There is something about a life without consequence that drives those of us stuck in the mire of repercussions and just desserts just a little bit batty. This might be part of the stickiness of the artist formerly known as Hunter Biden, who has again surfaced in the American news cycle despite the best efforts of many — including myself.

Eighteen months ago, I wrote a piece in this space about why Hunter Biden shouldn’t be an issue in the 2020 presidential election. With his father running against Donald Trump, three of whose children were then crisscrossing the country stumping for their old man. My argument at the time was the kids basically cancelled each other, and how about sticking to the issues anyway.

Today, Hunter is an issue again. How do I know? Because on the front cover of this morning’s New York Times is a piece about how the Saudis had second thoughts about investing in one of Jared Kushner’s businesses. That is because it is no longer possible to keep Hunter squirreled away in the Hollywood Hills working on the second installment of his illuminating thoughts for Simon & Shuster.

No, because, if leaked reports are to be believed, a grand juror somewhere in America really wants to know who “the big guy” referenced in Hunter’s emails as requiring a ten percent cut in a business deal really is.

Our history as a nation is richly embroidered with the tales of screwed up relatives of presidents. All families have their skeletons to be sure. But when one becomes a lightening rod for public concern about corruption that goes beyond themselves, its no longer the story of a goofball, but instead becomes evidence of a pattern.

There are three aspects to why the Hunter story won’t go away:

First, there is the sacred cow aspect — the boy without consequences. At the time of Hunter’s first drug arrest in the late 1980s, his father was crafting legislation that would put less fortunate drug users and dealers away for life. For Hunter, this protection continued right up to the moment an American president was impeached for asking his Ukrainian counterpart for additional dirt on him.

Second, there is the particularly galling aspect of Hunter’s alleged corruption. Riding Air Force Two to China to ink a personal business deal, for instance. Or, equally topically, there are his doings both in Russia and Ukraine. His Ukrainian client was in exile because he was wanted for prosecution by his own country’s government. The Russian real estate tycoon who wired him millions of dollars is the wife of a famously corrupt ex mayor of Moscow.

And finally, as in all things, the cover-up can be worse than the crime itself. Just before the 2020 election, most all news outlets in the country, with the notable exception of the New York Post, were hell bent on burying the weird story of the “laptop from hell.” It was Russian disinformation we were told by senior officials in the intelligence community. Unsubstantiated.

Well, now the story changes, apparently the laptop is real after all, according to no less than the New York Times. Its details about all sorts of unsavory business dealings were not made up — to his credit, Hunter himself never said they were. Oops. Would honest reporting then have made a difference in the election’s outcome? Maybe.

So we returned to what we have learned is the best defense in times of stress: false equivalency. When the United States military blockaded the Gulf state of Qatar until its royal family reconsidered investing in a problematic Kushner real estate deal, I was horrified, but the story was soon washed away in the frantic flood of Trump hit pieces. Now it reads as if the Saudis were similarly cajoled. I am biased in favor of Jared only because of his commitment to criminal justice reform where — unlike Hunter — he made a real impact.

But corruption anywhere is a threat to probity everywhere, so by all means investigate. But don’t let it be a pretext to letting Hunter off the hook again.

To those of us for whom the law is real — which is basically everyone whose father is not president — the idea of special exceptions is infuriating. The Biden family has suffered great loss and pain, and it is hard to watch the president speak without feeling some form of sympathy. That does not mean, however, changing the subject every time Hunter is mentioned is a form of compassion. A better case for tough love has rarely been seen.

This is no longer just about politics. Instead it is, as Hunter’s dad is fond of saying, about who we really are.

Sam Patten is a writer and political strategist who has worked extensively at senior levels in the United States and globally.