There’s more to Trump spinning huge losses as genius than mere politics. It’s a deep and overwhelming pathology that is incredibly dangerous.
Talking Points Memo:
Following the New York Times report revealing that Donald Trump may have dodged paying taxes for almost 20 years, the Republican nominee’s surrogates insisted that the report only proves how smart Trump is.
“He’s a genius,” former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said on ABC’s “This Week”Sunday morning.
Giuliani argued on ABC News that Trump “would have been a fool not to take advantage” of the tax code.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also boasted that Trump is a “genius.” On Fox News, Christie said that the New York Times report highlighted “what an absolute mess the federal tax code is.”
Now, it’s possible that Giuliani and Christie just have extremely similar sycophantic instincts, or it is very possible that spending enough time in Trump’s orbit just gives you the impeccable feel for what the man wants: to be fawned over like a precious toy poodle or the whiniest dauphin in French history. But it also seems likely that this was the semi-official diktat, right, or as official as anything can be in this campaign of idiots?
The NYTimes, of course, came out with a bombshell about how tax loopholes designed to coddle the rich allowed Trump to potentially avoid taxes for nearly 20 years, because he had at nearly $900 million loss from running his casinos. Or, as the Times put it without any word-mincery:
Donald J. Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns, a tax deduction so substantial it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years, records obtained by The New York Times show.
The 1995 tax records, never before disclosed, reveal the extraordinary tax benefits that Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, derived from the financial wreckage he left behind in the early 1990s through mismanagement of three Atlantic City casinos, his ill-fated foray into the airline business and his ill-timed purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.
The main takeaway people are getting from this story is that Trump didn’t pay taxes, and yes, that’s terrible. The man has avoided responsibility for his entire life, screwing over the little people and floating along on a gilded cloud designed especially for rich people like him. It’s maddening. But then, as his amazing statement on this said, it’s because he had “duties” and “responsibilities” as the leader of a huge organization not to pay taxes, because he owed it to his the people who worked for him.
There’s also this: “The incredible skills Mr. Trump has shown in building his business are the skills we need to rebuild this country. Hillary Clinton is a corrupt public official who violated federal law, Donald Trump is an extraordinarily successful private businessman who followed the law and created tens of thousands of jobs for Americans.”
Remember: this is in response to his losing almost a billion dollars running casinos. It’s really remarkable. And everyone around Trump believes this. That’s the whole center to his campaign, the idea that he is a brilliant businessman. There is nothing about this whole enterprise that isn’t cheap and phony and immediately identifiable as arrant nonsense, which is why its success is so maddening.
We saw how this process works in Trump’s campaign. It’s pretty clear that he did terrible in the debate, and his week-long meltdown against a former Miss Universe certainly didn’t help. But: some nonsense unscientific polls which were flooded by alt-right redditors and other hyped-up Trump supporters gave him the victory. It’s so insanely easy to identify why this is nonsense that it barely needs to be said.
But this has been the big news in the Trump camp. They won the debate, and every poll that says otherwise–that is, every poll conducted scientifically with a broad sample size where people could only vote once–is biased. Trump railed about that over the weekend, blasting conspiratorially about bad mics and unfair polling. I
This isn’t just spin. Everyone spins. And it is something different than a lie. The entire campaign is predicated around this deeply insecure man’s belief that he has never made a mistake in his life, and he isn’t about to start now. It revolves around the idea that he’s infallible, and everything has to come from there. Any aid who thinks he needs to improve his debate style is suspect, because how can you improve on total and complete victory. Anybody who thinks that losing nearly a billion dollars is the sign of a bad businessman doesn’t understand real genius. If you don’t swallow that lie, if you don’t internalize it like an old apparatchik who believes that famine is impossible in the Soviet paradise while being tasked with improving grain production, then you’re out. To be involved in this campaign is to be wrapped entirely in one man’s self-image.
It is fairly easy to imagine how this’ll play out politically, with him doubling down on his worst instincts. He’s already doing that, imagining that his belligerent and factless performance on Monday was the mark of a gentleman. No one can tell him different. But the scary thing is to imagine this pathology with any real power. Hopefully, that’ll be the takeaway from the last week. It isn’t so much that he didn’t pay taxes, it’s that he thinks he deserved not to do so. And no one will disagree.