House Republicans have revived the infamous Swiftboat lie strategy that helped defeat John Kerry in 2004. In essence, it involves relentlessly lying about a candidate and smearing his or her name and reputation in the hopes it’ll shave a few points off their popularity with independent voters.

While virtually 100 percent of the men who served with Kerry in Vietnam spoke glowingly of his service, a group who did not serve with him made up lies and exaggerations. And the Swiftboat effort was well funded: Clarence Thomas’ sugar daddy Harlan Crow threw big bucks into it in 2004.

Kerry and those who served with him tried to get the truth out, but, as Mark Twain is often credited as saying, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.”

While Democrats prefer to win elections based on facts and policy positions, Republicans — not having anything to offer average Americans, instead default to slander and lies. Like with Obama’s birth certificate. Or Hillary’s email and Benghazi.

Wouldn’t most people, after all, resort to lies if all they had to offer was forcing 10-year-olds to carry their rapist’s babies to term, more guns to slaughter more American children, tax cuts for billionaires, more fossil fuels to create out-of-control weather, a government shutdown to cause a recession, and a Russian victory in Ukraine?

In this case, the essence of the impeachment inquiry Kevin McCarthy announced yesterday is straightforward: he believes that Joe and Hunter Biden profited from Joe’s being in the White House during the Obama administration and he thinks that’s an impeachable offense. After all, there is:

  • That $2 billion that Hunter got in a sweetheart deal from the Saudis with an annual paycheck of $25 million to manage it.
  • Or the billion he got from Qatar after his buddies in Saudi Arabia blockaded the country and threatened to starve them until they coughed up to bailout his fancy overpriced building in New York City.
  • And the more-than $600 million Hunter made while working in his dad’s White House.
  • Don’t forget the tens of millions in trademarks his wife got from the Chinese when she visited them with Dad.
  • Or his multiple meetings with Russians working for Vladimir Putin who was then trying to get his dad elected.
  • Or the $30 million given him to invest and manage by one of Israel’s largest insurance companies.
  • And the top-secret info he gave a Saudi prince that helped him overthrow his own government.

Oh, wait. That was Jared and Ivanka Kushner, not Hunter Biden.

Hunter appears to have committed three crimes, two of which he’s being prosecuted for by a Trump-appointed special prosecutor with help from a Trump-appointed judge.

First, he failed to report or pay his income taxes for two years while he was in the throes of alcohol and drug intoxication.

He’s since paid them in full, plus fines, as do tens of thousands of delinquent filers in the US every year. Republicans want him to go to prison anyway.

Second, he checked a box on an application to purchase a gun — which he only kept for two weeks and never used — which said that he wasn’t then a drug addict.

Checking that box when you are a drug addict is technically a crime, but there’s no instance I can find with a pretty thorough web search of anybody, anywhere, any time ever having been prosecuted for it.

Until now. It looks like Hunter might actually go to prison for checking the box, which raises the question: where are the Second Amendment Republicans protesting this violation of his sacred right to own a gun no matter what? Crickets.

Third, Hunter took a position on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian fossil fuel giant, for which he was paid millions. This was a transparent effort to trade off his father’s name and nobody is denying that: it was “poor judgement” (to quote Hunter himself).

To show his employers how tight he was with the Vice President, he’d call his dad and conduct the phone conversation on a speaker phone for the room to hear; his business partner in the Burisma deal, Devon Archer, testified about that before James Comer’s House Oversight Committee.

Sadly for Comer, though, Archer testified under oath that the two never discussed business or Burisma: Joe Biden kept the conversations to family, rehab, and the weather.

Nonetheless, the Republicans are sure if they dig deep enough they’ll find something at least as scandalous as Jared’s cutting the deals with Saudi Arabia that led to the Crown Prince funneling millions of dollars into Donald Trump’s pockets via the LIV Golf scheme.

Good luck with that: unlike Donald Trump, Joe Biden actually has a moral compass. He used those phone calls to try to talk his son into rehab.

But Marjorie Taylor Greene had dinner with Donald Trump this past Sunday night, and he told her he wanted Joe Biden impeached according to people who were there, and then turned up the pressure on McCarthy. Trump, of course, doesn’t want to be the only guy running for the presidency who’s been impeached and whose family is known to be corrupt through-and-through.

Now Greene, Lauren Boebert, and Matt Gaetz are in a pissing match over who was first with the very, very cool plan to impeach Biden.

Boebert’s proposal, Greene wants the world to know, is simply a rip-off of her own efforts. After calling Boebert a “little b*tch,” Green said:

“I had already introduced articles of impeachment on Joe Biden for the border, asked her to co-sponsor mine—she didn’t. She basically copied my articles and then introduced them and then changed them to a privileged resolution.”

Yesterday morning, after McCarthy’s coming announcement was public knowledge, Gaetz tweeted:

“When @SpeakerMcCarthy makes his announcement in moments, remember that as I pushed him for weeks, @kilmeade said I was: ‘Speaking into the wind’ on impeachment. Turns out, the wind may be listening!”

In response, Greene tweeted back at him:

“Correction my friend. I introduced articles of impeachment against Joe Biden for his corrupt business dealings in Ukraine & China while he was Vice President on his very first day in office. You wouldn’t cosponsor those and I had to drag you kicking and screaming to get you to cosponsor my articles on the border. Who’s really been making the push?”

The sad reality for this MAGA crowd is that there is no evidence, either direct or implicit, that Joe Biden ever had anything to do with his son’s business dealings or ever took any money from them. None. Even the two “IRS whistleblowers” who said Hunter had committed tax crimes that they claimed were overlooked during the Trump administration brought no evidence. The Department of Justice also denied their claims.

Another much-heralded “whistleblower” that Comer and House Republicans had talked about for weeks turned out to be a professional con man, spy for China, and criminal who’s on the lam fleeing international arms trafficking charges. Understandably, he didn’t show up for the hearings.

But don’t let facts get in the way of a good swiftboating.

I remember when, during the 2004 election year, Jerome Corsi came on my program several times to hype his book Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry. Corsi, it turned out, had never served in the US military, and his co-author, John O’Neill, served in Vietnam long after Kerry had returned to the US.

Literally none of their claims held up, but, like with the Obama birth certificate and Benghazi, they blew enough smoke that millions of swing voters concluded there must be a fire somewhere.

So now McCarthy is having to twist himself into pretzels to try to justify this bizarre fishing expedition.

Instead of seating a select committee to look into impeaching Biden, McCarthy is essentially doing a marketing move rather than a legal one. There is no “impeachment committee” with subpoena power because having one would require a majority of the House to vote for it and he knows he doesn’t have enough Republican votes to make it happen.

As McCarthy himself said just two weeks ago:

“To open an impeachment inquiry is a serious matter and House Republicans would not take it lightly or use it for political purposes. The American people deserve to be heard on this matter through their elected representatives. That’s why, if we move forward with an impeachment inquiry, it would occur through a vote on the floor of the People’s House and not through a declaration by one person.”

Back in 2019 — when Nancy Pelosi was debating having a vote to put together an impeachment committee when it came out that Trump had tried to extort Zelenskyy to say that Biden was corrupt — McCarthy said:

“Speaker Pelosi can’t decide on impeachment unilaterally. It requires a full vote of the House of Representatives.”

But instead of having that vote yesterday, McCarthy’s just attaching that “impeachment” label to the existing hustles being run by Comer at House Oversight and Jordan at Judiciary and Weaponization. It’s legally meaningless, but just the use of the word “impeachment” guarantees multiple news cycles, driving the “smoke” into the faces of American voters.

This is the same McCarthy who said the entire Benghazi two-year circus was done purely to tarnish Hillary Clinton in the upcoming 2016 election. He told Sean Hannity it was his “strategy to fight and win” the election, adding:

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.”

The fact is that presidential elections, which are often decided by just a few points or less, can be won if a candidate can simply shave those few points off their opponents’ tally. And that can be done by discouraging base voters about a candidate and thus suppressing turnout, or simply souring swing voters on that candidate.

This strategy worked for Republicans in 2004 against John Kerry and again in 2016 against Hillary Clinton; we can fully expect them to play it out now. Particularly if Democrats once again respond by trying to ignore it and wrongly assume people will realize how absurd it is.

Slander campaigns like this must instead be hit head-on with outrage and ferocity: Democrats need to take this seriously.

So, while Don Jr. and Eric Trump are facing prosecution in a $250 million fraud suit by New York State for corrupt acts that handed their family billions of dollars scammed from banks, insurance companies, and unpaid taxes, Republicans are going to try to impeach Joe Biden for his son’s poor but entirely legal decision to sit on the Burisma board.

Meanwhile, within hours of McCarthy’s announcement, Russian President Vladimir Putin came out and gushed about the “outstanding person” Elon Musk while taking Donald Trump’s side in his dispute with Jack Smith. Irony is dead and hypocrisy has never been more alive.

Steven Senne (AP) and J. Scott Applewhite (AP)

© Thom Hartmann, used with permission. Originally published on The Hartmann Report as The Swiftboaters are Back with the Biden Impeachment

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