v Wade decision, which energized pro-choice voters, and also because Trump had backed some poor candidates. Numerous Democrats in the run-up to the November elections chose not to campaign with President Biden; some found it convenient to be out of town when he showed up in their states. They knew he was not a vote-getter.
But then the clouds parted for Biden. He took credit for the relative successes of the midterms – the Democrats kept the Senate and barely lost the House. Thanks mainly to a slowdown in China and Biden’s reckless depletion of our nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, oil and gasoline prices dropped, producing a downward slide in inflation. The much-anticipated recession likely to flow from the Federal Reserve’s hiking of interest rates had not yet materialized.
In short, Biden has been in recent weeks enjoying a window of relatively favorable news, and looked ready to grab it. His polling improved from catastrophic to dismal; even the stock market helped out, gaining ground in the last few weeks of the year.
For Democrats, the better news stream was a mixed blessing. The polling was clear; 70% of Americans, including 57% of Democrats, do not want Joe Biden to run for a second term. Neither do voters want Donald Trump to be the candidate. The country appears ready to move on, to a new generation of leaders.
But Joe Biden doesn’t want to move on. He’s visibly annoyed that the documents furor is dulling his midterm afterglow, testily telling a reporter last week about that he has “no regrets” about his secret papers mess and that there’s “no there there.”
Others, including many in his own party, see it differently. Numerous Democrat legislators have called for a thorough investigation of the documents breach; the volume of criticism is growing.
Senators Dick Durbin, Tim Kaine and Joe Manchin, and Representative Debbie Stebenow are among those who have rebuked the president for his mishandling of secret documents which, as Durbin recently put it, “…is not supposed to happen.”
Over the past weekend, even his stalwart ally former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined to give Biden a green light to run again, evasively telling Maureen Dowd that deciding to do so is up to the president, hardly a solid endorsement. Asked by the New York Times writer if “age [is] a positive thing for him?”, the former House Speaker acknowledged it was not, though tempering that assessment by adding that age is a “relative thing.” Nancy, age 82, knows of what she speaks.
The documents scandal has prompted another downturn in Biden’s polling; the mishandling of the situation has made his administration look inept. Given a worsening economic outlook, with manufacturing, housing and retail spending all sliding south, it is hard to see Biden’s fortunes improving any time soon.
Meanwhile, numerous Democrats are lining up to run in 2024. Gavin Newsome, J.B. Pritzker, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg and others will undoubtedly be hoping that Biden does not seek a second term.
For all those presidential wannabes the documents uproar could not have happened at a better time. If Biden had declared he was running, they would have been stymied, fearful that challenging the president in a primary would alienate, especially, black voters loyal to Joe Biden, without whom no Democrat has a chance.
If Biden announces he will not run, those hopefuls and others have an open field.
Who leaked the secret? We do not know, but Democrats everywhere should be cheering, not least those eager to replace Joe Biden.