WASHINGTON — On his self-styled "No Malarkey" tour in Iowa this past week, former Vice President Joe Biden encountered a hostile voter who confronted him with allegations that he had helped his son Hunter get a cushy job with Ukrainian energy company Burisma.
The man, who would not give his name to reporters, said he was 83 years old and opined that Biden, 77, was too old to be president. It led the former veep to challenge him to a push-up contest or footrace. When the man accused Biden of having set up his son for the job in Ukraine, Biden heatedly called him "a damn liar" and denied it, drawing applause from the audience.
It was a rare case of Biden rebuking a voter and seeming to enliven his supporters, who occasionally have lamented that he has become too benign as a candidate and should show more fire on the stump.
Biden was accompanied on the Iowa tour by former Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who served as secretary state under President Obama. Kerry won the Iowa Democratic caucus in 2004 en route to becoming the party's presidential nominee. On the tour, endorsed Biden on the weight of his broad foreign-policy experience, which has seldom been raised in this year's Democratic presidential debates.
Biden has a reputation as a dedicated family man. In the dust-up with the Iowa voter, he allowed himself a rare if controlled angry outburst that could work for or against him politically.
On one hand, it can revive longtime affections from supporters drawn to his folksy and sometimes spirited manner as Mr. Blue Collar America and the champion of the working stiff from Scranton, Pa.
On the other hand, Biden's harsh and defensive encounter with a voter who openly acknowledged that he opposed Biden's 2020 candidacy demonstrated at least a temporary lack of restraint and maturity despite his age, challenging his Iowa critic as if they were in a schoolyard row.
Biden and son have denied any wrongdoing in the matter of Hunter's former employment on the board of Burisma, at a reported salary of $50,000 a month despite Hunter having no previous work experience in the energy field. At the time, Joe Biden was the lead Obama administration official investigating alleged corruption in Ukraine, an ally, with the stated intent of combatting it.
The matter has invited increasing public interest with the disclosure of a mission to Ukraine by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in his role as personal lawyer to President Trump. On Dec. 5, Giuliani met in Kyiv with Andriy Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker said be looking into Hunter Biden's Burisma association.
Giuliani tweeted thereafter that American cooperation with Ukrainian anti-corruption efforts could face a "major obstacle" unless the "compelling evidence" of Joe Biden's alleged misconduct with regard to Ukraine was addressed. Giuliani offered nothing to support this allegation against Biden.
The meetings between Derkach and Giuliani were reportedly filmed by an American television company preparing a documentary on the impeachment effort against Trump. Derkach confirmed the event on Facebook with no details other than saying Burisma was involved, but with no mention of the Bidens.
All of this hints that Giuliani, in league with the Trump White House. may be cooking up a diversionary attack in the face of the impeachment of the president, which is now before the House Judiciary Committee.
Some Trump defenders have said they may attempt to subpoena Hunter Biden as part of their effort to muddy the waters that are now flowing toward the president's certain impeachment by the Democrat-controlled House.
Under the circumstances, it would seem prudent for the son to step up in defense of the father, who is a leading 2020 presidential candidate, and explain how and why he got the Burisma job. (Hunter Biden has said taking it was a politically unwise decision on his part.) That is the least the son can do now to clear the air for the man who has been his loving lifelong protector.