KOLB: Is Joe Biden Today’s Spiro Agnew?

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Charles Kolb Charles Kolb was deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy from 1990-1992 in the George H.W. Bush White House
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In April 1968, at age 17, I launched my career as a political pundit – and probably peaked early. On March 31, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson surprised the nation by announcing that he wouldn’t seek re-election. A couple of weeks later, I told my best friend that the Republican Party would nominate Richard Nixon that summer and Nixon would select Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew as his running mate. To my knowledge, no one else made this prediction back then.

Why Agnew? Having grown up in Salisbury on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, I had followed Agnew’s 1966 campaign for the state’s governorship. My father had served a few terms in Maryland’s House of Delegates as a Democrat in the late 1930s, so Maryland politics fascinated me. When Agnew’s campaign visited Salisbury, I recall seeing him up close on Main Street. I can still hum his catchy campaign theme song: “Our kind of man, Ted Agnew is ….”

Before Agnew joined the 1968 Nixon-for-President campaign, he was considered a liberal, Nelson Rockefeller-style Republican – what today would be dubbed a RINO. But as he settled into the vice presidency, Agnew increasingly fell under William Safire’s word-smithing spell and  perfected the art of alliteration. He soon began giving fiery speeches about leftwing “nattering nabobs of negativism” and “hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.” Conservative Republicans and the nation’s “Moral Majority” swooned at Agnew’s new bad-cop routine.

Unfortunately for the vice president, the good cops ultimately got him. Turns out that Agnew was a long-time, small-time crook: as Baltimore County Executive, he’d been receiving cash kickbacks from Maryland contractors. These payments continued throughout his governorship and into his years as vice president. Agnew resigned the vice presidency in 1973, pled guilty to one tax fraud count, and died mostly forgotten in a Berlin, Maryland, hospital in 1996 at age 77.

Today, President Joe Biden faces questions about whether he has received money, directly or indirectly, from his son Hunter’s unusual business dealings with foreign nationals in China, Romania, and Ukraine. Hunter Biden allegedly received millions of dollars for what would amount to influence peddling using the Biden family name. Payments have also been traced through various shell companies and limited-liability corporations to at least nine Biden family members, including the president’s brother, former daughter-in-law, and even one grandchild. 

At no time has there been a statement from Hunter Biden explaining why these payments were made or what services were rendered. There’s clearly a “quid”; the “quo” remains unknown.

In 2020, presidential candidate Joe Biden claimed he had no knowledge whatsoever of his son’s business dealings, although in 2013, when Biden was vice president, his son accompanied him on Air Force Two during an official visit to China. Shortly thereafter, Hunter Biden received funds from Chinese entities that allegedly had ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

On May 10, 2023, Congressman James Comer, Chair of the House Government Operations and Accountability Committee, released a 36-page detailed report describing Hunter Biden’s various business and financial dealings, complete with redacted photocopies of wire transfers showing funds paid into accounts held by President Biden’s son, brother, and former daughter-in-law, plus another account identified only as “Biden.” 

As this investigation continues into the foreign money that went to the Biden family via Hunter Biden, there are three critical, preliminary questions to which the American public is entitled to immediate answers.

First, given the millions of dollars paid to Hunter Biden and other Biden family members, what services were provided? What’s the Biden family “business”?

Second, who owns that “Biden” account?

Third, why has the legacy media failed to cover this unfolding story and probe more deeply into Hunter Biden’s activities? These activities raise potentially serious questions about whether our national security may have been compromised.

Spiro Agnew’s fall from grace was swift, coming roughly a year before Nixon’s own downfall over the Watergate burglary and cover-up. Watergate launched a new generation of American investigative journalism that popularized the phrase “follow the money.”

Perhaps Hunter Biden’s activities are benign, but the growing doubts and contrary evidence demand answers not only from Hunter Biden but from the president as well. The Biden White House needs to stop deflecting legitimate questions, and the media must no longer look askance.

As the Washington Post likes to trumpet on its front page, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” That darkness is only furthered if the media skirts it’s simple duty: “follow the money.”

Charles Kolb served as Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy from 1990-1992 in the George H.W. Bush White House. He is currently writing a biography of former OMB General Counsel and human-rights advocate Michael J. Horowitz.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.