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On Thursday, Special Counsel Robert Hur dropped a bombshell report concluding his investigation into whether President Joe Biden had illegally retained classified documents when he was vice president. The report sent shudders through the Democratic establishment, not because it found Biden guilty, but because the report had editorialized about the 81-year-old president’s cognitive abilities. But Biden’s memory issue wasn’t the only red meat Hur inserted in the report that exonerated the president. He also included photos taken by FBI agents who had searched the garage of Biden’s Delaware home. They had discovered hundreds of classified documents about the troop surge in Afghanistan “in a badly damaged box in the garage, near a collapsed dog crate, a dog bed, a Zappos box, an empty bucket, a broken lamp wrapped with duct tape, potting soil, and synthetic firewood,” Hur wrote in his report.

Given former President Donald Trump’s impending trial concerning his own alleged mishandling of classified documents, Republicans immediately seized on Biden’s haphazard stewardship of the nation’s secrets, tweeting and retweeting photos of the garage as evidence of the president’s perfidy. Yet among the unfinished craft projects, duct-taped lamps, and dusty workout equipment in the photos lay evidence of something unexpected: the “kid from Scranton” is, in fact, the regular guy he has always claimed to be. Those photos could have been taken in any US suburb, where it’s not uncommon for people to store so much junk in their garages the car no longer fits.

 

The American garage is a well-established graveyard for home gym equipment, and the Bidens’ is no exception. An abandoned treadmill guarded the classified documents. Like others in red and blue states alike, this garage was a repository of cast-off domestic aspirations, where every broken lamp and replacement-level step ladder represented an uncompleted task on a “honey-do” list. Embodied in the cracked pots, garden hooks, plant spritzers, and moldering wicker baskets are the high hopes of every American family that this is the year we’re really going to spiff up the garden, or make adorable Easter baskets, or get in shape. Just as soon as we have time. Or the weather gets better. Or Major stops biting the White House staff.

Dusty treadmill

Aspirational craft project/easter basket

This is why Marie Kondo’s purging campaign was so popular in the United States: We are a nation of hoarders. I would not be surprised if the Bidens owned a copy of her book but never got around to figuring out if the bean bag chair documented by the FBI still sparked joy. The Bidens seem no different from most of us who are trying, and failing, to be good, environmentally-conscious citizens as we try to find a better home for our junk than the local dump—an ambition that often dies at the carport door. After all, responsible decluttering is a time-consuming chore—one even more complicated for the Bidens, who can’t just invite Facebook shoppers to pick over their detritus without the Secret Service running interference.

Biden’s garage is so reassuringly familiar because it’s also a universal way station among the middle-class for things with sentimental value we can’t bear to throw away but that are cluttering up the dining room. Consider the dusty bed for a beloved dog who crossed over the rainbow bridge years ago. Biden has lost a wife and two children to tragedy. Can you really blame him for hanging on to some stuff? Besides, who among us hasn’t failed to return the slightly too small Zappos shoes—ever?

Teenager’s beanbag chair

Zappos box (unclear if it includes shoes)

That’s what the special counsel realized, too, in deciding against bringing any charges against Biden. “A reasonable juror could conclude that this is not where a person intentionally stores what he supposedly considers to be important classified documents, critical to his legacy,” Hur wrote. “Rather, it looks more like a place a person stores classified documents he has forgotten about or is unaware of. We have considered—and investigated—the possibility that the box was intentionally placed in the garage to make it appear to be there by mistake, but the evidence does not support that conclusion.”

Left unsaid is that no juror was going to convict Biden of illegally storing classified documents in this garage because so many of them are guilty of misplacing their 1997 tax returns or marriage license or final will and testament somewhere between the fishing poles, the once-used power washer, and their grandmother’s painfully uncomfortable rocking chair in the garage. We have met the real Joe Biden, and he is us.

Synthetic firewood

Classified files

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