Cocaine is a helluva drug

Plus: Pining for Gretchen

hunter biden cocaine white house
A view of the West Wing of the White House in Washington, DC, July 2023 (Getty)
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Welcome to Thunderdome, where this week our podcast is all about cocaine and cocaine accessories as the guys discuss the latest speculation for a White House that seems out of control. If you’ve got bad news, you wanna kick them blues — so listen here, and subscribe here!So let’s get one thing straight: the betting odds on this White House cocaine thing are totally out of whack. BetOnline, an offshore gaming platform, opened up the bidding at +170 for Hunter, followed by +800 for… Travis Kelce? The Kansas City Chiefs tight end was at the White…

Welcome to Thunderdome, where this week our podcast is all about cocaine and cocaine accessories as the guys discuss the latest speculation for a White House that seems out of control. If you’ve got bad news, you wanna kick them blues — so listen here, and subscribe here!

So let’s get one thing straight: the betting odds on this White House cocaine thing are totally out of whack. BetOnline, an offshore gaming platform, opened up the bidding at +170 for Hunter, followed by +800 for… Travis Kelce? The Kansas City Chiefs tight end was at the White House a month ago — how often does BetOnline think the White House gets inspected? Kelce is at +800, followed by “One of the Jonas Brothers” at +1000, followed by a string of nonsensical celebrities. The president and the first lady, for what it’s worth, are at +10000.

This is just ridiculous. If you wanted to actually predict the odds on this, you’d offer a heavily weighted bet on “will not be discovered,” and then bets of increasing unlikeliness on Biden and Harris family members. Any list like this that doesn’t include odds on cool young White House guests such as Biden’s Penn-educated lawyer granddaughter Naomi or Kamala’s model stepdaughter Ella Emhoff is totally unserious (though of course there is no evidence at this stage connecting any one individual to the discovery). You should also offer a bet taking the field against Hunter, in the style of Tiger Woods bets in his prime.

The explosive cocaine report was the icing on the cake of Hunter Biden’s week, which saw his story finally break through to the mainstream media discussion to an unprecedented degree. In part that’s thanks to real news developments: whistleblowers in the aftermath of his announced plea deal with insultingly low ramifications for his purported criminal activities, and nothing at all about his foreign influence peddling. But another part of it is due to optics, a fact acknowledged by Jen Psaki herself on MSNBC in a “not great, Bob!” moment.

The New York Times’s decision to report extensively on the president’s grandchild for the first time on July 1, in a piece that worked very hard to frame things as resolved, features details that will come as a shock to readers unaware of this story’s twists. It includes the fact that Hunter stopped responding to Lunden Roberts’s messages, including one informing him his daughter was born, and that the whole legal issue started when he removed Roberts and his daughter from his health insurance. And it reports for the first time that aides have been instructed from the top — the president and the first lady — that they are to acknowledge just six grandchildren.

The comment from the other grandfather, the gunmaker who is there for his grandchild, is as icy a response as you’d expect from any southern patriarch: 

The girl is aware that her father is Hunter Biden and that her paternal grandfather is the president of the United States. She speaks about both of them often, but she has not met them. Her maternal grandfather, Rob Roberts, described her as whip-smart and funny.“I may not be the POTUS,” Mr. Roberts said in a text message, using an acronym for the president, but he said he would do anything for his granddaughter. He said she “needs for nothing and never will.”

The Times quotes pollster Frank Luntz as saying none of this matters, nor will it change any vote — but the Times notes that the president’s allies don’t all share that view — and they are right to be skeptical of Luntz. A key aspect of Joe Biden’s victory in 2020 was the much-repeated line that decency was on the ballot, that he would wash away the stain of Donald Trump and heal the soul of the nation. But this doesn’t come across like empathetic Joe Biden, grandfatherly Old Joe, loving and caring — it comes across as tawdry and vile, and perhaps indicative of a deeper rot on the financial front. It cuts against the core of his brand.

All Joe Biden and the White House would have to do to avoid this is to acknowledge this little girl. Quietly invite them to the White House, have some behind-the-scenes candid photos, give her a hug and show her around the place. Then you release a statement saying that no matter the story that led to her birth, she is loved and accepted as any family should love and accept a child in a similar situation through no fault of their own, just like they love and accept their son through all his faults. Issue over, resolved, isn’t that great how Joe can be so empathetic? What a good, grandfatherly guy. 

Instead, this has become a “Bidens stick together” mantra to the point that you wonder if Hunter has convinced the Big Guy that the DNA test was wrong, or that Roberts somehow took advantage of him, or that it’s all just a made-up right-wing conspiracy. Joe, ever given to fabulism and fantasy about personal lives, seems content to ignore this to the end.

One person who won’t: Donald Trump. And so just as we saw with Bill Clinton’s past hauled out and put in the seats during debates, I fully expect Trump, if he becomes the nominee, to show up for any debate with Joe and break in with a question: “Would you like to meet your granddaughter? She’s here in the stands tonight.”

You can bet on it.

Pining for Gretchen

Back in early 2020, then-Politico writer Tim Alberta, known more for the length of his creations than his insightfulness, penned a near-8,000 word piece on rising Democratic star Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan — at that point, a favorite to be chosen as Joe Biden’s vice presidential nominee. To call it a puff piece is an insult to Pomeranian culture. A typical paragraph:

Reared in the cradle of Michigan’s back-slapping establishment, Whitmer is the quintessential insider, one-part policy aficionado and one-part student of the game. She’s an old-style pol, known as much for impassioned partisan crusades as for her conciliatory three-beer summits. In Lansing, you cannot find anyone, Republican or Democrat, on the record or off, who does not admire the skills of the state’s forty-ninth governor. Moreover, just about everyone likes her. She is genuine, secure, quick to give a hug or share a dirty joke. She is a mom, a sports nut, a lawyer, a politician with a perfect record of winning races and a long history of flustering opponents. 

The piece was mocked incessantly and immediately by Republicans, as it had the ill-timed fortune of landing right as Whitmer experienced a series of embarrassing scandals and embarked on one of the nation’s most ludicrous crackdowns. She banned people from ridiculous things like buying seeds and taking boats out on the lake, then she and her husband broke her own rules, including a trip on a private jet for a Florida vacation after which she got caught ignoring her own quarantine rules. Whitmer became the taut Midwestern face of elite Democratic hypocrisy, joining the coastal version in Gavin Newsom — even if her restaurant violations were in pizza places instead of the French Laundry — and the bipartisan frame of Alberta’s piece was dashed. 

Now Politico is back with a sequel from Jonathan Martin — weighing in around a much more manageable 2,500 words, but just as puffy — on the possibility that Whitmer could not just run in 2028, but should instead run this time. A typical portion: 

Whitmer has honed her Michigan Miracle pitch about the state’s unemployment rate dropping below 4 percent for only the third time since the 1970s — two of those times on her watch. What’s more, she has a ready-made case for people and businesses ready to leave the pricey coasts but uneasy about Red America. “One of the things that we boast is that every person is protected and respected under the law in Michigan,” says Whitmer, pointing to abortion rights and gay rights. “That’s not true in Texas.” 

It’s only later in the piece that Martin mentions the “twin challenges” facing Whitmer: “retaining her state’s auto advantage in the transition to electric vehicles and reversing its population decline.” About that decline: in 2022, U-Haul ranked Michigan forty-eighth out of all fifty states for equipment used to move elsewhere — only Illinois and California were worse. Perhaps that has something to do with those super-popular Whitmer policies — but despite 10,000+ words of inquiry, that’s a question neither Politico writer ever raised.

RFK raises money

The Robert F. Kennedy Jr. campaign may not be taken all that seriously by the corporate holdover media, but that hasn’t stopped him from breaking through on social, Substacks — and particularly on podcasts. The result: despite Jake Tapper saying that he shouldn’t even get a CNN town hall, people are giving RFK money — and quite a lot for an insurgent campaign that may hit its high point in New Hampshire. 

According to the campaign, they brought in roughly $6 million in the second quarter, including $3 million over the last three days of June. And an RFK-boosting super PAC, American Values 2024, brought in over $10 million in the quarter. A second PAC, which hosted a fundraising event with billionaire David Sacks in San Francisco last month, claims to have raised another million.

These aren’t anywhere close to the $35 million raised by Donald Trump over the same period, but it’s an indication that Kennedy will at least have some resources to boost his message in the vacuum of no real alternatives to Biden.

One more thing

We’re nearing the point where polls are going to start to matter for the Republican candidates who want to make the debate stage in August — and the problem is, many of the pollsters are not asking enough people for them to qualify under the RNC’s debate guidelines. While Trump, DeSantis, Pence, Haley and Scott are all in, the rest are on the edge and will need a boost of qualifying polls to make it.

That’s another reminder that it’s ridiculous for the RNC to be running these debates in the first place. A more Wild West attitude towards debates would be a good thing, where if someone wants to host a debate, people can decide to attend or not. The idea that debates need to be managed from on high is ridiculous — and there are many organizations and institutions that have the capability to put them on, as they did for decades before things became so top-down. The technological capability for groups to stream and broadcast these types of debates is better than ever — and used by every high-end podcast. Plus, if we accepted the arbitrary rules of the RNC back in 1980, it would have denied us one of Ronald Reagan’s most famous lines.