Vice-President Joe Biden and sons Hunter Biden (L) and since-deceased Beau Biden walk in the Inaugural Parade January 20, 2009, in Washington, DC. Photo: AFP / David McNew / Getty Images

Google “New York Post Hunter Biden” for the grisly details as conveyed by Rudy Giuliani to Rupert Murdoch.

My favorite novel is Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men and the best line in that novel comes when journalist-turned-political opposition researcher and dirty trickster Jack Burden insists that The Judge is an honest man with no dark secrets for his friend and protege Jack to uncover on behalf of The Judge’s political enemy, the governor.

Governor Willie Stark (based on Huey P. Long of Louisiana) replies:

There is always something. Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud. There is always something.

There was something in The Judge’s background, as the meticulous researcher Jack Burden found to his rue.

So far the evidence from Donald Trump’s October surprise does not qualify as a smoking gun regarding Joe Biden himself.

But it is a cannonball landing in a tar-drenched dumpster for Hunter Biden. The emails paint Joe Biden’s second son as despicably unprincipled.

So far Murdoch’s tabloid New York Post has not produced evidence – beyond an introductory meeting of the sort that politicians agree to without batting an eyelash, even if they don’t know the newcomer from Adam – that Joe Biden was a conscious part of Hunter Biden’s disgusting scheme.

Note how, in one of these emails, Hunter cautions it can’t be predicted what Joe will do on his trip to Ukraine – although Hunter keeps insinuating otherwise by calling Joe “my guy.”

The announcement of my guys [sic] upcoming travels should be characterized as part of our advice and thinking- but what he will say and do is out of our hands.

I’ll cling hopefuly to that ambiguity for now. But there is no way Joe can shrug this revelation off. Assuming the emails are genuine, Hunter very clearly is guilty as charged with blatantly selling claimed influence over his father.

Joe can say – and in the past has said – that he himself did nothing he would not have done if his son hadn’t been working for the Ukrainian company. But the devoted family man who’s the Democratic nominee for the US presidency will find it difficult to make a case that his son is innocent.

Hunter Biden attends the T&C Philanthropy Summit with screening of “Generosity Of Eye” at Lincoln Center with Town & Country on May 28, 2014, in New York City. Photo: AFP / Astrid Stawiarz / Getty Images for Town & Country

If Joe wasn’t consciously part of the scheme but Hunter nevertheless sullied his father’s good name by suggesting Joe was part of the scheme, Joe needs to come to terms with that, acknowledge it and condemn his son’s behavior.

If Hunter misrepresented his father and now tells the truth, indicating that he (unlike Donald Trump and his offspring) has some hint of conscience left, don’t be surprised if Hunter then does the further right thing: what a decent samurai would do – meaning the same inevitably tragic choice that The Judge made in my favorite novel.

If Joe did know what his son was telling the Ukrainians, if he was to that extent a part of the sordid scheme and then sought and accepted the presidential nomination in this supremely critical year, then Joe has wounded so many of us so gravely that he himself should be considering a samurai exit.

And the sooner the better. In that awful case, let Kamala try to pick up the pieces.

Bradley K. Martin is in the sixth decade of a career in journalism.