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How Bad Is Biden’s Classified Docs Scandal?

The meh, the bad, and a proposal.
January 20, 2023
Biden's Missing Docs EXPLAINED | Not My Party with Tim Miller

[Editor’s note: Watch Not My Party every week on Snapchat.]

Tim Miller: Now Biden mishandled classified docs? Say it ain’t so, Joe.

Glenn Quagmire (from Family Guy): Dammit, Joe, pull it together!

Miller: This is “Not My Party,” brought to you by The Bulwark. From Hillary’s emails to the Mar-a-Lago love letters to Joe Biden’s garage, we seem to be cursed with a never-ending news cycle of our politicians mishandling classified information.

Peter Griffin (from Family Guy): Very on brand.

Miller: An issue that, let’s be honest, the average voter couldn’t give less of a sh** about. Let’s cut the BS and tell you what you need to know about the latest surrounding Joe Biden: the meh, the bad, and one proposal to stop the madness.

Nandor (Kayvan Novak on What We Do in the Shadows): How is such a thing even possible?

Miller: The meh: So if you take away the political optics, what we know about the Joe Biden issue isn’t really that big of a deal. To date, the Biden team has basically acted exactly as it should. His lawyers found classified documents when cleaning out an office at his library, they reported that to the National Archives and the White House counsel that day.

Misty Luggins (from The Bad Guys): You’re turning yourself in?

James Marshall (Harrison Ford in Air Force One): It’s the right thing to do.

Miller: The next morning, the Archives took possession of the docs and notified the Department of Justice about the breach. Then DOJ had a Trump-appointed prosecutor investigate what happened. So far, not bad.

Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia): That’s how it’s done.

Miller: This is, we should note, a very stark contrast to how Trump handled his classified docs, which the former guy refused to give back even after the feds asked, resulting in a police raid that found America’s secrets mixed in with Greta Gerwig pics and Trump’s nighties.

Miller: And now, two months after the first Biden docs were discovered, some more classified material was found in his Delaware garage. Again, they’re reported properly, but you’re hearing a lot of this—

Homer Simpson (from The Simpsons): What? This is an outrage!

Inspector Gadget (French Stewart in Inspector Gadget 2): No one is above the law.

Miller: Which takes us to the bad: A second batch of mishandled classified docs sure isn’t great. Here’s what Biden said when asked about Trump’s mishandling back in September—

Joe Biden: How that could possibly happen? How anyone could be that irresponsible?

Laszlo Cravensworth (Matt Berry on What We Do in the Shadows): I’m not sure that’s aged well.

Miller: Well somehow, he or his team was that irresponsible twice. They almost certainly weren’t intentionally unlawful—a big difference—but Biden is sure making it easy on Trump to muddy the waters when it comes to the latest investigation against him. And that’s not great.

Biden: Come on, man!

Miller: And all that said, here’s a proposal about how to fix this in the future. The proposal: You see, we don’t really know what the classified docs Biden had were. There’s a chance they’re a big fat nothingburger, because one of the reasons we keep having these controversies is that our government massively overclassifies. In 2005, a bipartisan congressional committee said as much in a report titled “Too Many Secrets.” We classify somewhere over 50 million documents every year.

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans in Captain America: Civil War): Well, that sounds like a lot of paperwork.

Miller: Here’s one example from the Atlantic: a memo on Dagestani wedding tradition that was classified because it was put in a diplomatic cable. ChatGPT could just do that now.

Staples stores “Easy” button: That was easy.

Miller: Michael Hayden, the former director of the CIA and NSA once lamented, “I mean, I got an email saying ‘Merry Christmas,’ it carried a top-secret classification marking.”

Wilson (Terence Stamp in The Limey): Can’t be too careful nowadays, you know?

Miller: So if we limited this classification process dramatically, to make it a crime only if you leaked the real serious, top-, top-, top-secret stuff, then that would help the DOJ, the media, and voters separate the stupid bureaucratic bullsh** from, I don’t know, important issues, like possibly sharing secrets with a foreign sugar daddy to keep him happy.

Sophie Whitehouse (Sienna Miller on Anatomy of a Scandal): He said it was consensual.

Miller: In the meantime, Biden’s gonna have to take the political hit, while his Justice Department continues their two-year streak of acting properly even if it’s not politically advantageous—which is the only good thing that’s actually come out all this, even if Merrick Garland and the Biden admin isn’t getting the credit they deserve.

Merrick Garland: That is the way we ensure a true democracy and that’s the way we ensure a respect for democracy.

Homelander (Antony Starr on The Boys): True patriots.

Miller: We’ll see you next week for more “Not My Party.”

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.