Boy, do we now know more than we ever wanted to know about classified documents, or what? First, the FBI executes a search warrant on Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort and finds a couple hundred documents that the National Archives had been pressing him for since he left office and which he had claimed not to have. Not only were they there but some were also in a poolside storage room - not the most secure location in the world. Some folks were saying, due to the obstructive attempts by Trump and his people to prevent the return of the documents, that this might be the one thing out of all his borderline or outright criminal behaviors that brings him down and possibly sends him to a resort where his jumpsuit would match his hair and skin. Many of us on the left were saying, “Wow! All that talk about Hillary’s emails not being secure, and your guy has classified documents squirreled away in his office and tucked into corners of his pool house!”
And now we have word that, a couple of months ago, Joe Biden’s people found classified documents from his vice-president days in his office. And then they found some more. And then they found some in his garage. And now Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed special counsels to investigate both Trump AND Biden.
Trump’s supporters are turning the finger around and saying “Aha! Your guy did just what you accused our guy of doing! Throw the book at him!” Biden’s supporters are pointing out that the two situations, while about the same thing, are different: Trump’s people actively hid documents and/or refused to turn them over, or lied about having them, whereas Biden made a simple mistake, and his people turned them over voluntarily as soon as they found them. Well, a couple of months after they found them.
I submit that neither “Your guy did what you say ours did, throw the book at him” nor “Yeah but when our guy did it, it wasn’t a big deal” is the right attitude. While the distinctions between the two cases I mentioned above are true, that does not mean Biden’s situation is “not a big deal” and should be dismissed at face value. You can’t say it is a big deal when one person does it but not another. This is why I believe Garland made the right choice. Despite the differences in the cases, Biden’s document situation should be investigated. If it turns out to have been an honest mistake - something your 80-year-old forgetful uncle might do - well and good (though that raises some issues, too). If there actually is anything nefarious about it and its magnitude warrants, he should be charged. As simple as that. Everyone should be treated the same.
On the other hand, there is a big logical flaw in Trump supporters calling for Biden’s head… considering Trump’s actions involved a lot more material (so far as we know now) and a lot more obstruction. You can’t say “it’s no big deal” when it’s Trump and scream bloody murder when it’s somebody else.
That’s what the rule of law is supposed to be about. To paraphrase Paine, in Britain the King is law, but in America the Law is king. It should apply to everybody, equally. It’s not a ball game where you yell at the umpire when he rules against you no matter how right he is, or when you gloat when he rules for you, and you know he’s wrong. In both cases, the facts should be ascertained and weighed with deliberation, and the conclusion should be acted upon.
--Troy D. Smith, a White County native, is a novelist and a history professor at Tennessee Tech. His words do not necessarily represent TTU.
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