Trump’s taxes. Yes, it is really bad for him.

As much as Trump seems to be teflon, he’s really not.  Are any of the “deplorables” going to change their minds.  Unlikely, but Trump has shown little ability to expand his support behind 40% of the electorate and this sure as hell doesn’t help.  I was explaining to my wife earlier today that this is important because of how it will drive the ongoing media narrative.  This tax issue had been woefully undercovered.  Not anymore.  And much like the negative drip, drip, drip of Hillary’s emails, I suspect this will have a similar quality.  Here’s Josh Marshall with similar thoughts and a nice analogy to boot:

In itself the revelation is somewhere between very damaging and catastrophic. But that is almost a secondary question. The real issue is this: at the moment Donald Trump is clearly behind and there are little more than 30 days before the election. He needs a decisive shift in the race and he has very little time to accomplish that. Regardless of its specific impact, the tax story will probably take at least a week for the campaigns and the press to litigate. And that’s a week Trump simply doesn’t have to spare. In football terms it’s like being down two touchdowns with only two or three minutes to go and you turn the ball over to the other team. If they score, its fatal. But even if they don’t it’s almost as bad because they’ll run down time you don’t have.

Others say, “Well, it doesn’t matter. His supporters won’t care.” No, they probably won’t. But that’s not relevant. His supporters make up less than 40% of the electorate. Alone they get Trump a shattering defeat in Goldwater/Mondale territory. Right now Trump needs to hold wavering anti-Trump (but more anti-Hillary) Republicans and make serious gains with loosely-affiliated voters in swing demographics like suburban, married white women, college educated whites of both genders, etc. Saying he’s ‘smart’ not to pay any taxes gives feral Trumpers something to yell about. It has very little traction outside the committed Trump camp.

And there’s a decent chance we could learn worse.  Or, certainly, that Trump is hiding worse.  Ezra:

Here’s the thing I can’t get over about the New York Times’s bombshell story on Donald Trump’s tax returns: they don’t actually know what’s in his tax returns.

Look at their headline again. “Donald Trump Tax Records Show He Could Have Avoided Taxes for Nearly Two Decades, The Times Found.” The word “could” is doing a lot of work there.

Reread the first sentence. “Donald J. Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns, a tax deduction so substantial it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years.” “Could” is doing all the work there, too. It’s also possible that Trump paid taxes in all of those years!

All the Times has is three pages of Trump’s records from 1995. Everything else is informed speculation, extrapolation, and the word “could,” which appears again and again through the article.

Think about how dangerous that was for the paper. Trump could have released his tax returns and proven them wrong. Trump could have shown their speculation to be mere speculation, and used it as a cudgel to discredit their reporting on his campaign. The Times was far, far out on a limb.

But the Times bet correctly. Trump still isn’t releasing his returns. And here’s what that means: whatever is in his returns is worse than what the New York Times is telling the world is in his returns. The Trump campaign has decided it prefers the picture the Times is painting — a picture where Trump didn’t pay taxes for 18 years — to the picture Trump’s real records would paint.

What is in those returns? [italics Ezra; bold is mine]

John Cassidy:

Even now, he might seek to brazen it out. But his campaign is also trying out the “genius” line, to see if it gets any traction. If it does—if Trump’s supporters react to the new revelations with admiration rather than outrage—Trump might well go ahead and release at least some of his tax returns. That is what some of his associates have been advising him to do for weeks.

The problem with this strategy should be obvious. Far from demonstrating that Trump is a “genius” or a “highly-skilled businessman,” the 1995 returns confirm what longtime observers have known for years: earlier in his career, at least, Trump was a terrible businessman. He borrowed billions of dollars to build casinos and buy overpriced trophy properties, such as the Plaza Hotel and the Eastern Air Lines Shuttle. His businesses lost almost all of this money, and some of the biggest ones, including the Plaza, were forced to seek bankruptcy protection. Trump personally was only saved from the humiliation of being declared bust by the fact that his bankers believed they would get more of their money back by throwing him a lifeline.

That’s what they did, and Trump slowly rehabilitated himself. But his comeback was due less to any innate entrepreneurial talent than to a recovery in the property market and his ability to sell himself as a success story despite his financial problems. Indeed, Trump’s real skill has always been as a self-promoter and flimflam man rather than as a creator of successful companies. To compare him to Steve Jobs is a joke, and to compare him to Churchill is perhaps the topper.

And an NBC news analysis on Trump’s worst week ever:

One: That his refusal to release his taxes suggested he was concealing something important. Two: That his returns might show his business acumen was overstated. Three: That he paid little or no taxes despite his vast wealth.

And it lent credence to her larger argument that Trump is a heartless scrooge who left a trail of financial destruction on his path to wealth, and who according to the Times even refused to check off a box on his tax form to donate to a veterans’ memorial fund.

As if that wasn’t enough, Trump has a long history of both bragging about his efforts to avoid paying taxes while shaming others for paying too little

The combination of multiple damaging stories, all made dramatically worse by the candidate’s impulsive response, may be without precedent. It’s as if Dukakis were photographed riding in the tank, saw the mocking news coverage, then climbed back into the tank and drove cross-country with Willie Horton riding shotgun as his own staff begged him to pull over. [emphasis mine]

Oh, and any other week, Trump’s total meltdown in PA would be a big story.  This week, it’s just background.  But, read it, you should.  Trust me.


Quick hits (part II)

The almost all Trump edition (do you really blame ?)

1) Margaret Talbot on Trump and the media.

2) Good piece on the totally weird dynamic between the Dilbert creator, Scott Adams, and Trump.

3) Markets are afraid of Donald Trump.  As is any entity with money at stake and not blinded by white ethnocentrism.

4) Josh Marshall on Trump’s latest meltdown.  Great, as you’d expect.

We’ve seen a lot of Trump meltdowns. But I’m not sure we’ve seen one quite like this one with Alicia Machado. We had a recent preview with what I believe was his reaction to being gently rebuked by Pastor Faith Green Timmons of Flint, Michigan. But here we appear to have a special confluence of events. Trump becomes unhinged whenever he is challenged or insulted or injured by someone he perceives as beneath him in the gender or racial hierarchy. The list is almost endless: Hillary Clinton, Alicia Machado, Obama, the Khans, Judge Curiel. Trump is a bully who lives in a zero sum psychic economy of dominance. There are dominators and the dominated. That operates with white men too, as we saw in the Republican primaries. But when the injury comes from someone he believes is beneath him, there is a special intensity and charge. Taking down a Bush or a Cruz, Trump was vicious and dominating but seemingly in control. He wielded his aggressive bullying as a weapon. There’s aggression but not rage. In these other cases, he’s clearly not in control. It overcomes him.

5) Loved seeing the Trump defender getting embarrassed on national tv.

6) Jonathan Ladd on how Trump manipulates the media is great.  Sent this one to my class.

7) John Dickerson on why Trump’s penchant for conspiracy theories is so problematic.

In campaigns, we investigate candidate instincts because they tell us how they’ll behave in office when the pressure is on. Situations may change, but the circuitry can’t. That’s why examining Hillary Clinton’s choice to set up a private email server and her misleading and incorrect answers about her server once it was discovered are important. They allow us to investigate a larger instinct about openness and the instincts of those around her.

Trump’s ease with the outlandish and unprovable has been seen as a topic for late-night comedians, but it’s more than a quirk. It is a habit of mind. Positions cooked-up in haste during a campaign can come and go, but habits of mind remain. White House decisions will flow through these same circuits. Advisers will have to shape and anticipate the way Trump’s mind works.

During the five years that Trump promoted the idea that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, he claimed reporters were only skeptical because “Obama’s minions” had gotten to them. Much like the Trump’s undisclosed plan for quickly  defeating ISIS, he promised that all the doubters would be proved wrong once the final reveal took place.

This is the allure of the conspiracy. The lack of verifiable facts is proof that the conspiracy is real. Anyone who is skeptical can be lumped in with the conspirators. Because the theory is cloaked in mystery, official refutations are obvious proof that everyone is in on the hoax. This is why Trump was resolutely skeptical about Obama’s birth certificate years after the president provided the short form and then years after he’d provided the long form…

There’s also a chance Trump doesn’t believe any of the conspiracies he promotes, but instead uses conspiracy to keep voters hopped up, confuse reporters, vanquish his enemies and deflect criticism. That’s a habit of mind, too.

8) Still need to finish reading, but the NYTT Magazine piece on how Trump started a civil war within right-wing media is really good.

9) Conor Friedersdorf on Trump’s cruelty.  Yep.  The guy is just a mean jerk, among other things.  Sadly, that’s about the least of his character flaws.

10) Yglesias on Trump falling for the Machado trap.

The Trump we are seeing unfold over the past 24 hours, however, is something different.

Not just a crude bully, a racist, a liar, or a misogynist — it’s Donald Trump as a sucker. The feud with the Khan family from earlier this summer is widely regarded as a self-inflicted fiasco, but at a minimum it appears to have been a genuine accident — the Khans’ speech was not scheduled for primetime, and Democrats seem to have underrated how powerful it would be.

The new war with Machado is nothing like that. The Clinton campaign laid surprisingly intricate groundwork to turn her into a major story both at the debate and in the days following it.

And Trump fell for it, revealing a new side to himself that the public hasn’t really seen before.

11) The Hillary-hating Millennials in this NYT article just embarrass themselves.

12) Derek Thompson on the under-appreciated economic record of Obama.

13) Meant to write a post on the role of gender in Hillary-hating.  Alas, didn’t happen this  week.  It was going to feature these two HuffPo pieces.  This:

It’s time to stop pretending that this is about substance. This is about an eagerness to believe that a woman who seeks power will say or do anything to get it. This is about a Lady MacBeth stereotype that, frankly, should never have existed in the first place. This is about the one thing no one wants to admit it’s about.

Consider, for a moment, two people. One, as a young woman at the beginning of a promising legal career, went door to door searching for ways to guarantee an education to the countless disabled and disadvantaged children who had fallen through the cracks. The other, as a young millionaire, exacted revenge on his recently deceased brother’s family by cutting off the medical insurance desperately needed by his nephew’s newborn son, who at eighteen months of age was suffering from violent seizures brought on by a rare neurological disorder.

What kind of a society treats these two people as equal in any way? What kind of society even considers the latter over the former for its highest office?

Generations from now, people will shake their heads at this moment in time, when the first female major party presidential nominee—competent, qualified and more thoroughly vetted than any non-incumbent candidate in history—endured the humiliation of being likened to such an obvious grifter, ignoramus and hate monger.

And this:

Hillary Clinton is, by far, the most honest candidate and was also the most honest even among candidates in the sprawling primary field, but voters don’t care. For at least a year now, fact-check after fact-check has revealed the extent of Trump’s mendacity and, with each revelation, how little it appears to matter. Yesterday’s Washington Post-ABC News poll, for example, shows that 62% of voters think Clinton is not trustworthy compared 53% who say the same of Trump.

People want to believe that Clinton is less truthful and trustworthy because they feelstrongly that she shouldn’t be president. Voters who hate Clinton, for example, working class white men who overwhelmingly support Trump, mainly respond to the suggestion that she is a good candidate with anger and disgust – two of the strongest predictors of moral outrage and moral outrage – when and how people feel it ― is governed by gender role expectations.

14) As for the NYT story criticizing Clinton for not pushing a positive campaign message this week– seriously?!  Her opponent is sucking up all the political oxygen making an unbelievable fool of himself and she’s supposed to ignore that and put forward her positive message?  Get real.  Pretty sure the right strategy is to just focus on Trump’s unfitness this week.

15) Interesting profile of your run-of-the-mill, completely unhinged Trump supporter.

16) Headline of Ruth Marcus‘ column nails it, but for one thing– genuinely unfair to the socio-emotional development of middle-schoolers, “Most people grow out of middle school. Not Donald Trump.”

17) A former Hillary-hater on how she’s come to admire her.

18) This is why we cannot have nice things– without exploiting poor and disadvantaged people in third world countries.  It this case, the cobalt that makes all your lithium-ion battery-powered devices.  Great and depressing feature from the Post.

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