Monday, May 23, 2016


The Washington Post's James Hohmann tries to prove that failure to release tax returns is a huge unexploded bomb for Donald Trump. Hohmann's effort, alas, fails miserably:
Donald Trump bests Hillary Clinton by 2 points among registered voters in the new Washington Post/ABC poll. While within the margin of error, this represents an 11-point swing in his direction since March. The presumptive Republican nominee’s lead is driven by strength among independent voters, who favor him by 13 points.

But our national poll finds that these independent voters are profoundly troubled by Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, a sign of the issue’s potential potency.

Six in 10 independents believe Trump should release his taxes, and almost all of them say they feel strongly about it. Even 44 percent of Republicans want the billionaire businessman to release his returns before the November election, though they are less passionate.
So what Hohmann is saying is that independents are incredibly disturbed by Trump's tax non-disclosure ... except that they plan to vote for him in spite of it. And Republicans are moderately disturbed .... but the poll says they plan to vote for him in huge numbers.

Trump might have 99 problems, but it looks as if concealing his taxes ain't one.

Then there's this:
Interestingly, one of the few issues that works to Trump’s advantage right now is tax policy....

To me, that's not just "interesting" or ironic -- it's a sign that voters trust Trump on taxes, or at least hope that he's such a business miracle-worker that he'll find a way to give us more of what we want while taxing us less.

Part of the problem here is that there are two ways for Democrats to attack Trump on this -- and they cancel each other out. One is to say that Trump is concealing the fact that he's not as rich as he claims. The other is to say that he is rich and wants to cut taxes (and thus spending on needed programs) in order to help rich people like himself.

The former angle has the potential to be a lot more fun, as I'll explain below. Yesterday, Hillary Clinton went with the latter approach, and did it in a muddled way, as Hohmann notes:
“He goes around talking about make America great,” Clinton said on “Meet the Press.” “You know, that means paying for our military. That means paying for our roads. That means paying for the VA. If you've got someone running for president who is afraid to release his tax returns because it will expose the fact that he pays no federal income tax, that's a big problem.”
I think what she's trying to say is that Trump takes advantage of rich people's loopholes, and as president he'll create more loopholes for rich people like himself, and as a result the government will be starved for the funds we need to pay for the programs we want.

All that is true -- Trump is somewhat rich, and he takes advantage of loopholes for people in his tax bracket, and plans to create more. But if you're going to talk about Trump's taxes, it's better to hit him where he lives -- he's desperate to convey the notion that he's really, really rich, and he's afraid to reveal the fact that he isn't. So pour salt in that wound.

I keep waiting for Clinton or (more likely) a surrogate to say something like this:
"Donald Trump may be afraid to release his tax returns because he doesn't want us to know that his net worth is smaller than he's led us to believe. His empire could be smaller than we think. His annual income could be smaller. The size of his personal fortune really could be much, more smaller than we've been led to believe, and he may be afraid to let us know about its smaller size."
This would probably be inappropriate for Clinton herself, but I imagine a surrogate saying it with hands held up vertically, a few inches apart, in a gesture that looks like meaningless hand positioning but eventually reveals itself as the way you convey the length of something that isn't in front of you. In my imagination, every time the surrogate says the word small or smaller, the hands move closer together, as if the invisible thing being measured is shrinking.

Maybe that message from a Clinton surrogate would be a tad risqué for the constipated world of Sunday morning political talk. But I think it would really get under Trump's skin.

I know that the Clinton campaign thinks the successful anti-Trump message will be "Trump's a rich guy who doesn't care about people who aren't rich." But Trump's base voters (and increasing numbers of Trump-curious swing voters) think he's a guy who got rich hacking the system on his own behalf and now plans to hack the system on behalf of ordinary Americans. They think he can do it because he's become a billionaire, which proves he's very skilled and capable. He needs to be exposed as a humbug, the not-really-all-powerful Wizard of Oz. He needs to be deprived of the source of his power over voters.

Size is everything to Trump. So go there, Clinton campaign.




Victor said...


Hit that phony hack right in his wallet, where he's gullible!

Sweet Sue said...

Yeah, because that approach worked so well for Marco Rubio.

petrilli said...

The only weakness for Trump is apparently the idea of him not being a billionaire. Coincidentally, this:

petrilli said...

Sue, Rubio was talking about small hands, not small fortunes. That's why his attacks went flaccid.

KenRight said...

This is compounded by the voters who claim they are disturbed by Clinton's vote for the Iraq War her climaxing at Khadaffi's execution and her vote to bailout the banksters while blaming homeowners for the Great Recession.... but intend to vote for her anyway.

Tom Hilton said...

Clinton did say something like "how do you lose money running a casino?", which I think (hope) presages a massive attack on the idea of Trump as a hugely successful businessman.

Steve M. said...

Yes, that's very encouraging.

Ten Bears said...

One hand would suffice: opposing digits.

I'm pretty sure I asked that question, "how do you go broke running a casino?" at my house like... a year ago.

Bruce Webb said...

"But I think it would really get under Trump's (fore)skin."

Fixed it for you. Or as the kids say FIFY. (I think)