Filing It Away 

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Eagle Eyed

2 February 2023

Filing It Away

Contents of the cupboard.

By J.R. Thomas

Joe Biden has one, several in fact, in his home office and in the garage; Mike Pence has one, so it seems, although only small and also kept at home; and of course Donald Trump had lots, stashed in that Palm Beach paradise of Mar-A-Lago.  And no doubt Barrack Obama and George W Bush and perhaps even Jimmy Carter are searching, just to see if they happen to have one, in their presidential libraries or perhaps bunged under the sofa after they had finished writing their presidential memoirs.

A stash of confidential government documents is what we are touching upon of course.  Dear Old Donald [can I call him that?  Editor: if you must] was first fingered in the Mystery of The Stolen Secret Documents when the FBI raided his non-retirement home in Florida and removed large amounts of confidential presidential documents which they said the former and future president [Editor: no, please, too much] had removed on his departure from the White House in those troubled times of late 2020.  This, said Merrick Garland, the Biden administration’s Attorney General, was theft and malfeasance and really terribly awfully naughty, and Mr T would feel the full weight of the law.  At which point it seems that somebody told the President who said something along the lines of “Oh, I’ve got stacks of those in the garage at home.”  And so, it turns out, he has.  And not just in the garage, but in various other cupboards, under the stairs, in the attic.

Incidentally, and not that we are ones to tittle tattle, of course, but those of you thinking that such a regular man of the peeps as Joe would live in a modest semi are wrong; the home is a large house in the corporate friendly state of Delaware, with extensive grounds and a gate lodge.  Perfectly easy to put down a few crates of confidential documents and forget where you left them. And Joe has been in politics for many years so, you know, documents get taken home by this hard working tribune and shoved to the back of the garage and overlooked.  We’ve all done it. A few of us maybe anyway.

It turns out that Mike Pence, former vice president and Trump friend – no more of course since he pointed out to Donald that he had the score card upside down and had in fact lost rather than won the all-comers Presidential challenge – had also taken a bunch of stuff home.  To be honest, all this is hardly surprising.  Those of us old enough to remember Tricky Dickie’s resignation and sudden flight back to California will picture him tearfully climbing the aircraft steps, one move ahead of Watergate impeachment.  But what do you think was going on at the back of the plane?  His secret servicemen loading crates of docs, that’s what.  The retreating president had memoirs to write and history to cleanse and he certainly was not going to leave incriminating evidence around for his enemies to use.  But Mr Nixon in due course seems to have given it back (barring that which accidentally fell in the garden bonfire of course).  The question is would Messrs’ Trump, Biden, and Pence have done likewise, once they had crafted their best sellers?  We shall never know now. 

All of which is a major distraction from the real rough and tumble of politics and the craft of government.  But an unfortunate one for Mr Biden, who seems recently to have a new lease of life brought about by his determination to run again for the top job in 2024.  This bungle of the documents has had two unfortunate effects on that though.  One: Donald has now the perfect defence in that if prosecuted he can point to the precedent of the current president’s home storage system.  And two: it reminds the electors that Joe used to be regarded as somewhat shifty.  Not altogether surprisingly, Mr Biden’s rating in the polls, having been slowly rising in the last quarter of 2022 (not least because the voters had maybe realised who the Democrat alternatives to Joe were likely to be) has now descended once again; and Mr Trump seems to have recovered his confidence.  The effect on Mr Pence?  Oh, honestly, who cares, he is not going to be a serious contender and is just making noises about running in the primaries to annoy his ex-boss Donald.  (With this column’s record on predictions that makes him pretty sure to end up as president in 2025.)

From the point of view of political observers, having Mr Trump back in fine fettle is rather nice.  There is always something to write about when the orange haired one goes on the stump.  Firstly, there is the hair question.  Recently Mr Trump’s hair has become less orange, with distinct grey overtones, and a wildness which is quite something.  He looks like a man who, finding the electricity bill absorbing too much personal income, has cut back on the hairdressing.  But we must move on.

Last weekend in New Hampshire (where the first primary will be held) and again in South Carolina, Mr Trump attacked Ron DeSantis, current front runner to be Mr T’s main opponent in the primaries next year as “Ron Desanctomonious”.  That is quite witty by Trump standards (one of your own, Donald?) but, when you think about it, not a rapier criticism, especially when used as an attack weapon against the Florida Governor’s record on Covid19.  Mr DeSantis fought off most of the restrictions which other states imposed on their citizenery (no restrictions on gatherings, limited calls for masking up, minimal lockdown) and Florida had no worse an outcome record than any other state – indeed, allowing for age and health profiles, considerably better; and of course a less damaged economy. Mr Trump was out of office midway during the epidemic, so maybe we should not judge him, but his early record was somewhat… eccentric, you may recall. 

But Ron is now the big threat to Don and so is going to get a lot of this Trump rough stuff.  This is not least because Mr DeSantis was swept into the Florida Governor’s agreeable mansion in 2018, at the height of Mr Trump’s popularity as president, and Mr Trump has always congratulated himself for this, calling Mr DeSantis “ungrateful” at the weekend.  But Ron can give as good as he gets and on Sunday evening pointed out that he had a record swing of voters to re-elect him in 2022, while Mr Trump…well, you know.

Ron has not yet announced that he will be running in 2024, but the way Mr Trump is raising his profile he might as well take advantage of all this free publicity.  Also not yet running is Nikki Hayley, another former Trump protegee, and former governor of South Carolina where the second of the Trump speeches took place.  She was unable to be present at the Trump speech as she was watching the tv or something.  But Mr Trump pretty much ignored the threat from her (and Mr Pence, still rootling about in his attic, and Greg Abbott of Texas whose Covid behaviour was similar to Ron’s with similar electoral rewards – watch your back there Ron) and went big for Mr DeSantis.  Guess who the Mar-A-Lago One fears most? 

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