While Trumpian surrogates like Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie fanned out over the airwaves yesterday to repeat Trumpy-the Clown's newest– post Alicia Machado– talking point– that Trumpf is “a genius” after losing a billion dollars and then not paying any taxes for 18 years– Bernie Sanders had a very different message. Christie was on Fox saying that “There’s no one who’s shown more genius in their way to maneuver about the tax code as he rightfully used the laws to do that” and Giuliani was on ABC babbling to George Stephanopoilos that Trump “knows how to operate the tax code.”
Perhaps worried by what happened to Al Capone when he got caught cheating on his taxes, Christie and Giuliani were both instructed by Bannon to point out that Trump didn't do anything technically illegal. Genius? The man made a series of terrible business decisions and lost nearly a billion dollars in a year– and then stuck the American taxpayers with the bill. Some genius!
Bernie saw it from quite a different perspective. When asked by Jake Tapper on CNN, he replied that “this is exactly why so many millions of Americans are frustrated; they're angry. They're disgusted at what they see as a corrupt political system in this country. So what you have at a time of massive income and wealth inequality: in the last 16 years we have seen a ten-fold increase in the number of billionaires. And at the same time, many of these billionaires have loopholes that their lobbyists and their friends on Capitol Hill provide for them which enable them to avoid taxes and in some cases, not paying a nickel in taxes. You've got the middle class people working longer hours for lower wages; they pay their taxes; they support their schools; they support their infrastructure; they support the military. But the billionaires know they don't have to do that because they know they have their friends on Capitol Hill. They pay zero in taxes. So Trump goes around and says, 'Hey I'm worth billions. I'm a successful businessman, but I don't pay any taxes. But you, you make 15 bucks an hour, you pay the taxes, not me.' That is why people are angry at and want real change in this country.” Later, on ABC, Bernie added– as though answering the Rudy/Chrsitie spin– “If everybody in this country was a 'genius' like Mr. Trump is, and not pay any taxes, we would not have a country.”
As Greg Sargent wrote last week in the Washington Post, Trump falls back on crackpot arguments justifying himself, simplistic, Hate Talk Radio-centric arguments that worked fine in a Republican primary catering to… well, you know what that primary audience is now. Those arguments aren't likely to persuade normal people who haven't been brain-washed by Hate Talk hosts like Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham– as well, of course, as Fox “News.”
Earlier this year Trump repeatedly boasted in various forms that he was gaming the system to his own benefit. One additional way he did this, for instance, was to brag repeatedly that he has bought off politicians through campaign donations. He argued that this gave him a level of inside knowledge of how elites scam the system that uniquely positioned him to reform it. GOP primary voters apparently thrilled at his braggadocio, his chest-thumping promise to bust up the elites’ party, and– in the case of his low tax rate– his in-your-face contempt for government.
But this general argument may be running aground in the general election. His boasts about buying off politicians collided with specific allegations of pay-to-play, such as revelations that his charity gave money to a PAC linked to the Florida attorney general at a time when she was entertaining complaints about his Trump University. And now, the boast that he pays nothing in taxes could give Dems a way to further intensify pressure on him to release his returns, and to sow further doubts about his refusal to do so, in the minds of voters who might not be as reflexively anti-government as GOP primary voters are.
…[W]hen Trump is confronted with the various ways he gamed the system to benefit himself, he simply can’t help but take credit for doing so, since to him, being seen as a winner at all costs– regardless of the means– is paramount.
Watch this video; it works on poorly educated Foxified Republicans– which is why Trump is their nominee– but on normal Americans? The polls say otherwise, even if he's running against a highly unpopular Democratic nominee who represents a status quo that just about everyone wants to see changed.
“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” — Sinclair Lewis