Why Joe Biden can do no wrong

One columnist declared that Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Americans debate life under COVID-19 risks Biden set to make risky economic argument against Trump Hillicon Valley: Tech companies lead way on WFH forever | States and counties plead for cybersecurity assistance | Trump weighing anti-conservative bias panel MORE could boil babies but she would still vote for him. Feminist leaders said they believe he raped a Senate staffer but they still endorse him. Good government advocates have opposed investigations into prior sexual harassment or corruption claims against him. It seems politicians and pundits alike have discovered the glory of the presidential bull. In this instance, Biden is akin to a papal indulgence that allows writers, journalists, and members of Congress to forgive any sin in a holy crusade to retake Washington.

In the 11th century, Pope Urban formalized the use of indulgences, which could be purchased to forgive sins. A papal bull of the crusade accompanied those who fought in the Holy Land and committed atrocities in the name of a higher order. The practice was defended as essentially drawing from the “treasury of merit” created by Jesus Christ, the saints, and the faithful.

The 2020 election has become the ultimate crusade, and critics of President Trump seem to be enjoying indulgences in tossing aside moral and ethical considerations. The freedom given to Biden is nowhere more evident than in a recent column in The Nation by Katha Pollitt, who wrote about the allegations of sexual assault made by Tara Reade. Pollitt dispensed with any struggle over feminist or moral qualms and declared, “I would vote for Joe Biden if he boiled babies and ate them.”


As Pollitt explained, “We do not have the luxury of sitting out the election to feel morally pure or send a message about sexual assault and #BelieveWomen.” Otherwise, Pollitt would have to deal with her column about the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in which she wrote, “Some of his defenders seem to be saying that even if the allegations are true, it should not really matter.”

Critics have expressed disgust at Trump saying that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and would not lose any voters. Yet they now afford Biden the same immunity even if he starts snacking on boiled babies. The same indulgence has been claimed by politicians and pundits in dealing with allegations of sexual assault against Biden. Many demanded during the Kavanaugh controversy that all women must be believed when alleging sexual harassment. Those who questioned Christine Blasey Ford were denounced for insensitivity, if not complicity, in the abuse of women.

Some of us have said Biden has the stronger case thus far, but we still support an investigation into the allegations against him. Yet many Kavanaugh critics quickly declared Biden to be innocent and opposed any search of his records, including those under lock and key at the University of Delaware, for allegations of sexual harassment.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she did not need a “lecture” when confronted with past statements. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared she sees no need for an investigation because she knows Biden and believes him, adding that she resented being asked about it as a victim of sexual assault. “That is all I am going to say about it,” she said.

Others have struggled with an answer until they discovered the presidential bull. Attorney Lisa Bloom said she believes Biden did assault a staffer and lied about it publicly, but she will still endorse him. Linda Hirshman wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times that she believes Reade but will vote for Biden anyway. She explained that Democratic voters knew that Biden was a member of that “boys club” when there was “still time to pick someone else.”


Then there is commentator Karine Jean Pierre who declared three years ago that sexual misconduct allegations alone should disqualify candidates from running for office. She joined the Biden campaign as a senior adviser this week. The fact is that, without political indulgences, such sulfuric hypocrisy would choke the life out of Washington.

After his work on the atomic bomb, scientist Robert Oppenheimer noted, “The physicists have known sin, and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose.” If commentators have known sin, whether mortal or venial, it is in the abandonment of facts for a true faith. For legal analysts, the cardinal sin is the distortion of the law to fit a cause rather than a case, and many are still twisting the criminal code to come up with new crimes against Trump, regardless of future implications.

In the age of echo chamber journalism, legal analysts are selected according to their willingness to consistently declare that Trump or his associates are committing criminal or impeachable offenses. Any such theory, no matter how unhinged or unsupported, finds easy access to the pages of the Washington Post or segments on liberal cable news shows. Indeed, allegations of prosecutorial abuse or judicial overreach in the Michael Flynn case have been ridiculed.

Some legal analysts have even encouraged the judge in that case, Emmet Sullivan, to take his own liberties with the law and use his gavel to deliver a blow against Trump. The Los Angeles Times ran a recent column by former United States Attorney Harry Litman, advising Sullivan how to “make trouble” for the administration. Litman admitted there is “very little leeway” to reject government decisions to dismiss charges, but he encouraged Sullivan to “accomplish what Congress, multiple inspectors general, and a majority of the electorate have not been able to do” and “hold the president and his allies accountable for their contemptuous disregard for the rule of law.”

The liberating element of a presidential bull is that it relieves the bearer from justifying the means to the ends of a crusade. All sins are forgiven for that higher purpose. The defeat of Trump is that higher purpose. You can support someone you believe to be a rapist. You can distort the criminal code or encourage raw forms of judicial activism. With the presidential bull, Biden will simply declare, “I absolve you,” and all will be forgiven and forgotten.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can find his updates online @JonathanTurley.