What the Ukraine scandal reveals about Donald Trump is by now well known: He elevated his political interest above the national interest and demanded foreign interference in an American election. What’s received less attention is what the scandal reveals about Joe Biden: He showed poor judgment because his staff shielded him from hard truths. If that sounds faintly familiar, it’s because that same tendency underlay Hillary Clinton’s email woes in 2016. Clinton and Biden differ in many ways. But beneath each candidate’s marquee scandal lies the same core defect: insularity.
The Biden campaign would have you believe that only people who wear MAGA hats think it’s a problem that Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, while his father led the Obama administration’s effort to fight corruption in the Ukrainian energy industry. That’s not true. The Obama officials who handled Ukraine thought it was a problem, too. As Glenn Thrush and Kenneth P. Vogel of The New York Times recently reported, “Hunter Biden’s activities struck many of the officials working on Ukraine policy as an unnecessary distraction, or worse.” One of those officials was Obama’s ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey R. Pyatt. Another was Amos J. Hochstein, who coordinated international energy affairs at the State Department. Thrush and Vogel write that “Hochstein, reflecting the concerns of State Department officials, including Mr. Pyatt, tried to get several of Mr. Biden’s aides to broach the subject” of Hunter Biden’s work for Burisma with the vice president. Last month, The Washington Post revealed another State Department official’s attempt to get Biden staffers to intervene with their boss. The Post reported that George Kent, then a deputy assistant secretary of state, “raised concerns [with Biden aides] in early 2015 about then–Vice President Joe Biden’s son serving on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.”