One of the most powerful (read: possibly the only worthwhile) moments in the first Presidential Debate was Joe Biden's response to Donald Trump's efforts to smear his son, Hunter. After a few flailing efforts to sling the usual meaningless Ukraine/Burisma non-troversy conspiracy theories about Hunter Biden, Trump sneered at Biden, attacking the former VP for the fact that — in Trump's word — Hunter, "got thrown out of the military for cocaine use.
Biden responded with firm compassion. "My son, like a lot of people, like lot of people you know at home, had a drug problem," he said. "He's fixed it, he's worked on it. And I'm proud of him. I'm proud of my son."
Addiction is a disease that affects millions of Americans. It's not a lapse in character, or an indictment on a person's individual choices; it is a disease with a biological component. Joe Biden understands this. That's why he's proud of his son.
But the day after the debate, Donald Trump, Jr. went on Glenn Beck's radio show and continued to mock "Crackhead Hunter" for having a disease.
The opioid addiction crisis was a major topic during the 2016 election. Trump Senior gave it a lot of lip service, making lots of big promises to potential supporters in rural areas ravaged by drug struggles compounded by economic depressions and desperation. The Trump White House did end up earmarking some money to handle the crisis; but like most things in Trumpland, it was really only a sales tactic. And Trump's failure to adequately address the coronavirus pandemic has made the problem even worse.
The tragic irony is that this could have been a genuine opportunity for Trump to demonstrate his humanity. His brother Fred died from complications related to alcoholism. Trump has acknowledged that he regrets "pressuring" his brother to join the family business while he struggled with addiction. But he still largely attributes his brother's problem to a failure of character, rather than a disease. "If we can teach young people, and people generally, not to start. It's really, really easy not to take them," Trump said in 2017, referring to substance abuse. "And I think that's going to end up being our most important thing."
And because of his brother's "moral failings" in succumbing to the disease of addiction? Donald Trump punished his brother's children — his own nieces and nephews — by kicking them off the family healthcare plan and allegedly took them out of the Trump patriarch's will.
In that context, it's no surprise that Don, Jr. would also lack the most basic human empathy, and opt instead to mock someone for having a disease.
Donald Trump Jr. Calls Hunter Biden 'Crackhead' After Drug Past Brought Up at Debate [Darragh Roche / Newsweek]
Image: Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC 2.0)