(Jan. 12):  With regard to presidential mishandling of classified documents, Attorney General Merrick Garland, for once, has at least come close to doing the right thing. The bigger imperative is for President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump to do the right thing, too.

For the sake of the nation, both should, by joint and mutual agreement, make “Sherman statements” that they will neither seek nor accept the presidency in the 2024 cycle or ever again. The nation needs a clean slate, unencumbered by politically fraught special-counsel investigations about indisputable cases of putting national security at risk.

Trump also is under investigation for allegedly deliberate obstruction of justice regarding the classified documents he had been hoarding, and for his actions before and during the 2021 U.S. Capitol riot. Biden, for some reason, isn’t under investigation for his mishandling of documents, but he has repeatedly fibbed about the degree of his knowledge of his son’s foreign influence-peddling (whether technically legal or not). That influence-peddling has been the subject of a federal investigation for more than two years.

In situations pertaining to four different presidents and other, lesser officials, I have repeatedly argued over the last 25 years that American politics needs a culture of honor and a Japanese-like “culture of shame.” While obviously not even close to every mistake of judgment or inadvertent legal misstep should catalyze the political version of seppuku (or “hari-kari”), the U.S. political system would greatly benefit from a public example of a top official putting the country’s interests above his own.

The undeniable reality is that both Trump and Biden, by their own actions and flagrant lies, have played unusually leading roles in creating a stunningly poisonous atmosphere in the U.S. civic-political realm. Now, we have strangely parallel Justice Department probes into both men’s mishandling of presidential records (both classified and ordinary), which follow the decision six years ago to allow former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to skate unpunished for similar violations. No matter how the investigations turn out, it is a lead-pipe cinch that somewhere around half of the public will not just distrust, but feverishly distrust, any probe results that reach differing conclusions for Trump than for Biden…. [The full column is at this link.]

 

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