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Di Leo: Honest Nation or Banana Republic? A Role Model at the Crossroads




By John F. Di Leo - 

The United States proudly stands in its place as a “City on a Hill” – a beacon of honesty and fairness, for others all over the globe to emulate.

This isn’t new.   It dates back to the nation’s earliest days, when our Founding Fathers railed against the corrupt deals that were core to the British system of empire. 

Some of the colonies were deals between a king and a governing family, like the Penns of Pennsylvania.  Both purchases and sales here in the colonies had to be managed by politically connected merchants in London known as factors.  Whole industries were outright banned here, in order to protect the politically connected manufacturers back home in England.

It was a crooked system, and our ancestors opposed it.

While we are certainly not perfect, even today – nothing on this earth is, after all – we have made steady progress in many ways, since the early days of the Founding era.

We eliminated slavery, and set regulations to ensure safe workplaces.  We expanded the franchise so that all adult American citizens can vote, regardless of color, sex, wealth or social status. We passed antitrust laws so that businesses can’t unfairly dominate an industry. 

And we passed anti-corruption laws such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)… and encouraged other countries to pass their own versions of it, as we tried to spread the culture of honest business practices around the globe.

The UK’s Anti-Bribery Law, the EU’s Anti-Corruption Initiatives, and so many other such reforms have been part and parcel of our own effort to work toward a level playing field in world commerce.

And the rest of the world knows it.

There are countries who respect us for this position… but there are also countries who hate us for it. They think us pompous, self-righteous, hypocritical.   We demand honesty, but they say “sure, Americans can afford to turn down bribes… they don’t know what it’s like in the third world, where you need to take that bribe if you want to succeed.”

Still, we rightly stick to our guns, and insist that it’s better for everyone, really it is. When a company wins an international contract through bribery, it’s not just his competitor who gets cheated; it’s the taxpayers, the constituents, the people of the country awarding that contract.

Look up the history of the FCPA sometime.  It’s about honest American companies who kept losing bids in the third world to less scrupulous foreign companies; that’s the truth at the root of our long efforts championing these reforms.  Again and again, American companies would bid on a project in Africa or Latin America or Asia, a quality job at a good price, only to lose the bid to the German company who bought the prime minister a Mercedes, or the Italian company who gave the Transportation minister a ski chalet, or the French company who treated the Treasury minister’s family to a vacation on the Riviera.

We have a reputation around the world.  We need to live up to it.

And that reputation is put at risk by this 2020 presidential election.

Donald Trump campaigned in 2016 on opposing the culture of corruption in Washington DC and in many of our cities.  He exposed the graft that went on in the permitting of buildings and hotels, the corrupt aldermen and mayors, the building inspectors out to cheat their public in exchange for a little cash.

And President Trump also exposed the Clinton Foundation, which took local corruption and brought it international. 

With the Clinton Foundation, foreign politicians, businesses, and oligarchs could write a check to a charitable foundation and get a favor from a US Senator in return.  Or they could write a fat check to an ex-president to give a speech, and get a favor from the US Secretary of State.  Or they could write an even fatter check and get an IOU for a great big favor when that Secretary of State became President.

The crimes of the Clinton Foundation (which raised all these millions and, outside of bankrolling a very nice standard of living for the Clinton family, didn’t seem to actually help the poor very much) were exposed, by writers like Peter Schweizer and by the Trump campaign, and the world took a lesson from this:

When the American people have the chance to choose, up or down, they make the honest choice.  They turn down the grifter and they choose the anti-corruption zealot. 

The election of 2016 was a lesson to the world, and many governments thought it meaningful.

Fast forward to 2020.

We now have an opportunity for a do-over.   The exact same choice is presented again…  the anti-corruption statesman, Donald Trump, against the creature of the Swamp, Joe Biden.

When Joe Biden was vice president, he did it a little differently than the Clintons did.  Instead of laundering the money through a pretend charity, he laundered it through relatives and friends.  

Joe Biden’s brother, son, and daughter, his neighbors and associates, would start businesses or serve as consultants, in businesses in which they had no experience or knowledge – sometimes in countries where they didn’t even speak the language.  They would collect millions of dollars, from corrupt politicians in Ukraine, China, Kyrgystan, and who knows how many others.  They would find a way to be included in banking, real estate, or energy deals in Asia or Latin America or Eastern Europe, despite having no credentials in those industries. 

They could give the impression that it was enough to be in Joe Biden’s orbit; that the senator, then vice president, didn’t actually have to do anything crooked.  As the money grew, such a claim became harder to believe… but the media doesn’t investigate good liberal politicians, so naturally they were safe from accusations.  No matter how sloppy they may have been, without investigative journalists doing any digging, nothing would come out.

Until the "Laptop from Hell" hit the scene.

With less than a month to go before the election, Hunter Biden’s laptop computer surfaced.

It turned out that law enforcement had been sitting on it for a year, trying to keep it secret, until it was exposed by the computer repairman who (totally legally, fortunately, due to the rules around abandonment) realized he had a moral obligation to bring it to the attention of the public.

There is no more room for burying evidence or making a pretense of plausible deniability.

The laptop contained evidence that was readily verified by multiple sources, making it clear, beyond the slightest shadow of a doubt, that Joe Biden was getting a cut all along.  The people in his orbit were indeed paying him a share, and at least one of them was apparently rather bitter about it.

The New York Post started breaking story after story, day after day, as they made the most of this treasure trove of information. On top of the outright political corruption, there’s stuff on that laptop – sex, drugs, depravity – to make a tough vice cop blush and make a jaded social worker cry.

But the financial aspect is the globally damning aspect; that’s what we need to consider here.

We knew Joe Biden was a destructive socialist on policy. We knew he was old and likely failing, certainly not terribly bright, even as politicians go. 

But this aspect – the blatant corruption, incomparably worse than any of the crimes that forced Nixon and Agnew out of office, orders of magnitude worse than the crimes that got four Illinois governors jailed in the past 50 years – this aspect is truly damning.

America has built a reputation – not a Republican or Democrat reputation, but a non-partisan reputation – as the world’s champion of good government.  Our efforts in the UN and WTO, and our strict enforcement of the FCPA and similar regulations here at home, have all been aimed at spreading our example of honest government around the world, so that the people of all nations could someday enjoy the benefits of honest government.

We cannot destroy all that we’ve worked for over the past century, by electing a known criminal – not just any crook, but one who has shaken down foreign governments, abusing his office again and again over the years – to become President of the United States.

This election is about more than hairstyles or face masks, about more than rallies and basements, more than which of the two you’d like to have a beer with or attend a baseball game with.

This is our reputation we’re talking about.  A vote for Donald Trump is a vote for continued efforts to level the playing field, continuing to give the world a fair trading partner and a model to emulate.   A vote for Joe Biden is a vote for corruption; it’s a vote for the machine politics of Chicago and New York, the local hoods elevated to the global stage.

The Democratic party had other options this year; the party leaders chose to anoint Joe Biden.  Every rank and file Democrat voter in the country ought to join a class action lawsuit against their own party, for saddling them with this millstone around their necks.

America worked hard, for many, many years, to gain the reputation of the Fair Witness, the honest arbiter on the world scene. 

On November 3, 2020, we can either proudly stay true to our reputation, or we can undermine a century of effort, and turn hypocrite by rewarding a corrupt pol, with the biggest prize of all.

How much damage could this man do in that office, knowing what he’s done with lesser offices? 

Choose wisely, America.

Copyright 2020 John F Di Leo

John F Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based trade compliance trainer, writer and actor.  His columns have been appearing in Illinois Review since 2009.

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  1. Another fantastic piece John. I hope that the voters understand that the corrupt Biden 5 (as penned by Peter Schweizer) has paid off Joe with riches. This begs another question, why is the IRS not investigating themm for not paying any taxes on ill-gotten gains?

  2. This opinion piece takes on even more significance with the fraudulent ballot harvesting and suppression of Republican ballots in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Detroit. 2020 just went from a horrible year to the worst year I have ever spent on this planet!