Trump’s Incompetence Revealed Again
So, a snippet of information about Donald Trump from 20 years ago has emerged — What the heck is it about this guy and the 1990s? It further roiled the presidential campaign, and the best that can be said about it is the news offends men and women equally.
You already know the deal: Based on documents leaked to the New York Times, Trump might not have paid federal income taxes the last 18 years. It seems he took a whopping loss of nearly $1 billion on his 1996 return, which, given rules within the IRS code, he could have used to offset as much as $50 million in income annually each year since.
The story came to light Saturday evening before Trump was scheduled to speak to a crowd in western Pennsylvania, that region of bitter clingers made famous by then-candidate Barack Obama in 2008. Trump wound up running about 90 minutes late and, without mentioning the report, wound up giving one of those memorable, meandering, schizophrenic off-message presentations that cause garment-rending among his rational advisers.
Clearly, the story had pierced his skin.
A prepared, quick-response campaign would have been ready for something like this, because the candidate would have been honest about what might be lurking in his closet.
Of course, he could have avoided the chagrin of what, plainly, is a strategically picked cherry by releasing his returns last winter, holding a press conference to go over them, and then packing it all away. With five weeks to the election, everything ugly about a candidate ought to fall into the category of asked-and-answered.
Which leaves us pondering, once more, what might have been. One tweet went to the heart of the public relations fix Republicans find themselves in: At the start, the GOP had 16 candidates who would have had no trouble releasing their tax returns.
Are there problems with what the New York Times did? Absolutely. Tax returns are private; it’s a crime to publish even snippets of someone’s return without the permission of the filer(s). In this case, the OK would have had to come from Trump himself, or his then-wife, Marla Maples.
So we’ll expect the crack agents — who definitely are not weasels, despite their twitchy noses and talent for hiding valuables — at James Comey’s impeccable FBI to leap right on this, with a report naming the perpetrators and recommending multi-point indictments for offenses to the Justice Department … just about the time invitations go out for President Hillary Clinton’s second inaugural in 2021.
In other words, this is up to Trump and his team to manage.
A competent candidate would be able to describe in easily understood detail why, despite the big numbers, this isn’t a big deal. He could explain the unique circumstances that led to the one-year financial pounding, and whether he and his accountant elected to load losses onto that particular return. Bring out a white board or do a PowerPoint.
He could also point out that, despite experiencing a nearly 10-figure loss in a single year, he didn’t ask the federal government for a bailout — well, none more than is provided for in the tax code.
A competent candidate would say something like, “You think the code stinks? You think it favors billionaires over the middle class? Well, you might be right. But who do you think is more likely to fix what’s wrong, the person who made millions giving unpublished speeches to commercial bankers, or the guy who doesn’t need their money to make a living and who wants to slash corporate tax rates in exchange for eliminating the loopholes he took advantage of?”
He could also point out that, despite using one-year losses to offset gains for federal tax purposes in later years — gains that could have overtaken those losses far faster than the 18 years the New York Times postulates — he was still paying corporate taxes and the state and local property and sales taxes that support schools, law enforcement, Medicaid, road building and maintenance, social services, environmental protection, economic development and so on.
A competent candidate could do all that while shifting the onus of bad-faith dealing to the New York Times, which seems, as noted above, to be at least in the shadows of legality.
Having done all that, a competent candidate would note the money lost was his, invested in the private sector, before pivoting to the $6 billion of your dough lost — simply misplaced, like a rogue set of keys or the mate to a favorite sock — by the State Department under the watch of one Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Instead, Republicans have Donald Trump, who responded to the embarrassing but, as we have demonstrated here, manageable news of an ancient tax return by raising questions about her own sexuality.