I wish I were making this up. Just watch. A complete transcript is below.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Hillary Clinton is more in the pocket of Wall Street than anybody else that has run for president for years, okay? So please, anybody that's, like, looking at Donald Trump and going, "Oh, he's so horrible and he's so corrupt. Oh, we need to elect Hillary Clinton" 'cause she's going to fix this system? No! It's not gonna happen! So where do they go?It's not surprising that media elitists are defending a guy who milked the tax code this way -- our millionaire pundits probably have fairly complex tax returns themselves. But they're talking about Trump's approach to this and other stories as a delight to ordinary voters -- for instance, the independents in the latest Quinnipiac poll of Ohio who like Trump more after an apparent bad run of news cycles than they did before.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI (shrugs): I'm worried.
WILLIE GEIST: She made that speech in Akron, Ohio, last night. That Quinnipiac poll that you showed, if you look inside the numbers, has Donald Trump's lead among independents jumping from 5 to 19 points. In the last month! Up against the backdrop of all those things we've just talked about -- the Miss Universe, it goes on and on and on. People are not -- they're not paying attention to these nitty-gritty stories. He is a feeling to them. He is raging against this government machine. And people who like Donald Trump like the way he responded to that tax story.
MIKE BARNICLE: Lookit, I realize it's hard to do, but has anybody taken a look at Donald Trump's big tax plan that he announced about two weeks ago here in New York City?
BRZEZINSKI: I totally agree with you, Mike!
BARNICLE: Did he address any of the things that he took advantage of?
BRZEZINSKI: Mike, I totally agree with you. I'm just telling you I'm watching these two candidates --
BARNICLE: I know, I know, I know.
BRZEZINSKI: -- and there's one that keeps kind of doing this thing that penetrates the ether. The people are hearing -- they feel -- the truth from Donald Trump.
BARNICLE: And that is on Secretary Clinton, that she hasn't told us, really, where she wants to go, where she wants to take us.
BRZEZINKI: Right, and I think the reaction to this New York Times story on Donald Trump's part was brilliant. And the thing is, he didn't even think twice about it. He just went there, while she has been hiding this speech money, hiding this foundation stuff, hiding this email stuff, and trying to get around it, "mistakes were made," and I'm telling you, people don't -- they are not feeling a complete connection with her. And this doesn't help, to get all high and mighty. Get off your high horse about this tax thing. Unless laws were broken, it's not an issue. You guys cancel each other out.
That poll was taken before the tax story broke, so we don't know how the rank-and-file are reacting to that yet. But if a lot of voters like Trump's response to the tax story -- if, in other words, they agree with the media elitists that you should work the tax code, and that that is consistent with "raging against the government machine," well, I'm not surprised.
In the 1980s, a lot of people decided that the true rebels in America, the true rock stars, were CEOs and entrepreneurs. Anyone who thinks that Trump is a rebel, a rager against the machine, as he takes advantage of the tax code is embodying that Reaganite worldview, which has never really lost currency in white America. It's why the Tea Party rebels dutifully pulled the lever for Koch candidate after Koch candidate. It's why Ron Paul became a folk hero. It's why Gary Johnson is doing better in the polls than Jill Stein.
You can argue that I'm mixing apples and oranges, because libertarians advocate a simplified tax code, with fewer loopholes. You can say that Trump is seen as a rebel not because he took the deuctions but because he claims (dishonestly) that he'll end them. But the common thread is that whatever the tax code looks like, post-Reaganite Americans aren't inclined to blame the businessman -- it's the evil government that causes all the problems.
Maybe this isn't how the story will play out. But I'm sticking with my prediction that the tax story is going to minimal damage to Trump. He'll still be within the margin of error in many polls a week from now.