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Opinion: Hunter Biden's story is a window into America's soul

April 7, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 17.8%. 2 min read.

attends the World Food Program USA's Annual McGovern-Dole Leadership Award Ceremony at Organization of American States on April 12, 2016 in Washington, DC.

Hunter Biden's new memoir "Beautiful Things" projects a deep understanding of America's growing empathy toward people struggling with addiction, says Nicole Hemmer -- as well as the urgent need for that empathy. It's an approach that has defined his father's political identity, Hemmer writes.

(CNN)"Crackhead Hunter. " That was the slur Donald Trump Jr. hurled at now-President Joe Biden's younger son after the first presidential debate, during which Trump Sr. falsely stated that Hunter Biden had been dishonorably discharged for cocaine use.

On the debate stage, Joe Biden reflected that change, talking about his son's struggles openly, with deep love and pride, before extending that same empathy to the millions of American families dealing with addiction.

Rather than the tough-love, war-on-drugs approach of the 1980s, Joe Biden treated his son -- and promised to treat the country -- with an endless reservoir of love, compassion, and understanding.

Because there is a real upside for both Hunter and Joe Biden in centering Hunter's challenges of addiction.

Now that Americans have come to treat addiction with more empathy, both Bidens understand that a story of addiction would not compound the conspiracies swirling around Hunter, but offer a potential escape from them.

Which is, in a way, smart story-telling: the Burisma story was an election year red herring, and has little to do with what Hunter is most trying to convey about his addiction, his shame and his humanity.

Hunter Biden dwells on none of this; inside his addiction, the world of politics largely disappears, and he starts ignoring his father's phone calls, cutting himself off from the flows of love coming from his family.

It's a moment he describes in the clear, emotive detail otherwise reserved for his time with Beau and or his relationship with drugs: "It was a bell ringer," he writes, blurring the lines between love and addiction.

It also makes for an odd addiction memoir, with its pat, love-conquers-all conclusion that should feel inspirational but instead feels fragile, like you've hit a pause in the story rather than its end.

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