Hunter Biden conviction is latest twist in family story – and could shape months ahead for US president

President Joe Biden so often talks about “inflection points'”.

He has repeatedly framed his own presidency through a series of global inflection points – era-defining moments in which he has tried to cast himself as the sober voice of calm leadership.

His life story too has been defined by a series of personal and tragic inflection points which have shaped his political journey: the death of his first wife and baby daughter in a car crash in 1972, the death of his elder son Beau from cancer in 2015.

Now, the criminal conviction of his son Hunter is without question another deeply personal moment of inflection and it could well shape the months ahead.

Hunter Biden latest as president’s son is found guilty

President Biden has always allowed his personal experience to influence his journey.

It was Beau who had encouraged him to run for president in 2015. He chose not to – Beau was the future for the Bidens.

The younger Biden had a promising political future ahead of him. Or so they had thought.

Beau’s death changed everything professionally and personally for the family.

FILE - Then-Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., left, embraces his son Beau Biden on stage at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Aug. 27, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
Joe Biden with son Beau in 2008. File pic: AP

Professionally, Joe Biden was drawn back to politics to stand against Donald Trump in 2020.

It was a decision he made to fulfil his late son’s wish and to finish a journey Beau could not.

Personally too for the Bidens, Beau’s death was profoundly consequential.

It compounded Hunter’s struggles with addiction and it precipitated a relationship between Beau’s widow and Hunter.

It’s possible to draw a line from Beau’s passing to the conviction of his brother this week in Delaware.

As one family friend told the Washington Post in February: “Everything would have been 180 degrees different if Beau had lived – there’s no question. I don’t think Hunter’s life goes off the rails…”

The unnamed family friend told the newspaper: “If Beau wasn’t president of the United States now, he’d be on his way to it. And Joe Biden would never have been president. He would be happily retired.”

Controversy and scandal

The question is what this latest in a series of sliding door moments means for President Biden. What will he do now?

The Biden family has rallied around Hunter at the trial.

The president released an unusual and deeply personal statement of support at the start and the First Lady, Hunter’s stepmother, has been present almost every day.

Read more:
Hunter Biden conviction will supercharge Trump rhetoric – analysis

U.S. first lady Jill Biden arrives at the federal court for Hunter Biden's trial on criminal gun charges, in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., June 10, 2024. REUTERS/Hannah Beier
First Lady Jill Biden arriving at court to support her stepson on 10 June. Pic: Reuters

The family’s anguish and pain has been clear and compounded no doubt by the politics – the controversy and scandal of a member of the first family on trial.

Remember, the Republicans have sought blood at every stage. Hunter has been their target for years. This conviction will supercharge their rhetoric.

The 81-year-old president chose to run for president again. It has put him under huge scrutiny and immense personal and professional pressure.

In the midst of a gruelling election campaign, Biden is lagging in the polls against Donald Trump, a deeply controversial convicted criminal.

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Biden freezes during holiday celebrations

He is managing multiple acutely dangerous global crises and he is maintaining a globe-trotting schedule that would challenge someone half his age.

His age and agility – both physically and mentally – are a constant focus and consistently a worry.

Since his State of the Union speech in March, at which he exceeded performance expectations, he has noticeably aged.

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He is the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for president but this status is only confirmed at the party’s convention in August.

There has been no suggestion from the president or his campaign team that he is having second thoughts.

But in a life journey directed by so many personal moments of anguish, the president’s reaction to this latest twist in his family story could be an inflection point of its own.

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