The Bidens Are Laid Low by Addiction

Hunter Biden entered recovery. It didn’t work, especially for love addiction.

Posted Jan 29, 2020

The impeachment trial of Donald Trump has focused attention on Hunter Biden’s positon on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma from 2014 to 2019. The problem facing the Bidens is that Hunter got this position, for which he was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars and whose meetings he attended a couple of times a year, despite having no background in energy or Ukraine. But his father was Vice President and addressing Ukrainian corruption at the time. Joe Biden is now running for President. And his son’s association with Burisma has been used as an all-purpose excuse for Trump’s inveigling with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate the Bidens, which is the basis for the impeachment trial.

The Bidens Abstain, Sometimes

Joe Biden has always been preoccupied with alcoholism. As a result, he says he has never drunk alcohol. For his part, Hunter decided in 2003, when he was in his early thirties, that he needed to quit drinking, as well as drug use. He entered rehab and joined AA. (Hunter’s long, strange addiction journey was detailed in a New Yorker article last year, “Will Hunter Biden Jeopardize His Father’s Campaign?”) But Hunter’s abstinence resolution turned out not to be lifelong; he re-entered rehab several times. In 2014 he was discharged from the U.S. Navy Reserve for having tested positive for cocaine in 2013.

Hunter Goes Off Track

Things were to get worse for Hunter after his brother Beau, with whom he was very close, died from a brain tumor in 2015. Soon after:

... in couples therapy, Hunter and (his wife) Kathleen had reached an agreement: if Hunter started drinking again, he would have to move out of the house. A day after their twenty-second anniversary, Hunter left a therapy session, drank a bottle of vodka, and moved out. 

Hunter entered rehab again at a prestigious University of Pennsylvania program. But that too didn’t take hold. He was on his own and leaving his apartment only to buy vodka. So he entered rehab again at Esalen Institute in California, and then another rehab in Oregon.

How Hunter was supporting himself, his alienated wife, and their children is a critical and consequential question. According to the New Yorker reporter, Adam Entous, “Hunter told me that he was living on approximately four thousand dollars a month; he was hardly poor, but it was an adjustment. On occasion, transactions on his credit cards were declined.“

Hunter encountered a number of problems during this “down-and-out” period in his late forties. (He was born in 1970.) He began a relationship with his late brother’s widow, Hallie. He also traveled to Los Angeles in pursuit of more rehab, but took crack and went on a generally life-unhinging binge that included being arrested.

Hunter’s Love Addiction 

Hunter Biden has also had a tempestuous love life, one marked by impetuosity. Right after graduating from college, Hunter went to Oregon for a Jesuit internship-retreat. He soon met Kathleen Buhle. Within three months she was pregnant and they married. They have three daughters. By 2016, after a series of reputed affairs and dalliances, he and Beau’s widow, Hallie, committed to a relationship during his drug meltdown. One wonders why Hallie felt that her brother-in-law was a good bet for intimacy

As a result of this last straw, Kathleen commenced divorce proceedings, including this motion: 

He “created financial concerns for the family by spending extravagantly on his own interests (including drugs, alcohol, prostitutes, strip clubs, and gifts for women with whom he has sexual relations), while leaving the family with no funds to pay legitimate bills.” 

But Hallie and Hunter's living together was to last only a few months. By August of 2017, they separated.

“All we got was shit from everybody, all the time,” Hunter said. “It was really hard. And I realized that I’m not helping anybody by sticking around.” (Hallie declined to comment.) In early 2018, he moved to Los Angeles. The idea, he said, was to “completely disappear.” ...

Hunter didn’t entirely disappear; that’s impossible.

In early May (of 2019), Hunter met a thirty-two-year-old South African woman named Melissa Cohen, a filmmaker who was working on a series of documentaries about indigenous tribes in southern Africa. A few days after their first date, Hunter had the word “shalom” tattooed in Hebrew letters on the inside of his left bicep, to match a tattoo that Cohen has in the same spot. On May 15th, less than a week after they met, he proposed. The next morning, she accepted, and he bought the simplest gold wedding bands he could find, then called a marriage service, which sent over an officiant.

Joe Biden’s Love Addiction

Where was Joe during all these developments? While he and his sons were always close, Beau, the older boy — he was a year older than Hunter — seemed clearly to be the apple of his eye. In a memoir written after his son’s death, Joe naturally focused on Beau: “I was pretty sure Beau could run for President some day, and, with his brother’s help, he could win.”

Joe has always been reticent about Hunter. This became doubly true when Hunter entered his troubled period, and he became the political liability he now represents.

“Everyone who works for him has been screamed at,” a former adviser told me [Adam Entous]. Others said that they were wary of hurting his feelings. One business associate told me that Biden, during difficult conversations about his family, “got deeply melancholy, which, to me, is more painful than if someone yelled and screamed at me. It’s like you’ve hurt him terribly. That was always my fear, that I would be really touching a very fragile part of him.” ...

Hunter said that, in his talks with his father, “I’m saying sorry to him, and he says, ‘I’m the one who’s sorry,’ and we have an ongoing debate about who should be more sorry.”

Joe has famously undergone a lot of trauma within his family: In 1972, immediately after he was elected to the Senate, his first wife, Neilia, and infant daughter, Naomi, were killed in a car accident in which his two small boys were injured. This seems to have left Joe deeply emotionally vulnerable—although, as with anyone, we can never know to what degree this vulnerability preceded his traumas. They did, after all, occur when he was an adult.

In any case, Joe has displayed a blanket acceptance of Hunter, one that is both endearing and somewhat spooky. When Hunter settled in with Hallie in 2017, he asked Joe’s blessing for this difficult union with his brother’s widow after Hunter left his own family. This is not the family image the Bidens sought to convey. For instance, “Kathleen told friends that she felt ostracized by the Biden family.” Nonetheless, Joe went along:

Hunter issued a statement saying that he and Hallie were “incredibly lucky to have found the love and support we have for each other in such a difficult time.” Hunter told me he appealed to his father to make a statement, too: “I said, ‘Dad, Dad, you have to.’ He said, ‘Hunter, I don’t know if I should. But I’ll do whatever you want me to do.’ ... Biden told the Post, “We are all lucky that Hunter and Hallie found each other as they were putting their lives together again after such sadness. . . . They have mine and Jill’s [Joe’s second wife] full and complete support and we are happy for them.” 

But, in 2019, Joe had to make another statement giving Hunter’s precipitous love life his blessing:

“I called my dad and said that we just got married. He was on speaker, and he said to her, ‘Thank you for giving my son the courage to love again.’” Hunter paused, his eyes filling with tears. “And he said to me, ‘Honey, I knew that when you found love again that I’d get you back.’” Cohen rubbed his shoulders. He went on, “And my reply was, I said, ‘Dad, I always had love. And the only thing that allowed me to see it was the fact that you never gave up on me, you always believed in me.’”

Is this love or addiction?