Tag Archives: Washington Post

Compromise on Trump’s Tax Returns? — No!

A thoughtful article appeared in the Washington Post yesterday (http://wapo.st/2kV9os6), penned by two law professors proposing a plan to “compromise” with President Trump to secure at least a quasi-public view of his tax returns. I would normally defer to this type of approach to solving a high-conflict problem, but in this case, I must, with respect to the authors, reject the idea for multiple reasons.

The concept involves engaging the staff of the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, now dominated by Republicans, to privately review Trump’s returns and prepare a “public summary report redacted of any proprietary business information.” The result would be two reports, one “large confidential” and one “redacted public,” based on some “bipartisan process” negotiated in advance with a “summary explanation of any compliance issues raised by the review.”

The problems with this well-intentioned proposal are many and, in my judgment, insuperable. First is the fact that Trump lied repeatedly about his intention to release his tax returns. This proposal gives him the benefit of those lies and that seems fundamentally wrong on multiple levels. Second, the complicated process does not result in full transparency and will almost certainly lead to continued complaints that critical details have been sanitized, whether intentionally or not. Third, there is no reason to trust the Republican majority to play this straight, as they have shown time and again an unwillingness to challenge the President’s remorseless lying, attacks on the independence of the press and many other examples too numerous to detail here but well-known to everyone paying attention. Finally, Trump’s dishonesty suggests he cannot be depended upon to live up to any arrangement if he suddenly decides he doesn’t like it. The latest reported efforts of the White House to suborn the FBI regarding the “Russia connection” are only one of many examples of the lengths Trump will go to delegitimize criticism.

It is true, of course, that full disclosure of Trump’s returns might reveal some confidential business information. That is a problem of his own making. If he had properly divested himself of his business interests, rather than the charade he perpetrated with the infamous stacks of legal documents display, these concerns would perhaps carry some weight. As it is, there is no reason to let Trump off the petard on which he has hoisted himself. If he persists with the fantasy, often repeated by his chief counselor, Kellyanne Conway, that since he won the election, no one cares about his tax returns, he and those who support him will suffer the political consequences. As Abraham Lincoln allegedly said: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Time will tell. Let’s not make it easy for the foolers.

A TRIPLE THREAT TO DEMOCRACY

The Washington Post ran three editorials today that should have the rapt attention of all thinking Americans.

The first editorial observes that Donald Trump represents an existential threat to American democracy by his raising the specter that his victory will lead to criminal prosecution of his opponent, Hillary Clinton, because, as President, Trump will be able to order the government to prosecute and jail any enemies of his choosing. I am confident that Ms. Clinton is not intimidated by these threats. She is well-schooled in the tripartite legal system that divides power among three branches of government and thereby restrains the unlimited use of power by any one branch, including the Executive.

These threats should nevertheless give pause to anyone who remains undecided at this late stage of the campaign. As the Post notes, this type of threat conflicts with the peaceful transition of power in a democratic society governed by a Constitution and not by a dictator. I suspect that Trump made these extreme statements mainly to pander to his core constituency who seem to be obsessed with thoroughly examined but unproven claims of email malfeasance while Clinton was Secretary of State, enhanced now by Trump’s repeated claims that the only way he can lose the election is if the voting is rigged. There are, of course, many other reasons that Trump could, and should, lose the election but from his “rat in the corner” position, striking out at the “rigged system” is probably the only strategy left to him.

I suspect that his defeat, which seems more likely every day, will lead to the vast majority of his core supporters just going home unhappy but equipped with new “evil forces” and conspiracies to complain about. They can take some solace in their moral certainty, removed from any connection to reality, that the “system” was against them and they never had a chance.

On the other hand, if Trump loses, will he, as the Post editorial implies, call on his “movement” to rise up against the United States in rejection of the outcome? This group of Americans appears to be impervious to facts, motivated by anger and fear and heavily armed. Mr. Trump should be very careful how he proceeds, lest he trigger events that will escalate beyond his control. ­­­By his own admission, he is not much interested in book learning, but he should at least scan Title 18, section 2381, wherein the definition of Treason is set out. Then he can start a new “reality” TV show, as some have speculated is his real objective.

The second editorial addresses the issues that the Post thinks should be covered in the final debate Wednesday night. It’s a really good list that includes many of the hugely important issues that will face the next president. It includes the nuclear threat from North Korea, Pacific Rim expansion by China, the failure of democratic movements around the world, cyber warfare, the endless dispute between India and Pakistan and others of similar gravity. It would be refreshing, though perhaps too much to expect even from a veteran like moderator Chris Wallace, that the debate will stay on track on the issues. For once, just once, the moderator should, I suggest, act aggressively to stop the personal attacks, evasions and mis-directions that have characterized the prior “debates.” Wallace should absolutely demand that the candidates not talk over each other, not interrupt and respond to the questions asked. Unless he does that, we likely will get just another harangue by Trump of his campaign talking points, which to date have precious little to do with substantive issues.

Finally, and equally disturbing, the Post editorial board has called out Sen. John McCain for his recent statement that “I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up.” This promise, from a man who claims his word is his bond, is essentially a reprise of the Republican congressional leadership’s oath that during Barack Obama’s first term in office, the main Republican goal was to defeat his agenda and to prevent him from gaining a second term. The Republican Party thus became the “party of no” and resisted almost all efforts to achieve bipartisan compromises on anything of substance, thereby, among other things, shutting down the federal government for a period of time.

­­­It appears that for the Republican Party, ideology trumps (forgive me) all other considerations. Sen. McCain is sending the message that more congressional deadlock lies ahead if a majority of the American people elect a president not of that Party’s choosing. This is a different form of political blackmail than Donald Trump’s normal fare, but it is blackmail nonetheless and Sen. McCain’s legendary deeds on behalf of his country cannot excuse it.

Time grows short. The army of Trump supporters has consistently shown that it not only has no objection to Trump’s constant lies, misogyny and other crimes against human dignity, but they in fact approve of them. They don’t care what the facts are – they just want to bring the house down. If we are not careful, they may succeed. This is the most important national election in modern times. If you agree with me, urge everyone you know to vote for Hillary Clinton. If some of them have to hold their noses, so be it. That will be the least of their worries if Trump succeeds.