Quin Hillyer: Biden’s, Trump’s moral duty to fall on swords | Quin Hillyer

With regard to presidential mishandling of classified documents, Attorney General Merrick Garland, for once, has at least come close to doing the right thing. The bigger imperative is for President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump to do the right thing, too.

For the sake of the nation, both should, by joint and mutual agreement, make “Sherman statements” that they will neither seek nor accept the presidency in the 2024 cycle or ever again. The nation needs a clean slate, unencumbered by politically fraught special-counsel investigations about indisputable cases of putting national security at risk.

Trump also is under investigation for allegedly deliberate obstruction of justice regarding the classified documents he had been hoarding, and for his actions before and during the 2021 U.S. Capitol riot. Biden, for some reason, isn’t under investigation for his mishandling of documents, but he has repeatedly fibbed about the degree of his knowledge of his son’s foreign influence-peddling (whether technically legal or not). That influence-peddling has been the subject of a federal investigation for more than two years.

In situations pertaining to four different presidents and other, lesser officials, I have repeatedly argued over the last 25 years that American politics needs a culture of honor and a Japanese-like “culture of shame.” While obviously not even close to every mistake of judgment or inadvertent legal misstep should catalyze the political version of seppuku (or “hari-kari”), the U.S. political system would greatly benefit from a public example of a top official putting the country’s interests above his own.

The undeniable reality is that both Trump and Biden, by their own actions and flagrant lies, have played unusually leading roles in creating a stunningly poisonous atmosphere in the U.S. civic-political realm. Now, we have strangely parallel Justice Department probes into both men’s mishandling of presidential records (both classified and ordinary), which follow the decision six years ago to allow former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to skate unpunished for similar violations. No matter how the investigations turn out, it is a lead-pipe cinch that somewhere around half of the public will not just distrust, but feverishly distrust, any probe results that reach differing conclusions for Trump than for Biden.

As long as both men are seeking new terms as president, every single development in the investigations will be seen by the public through the lens of the 2024 campaign. Unless both men forswear 2024 candidacies, there is no way — none at all — to keep this circus from turning into, at least figuratively speaking, a political bloodbath. And with the example of the Capitol riot so fresh, the chances could be higher than acceptable for literal bloodbaths to erupt.

Yes, it was a good decision for Garland to appoint a special counsel over Biden’s mishandling of documents, although he still seems to be too protective of Biden and too antagonistic toward Trump. Still, the nation’s better interests would be served with a scenario that involves both men signing blood oaths not to run and for neither to be criminally prosecuted, if both cooperate fully. Each should simply return all documents to their proper places and inform security agencies of every single possible ramification of the mishandlings. This involves transparency about not just the contents of each document, but what the chains of custody were.

As I wrote in September, Trump’s continued possession of the Mar-a-Lago records was ethically indefensible, regardless of any decision on legal penalties. In the end, the word “ethical” is the key. To best serve this nation’s role as a beacon of liberty and justice, the ethical and moral duties go beyond legal responsibilities. Ethically and morally, Biden and Trump ought to lead us out of this morass by forfeiting their political aspirations beyond 2024.

New Orleans native Quin Hillyer is a senior commentary writer and editor for the Washington Examiner, working from the Gulf Coast. This column originally appeared in the Examiner. He can be reached at [email protected]. His other columns appear at www.washingtonexaminer.com/author/quin-hillyer.

Read More: Quin Hillyer: Biden’s, Trump’s moral duty to fall on swords | Quin Hillyer

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