Sunday, October 2, 2016
Bonfire of the Vanities
The biggest advantage in winning the first debate is that Hillary can set the talking points for the two weeks until the next debate. If Alicia Machado wasn't bad enough, the New York Times has hit Donald hard with the release of his 1995 tax returns, revealing nearly a billion dollars in losses, which he most likely has written off his returns for the last two decades.
What makes both these stories interesting is that they have been hanging around for quite sometime. The Hillary ad takes clips from an interview Machado had with Univision this summer, and Vanity Fair noted the abuse she took in an article, posted in January, on Trump's love of beauty pageants. Gaming income taxes has similarly been reported, but these were returns from the 1970s he filed for a gambling license in New Jersey. The '95 returns allow for much better speculation on his current tax situation, which the NYTimes journalists gleefully do.
For the most part the mainstream media previously ignored these stories, too caught up in Trumpmania. Now, it seems the "bigly" news story is taking Trump down, and just about every newspaper across the country is going after him, including leading conservative papers like the Arizona Republic, New Hampshire Union Leader and Dallas Morning News. Even USA Today came out strongly against Trump despite a long standing policy of being neutral on presidential elections.
Even worse for Trump, Newsmax is quoting David Axelrod in describing how Trump took the bait on Miss Universe, so unable to get Alicia Machado out of his head that he was making 3 am tweets Friday morning, three full days after the debate. This after he left his friends at Fox in silence when he flew into a rage Thursday night on the same subject.
That temperament he bragged about at the debate doesn't look so stable now. Not that it looked very stable that night. Trump has always been an outspoken guy but he usually knew how to play the media, often against itself. In the last full month of campaigning he has lost it, lashing out at everyone, probably his own family members, who have been surprisingly quiet in the wake of the Monday Night Massacre.
Very few persons consider him stable at this point. Even Newt Gingrich expressed his concerns, failing to understand how Trump could be so obsessed with Machado, but like other conservatives backing Trump he still seems to hope that Trump can pull it together.
Trump was supposed to pivot toward moderate voters back in August, yet flew into a similar rage over the attacks he took at the Democratic National Convention, notably from the Khan family. This went on for three weeks with him attacking his own backers, Paul Ryan and John McCain, for criticizing him for his response to a Gold Star family. Eventually, Trump deferred but the damage was done. The only thing that got him back into the race was all the speculation that swirled around Hillary's health that dominated the media, especially when she lost her footing following a 911 ceremony in New York. Yet, here he is again unable to contain himself for perceived slights against his character, and threatening to pull out all the stops in the next debate against Hillary.
Team Hillary sized up Donald Trump and knew exactly where to hit him -- his immense ego. This is a guy who values his name at over $3 billion, and has it emblazoned in gold on all his towers. He can't let anything that besmirches that name go and Hillary knows that. It could very will be that the Machado story lingers throughout the month, just as the Willie Horton ads continued to haunt Michael Dukakis all the way until election day.
What threatens to bring Donald down is his tax returns. He all but admitted he hasn't paid any taxes over the last two decades at the debate, and the NYTimes story ads fuel to the fire by showing how he could have avoided paying taxes over this time frame. All of it may be perfectly legal but isn't going to sit well with a largely middle class electorate that feels it already carries an unfair tax burden because of tax dodgers like Donald J. Trump.