Political Animals: Olivia Nuzzi
New York magazine|April 12-25, 2021
The No-Splash Tell-all What the muted reaction to Hunter Biden’s crackfueled memoir says about his father’s Washington.

HUNTER BIDEN WAS CAREERING above Highway 10 in the Sonoran desert. Eastbound behind the wheel of a rented Lincoln Town Car, exhausted and speeding 80 mph, he’d closed his eyes just long enough to zag off the road and into the air, twirling to land in the opposite lanes. Desert weeds tangled around the underside of the car. He sat there, stunned, as two police cruisers approached. They didn’t even slow down as they passed him by. A tow truck lugged Biden back to a Palm Springs Hertz, where he picked up a Jeep Cherokee and set out again for Sedona.

It was the fall of 2016, and he’d been expected to check in to a yogic rehabilitation retreat there 12 days earlier. Instead, he’d gone on a bender, meandering across the United States in search of crack, which he could find anywhere. Biden took pride in that. Now he was racing down the highway through the night, tweaked out of his mind, chain-smoking stimulants to stay awake: crack, then cigarettes, crack, then cigarettes. He saw a barn owl—a real one or a mirage, he wasn’t sure. It dipped into view above his windshield and flew off ahead. The bird seemed to be guiding Biden as he snaked through the red rocks, protecting him from disaster, leading him to salvation. He reached his destination at 3 a.m. with drugs in his system. When he’d dropped off his replacement rental car, he’d forgotten to take with him to rehab his paraphernalia—plus his phone and wallet—prompting calls to the police, the Secret Service, and the future president of the United States.

These sordid details come not from a tabloid fever dream or the addled mind of Rudy Giuliani but from Hunter Biden himself in the pages of his new memoir, Beautiful Things. An account of a life defined by pain and privilege, at turns poignant and grim, it’s both a wildly candid story and a highly unusual political document.

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