Opinion: Kevin McCarthy’s pursuit of Joe Biden comes with lots of noise, so far precious little evidence

Photo/Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times / House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., arrives to a news briefing outside his office on Capitol Hill to officially announce an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden in regard to his role in the business dealings of his son, Hunter Biden, in Washington on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023.

On its face, the impeachment probe announced Tuesday by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is a waste of time.

Republicans have admitted they have no actual proof of actual wrongdoing by President Joe Biden.

Nor do they even know for certain that their accusations are based on legitimate information.

Nor do most of them seem to really care. The theatrics are the point.

But in the Biden matter, so far, the investigation looks less like fact-finding than performative vengeance.

McCarthy faces high pressure from far-right, pro-Trump members of his conference ahead of a coming GOP showdown between Republicans over spending and other questions, including whether he could survive as speaker if he fails to impeach Biden after the double impeachment of his predecessor, Trump.

As a result, when any House Republican speaks, nutty extremist or not, McCarthy listens. Very politely.

Yet, the skepticism you read here is not to say that legitimate suspicions about a president's personal or family interests should not be investigated for conflicts with the public's interests. Especially at these levels of government.

Even a Democrat as loyal to the Bidens as Illinois' senior Sen. Dick Durbin tellingly told CNN Tuesday that, despite the lack of evidence to back impeachment — and despite his sense that the inquiry was a symptom of an "out of control" Republican House majority — he, too, felt as "uncomfortable" with the impression that Hunter Biden capitalized on his father's position, as he did about similar allegations about Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in the previous administration.

Besides, even if nothing comes of the inquiry, the national conversation about it could damage the public's confidence in Biden, who already has to convince voters that his age would not be an impediment to his serving out a second term in one of the world's most demanding jobs.

So far, information that has worked its way out of GOP-led House committees suggests, at minimum, a strong perception of a conflict of interest on Hunter Biden's part in various ventures, including in China and Ukraine, while his father was dealing with those countries as vice president. Clearly, the younger Biden was not shy about using his last name to his advantage. Nor was he shy about cashing in from a father's open affection for his son.

But despite releasing bank records connected to the younger Biden that show a series of lucrative payments, GOP House committees have so far failed to produce evidence that links those payments made to the president's son to ways that might also have personally benefited his father, beyond his understandable satisfaction that his struggling son was getting his act together.

Nor has evidence emerged that Joe Biden abused his power in a way that would fit the constitutional standard for impeachment of treason, bribery and high crimes and misdemeanors. Impeachments are supposed to be entered into only in dire matters of national interest. They have been cheapened by over-use.

We await the immediate release by Republicans of evidence of more direct and personally beneficial involvement by Joe Biden in his son's affairs, should such evidence actually exist.

It is instructive to remember McCarthy's claim of the moral high ground before the House voted to impeach Trump in December 2019. He complained that the move, led by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was not supported by — Guess what? — evidence.

"Will we let impeachment become an exercise of raw political power, regardless if it damages our country?" McCarthy asked. "Or will we protect the proper grounds and process for impeachment now and in the future?"

If McCarthy's speech at that time explains any of his tactics today, he can thank his rivals.

Just, please, don't waste our time with this unless you have the goods.

The Chicago Tribune