Former Vice President Mike Pence, left, President Joe Biden and...

Former Vice President Mike Pence, left, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. Credit: AP/ Meg Kinnard, Susan Walsh, Jacquelyn Martin

The end of a presidency is chaotic, with outgoing leaders trying to run the country even as they pack. One imagines various Quayles and Clintons having the same painful conversations anyone does with a move-out/breakup.

Dick Cheney: “So, these VHS Rambo movies … were they mine, or … ”

Government worker tasked with watching the Cheneys so they don’t snag all the toiletries, shrimp forks, and nuclear codes: “They’re yours, sir.”

Cheney: “Well, if you wanted 'Rambo III,' for the memories … ”

Cheney monitor: “I’m good, sir, but I'm going to have to ask you to take the nation’s vice-presidential loofah out of your duffel bag!"

I’m actually a little jealous of Donald Trump and Joe Biden and all these other folks who will soon admit they found classified material in a plastic tub marked “Misc. recipes/Pie.” They can make a claim regarding their wrongdoings I was never able to apply to my own sins and crimes:

“But Mike Pence does it!”

Mike Pence doesn’t even rotate the mattress without looking to the Scriptures for guidance.

Did Mother know about this? And more importantly, where do we stand now?

  • We have one ex-president, Trump, spatting with the government after his representatives spent 18 months stonewalling first the National Archives, and then the Justice Department, over dozens of boxes containing classified materials. Some were turned over post-hounding, some were seized in an FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago after hounding failed. This includes reams of classified documents, including some marked “Top Secret.” 
  • We have one current president, His Joeness, who seems to have stashed a smaller collection of classified papers from his vice-presidential days anywhere one might look. As another six or eight pages turn up every few days, used as a bookmark to highlight a favorite chili recipe or for jotting down driving directions to the new Planet Fitness, Americans are getting concerned, in that lukewarm way the One True Joe gets us concerned.
  • We have Pence, who said this week that his lawyer found about a dozen documents marked as classified in his Indiana home and turned them over to the FBI.
  • We have, one imagines, folks like Dan Quayle and Al Gore and their staffs searching through old tax documents and home warranty inspections to see what else might have been “filed” in the attic. I suppose the Obamas could be checking, too, but I always imagined them leaving with nothing but the clothes on theirs backs, the dreams in their hearts, and a $65 million book contract.
  • And we have a nation wondering how big a deal this docudrama is.

Interestingly, that’s a question Biden could easily answer. If the documents from Biden’s home are benign, he can, as president, declassify them so we can see. He can do the same with the stuff in Pence’s place, if that’s the case, and with Trump’s, and have the National Archives back him up when he says a document is too hot for the public to handle.

It’s long been said that we classify far too much information. If that’s true, and what’s been taken is unimportant, maybe we ought to change the system. And if what’s been taken is important, and so easily moved, that means we ought to change that system, too. 

Columnist Lane Filler's opinions are his own.

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