The Corner

Politics & Policy

Re: Trump’s Time Bomb

In response to Obi-Wan on the State of Play, Eight Days Out

John Fund’s column today is, no matter what comes in the next few days, the most important column of the week, as it explains why Donald Trump’s weasel-like refusal to release his tax returns is a mortal danger to Republicans and conservatives nationwide — and suggests what should be done about it. John is absolutely right: Republicans, especially delegates, have every right not just to ask for, but to demand, the release of the returns before the convention. With a crew of Lois Lerners running the IRS, those returns surely will leak right after the nomination is made formal.

Jennifer Rubin makes much the same point in a very good piece of her own today. She writes that Trump’s refusal to release his returns

is not only unprecedented, but it also goes to the heart of the Trump campaign. He’s sold himself as a successful billionaire, one who wants the United States to “win” and who deplores foreign countries and illegal immigrants “stealing” our jobs. But what if his tax returns show he is much poorer than he has ever admitted, has shady foreign investments and tax havens, has given little in charity (or only to left-wing groups), or in fact has been audited and found to have violated tax laws? The entire Trump image crumbles. Moreover, there is a fundamental principle of fairness at work here. He said he would do release his returns, and people voted for him with the confidence that we would dispel any notion of a hidden bombshell. Delegates were selected and pledged to him on that basis. Now, the GOP faces the potential for its nominee, through leaks and hacks, to have damaging tax records released — when it is too late for the party to do anything about it. This is unconscionable.

And it’s not as if Trump has a reputation for honesty with regard to his finances. As Fund notes, “Trump listed a New York golf club he owned as being worth $50 million. But in a lawsuit over the property, he told a judge the very same club was worth only $1.4 million.” If there is anything seriously unethical in those returns, they surely would ensure, even more than is already likely today, that Hillary Clinton becomes the next president if her only main opponent is Trump.

Let me add that not only is this a reason for delegates to threaten to deny Trump the nomination, but also more reason for #NeverTrump folks like me to work for a compelling, principled, instantly credible third candidate. Indeed, at my own web site I argue that the presence of a third candidate makes it more likely, not less, that Mrs. Clinton can be denied the presidency:

Consider that the unique weaknesses (and some unique strengths) of both Trump and Clinton will scramble the familiar “red-state/blue-state” map this year. (Trump will steal a number of ordinary Democratic voters from Clinton, but will lose some 20 million or more ordinary Republicans to the third candidate.) With a strong third candidate also in the mix, and with a Libertarian candidate providing a fourth alternative and attracting several million millennials who are newly minted voters, there is a quite good chance that the electoral map could be divided so that nobody, including Clinton, gets the 270 electoral votes needed for majority, and victory.
Meanwhile, the indispensable Liz Mair argues there are not one or two but actually four courses of action that those unalterably against and appalled by Trump can do. It, too, is well worth a read. Let me add that although I would have a hard time swallowing a Gary Johnson presidency, I do consider it a better option than Trump — and, for that reason, I offer some free advice to him or whomever the Libertarian nominee is: Run to the left! Libertarianism tends to appeal to conservatives on slightly more than half of the issues, but appeals to the left, or at least the cultural left, on others. With so many left-leaning millennials having a strong distaste for both Clinton and Trump, there is all sorts of fertile ground there for the Libertarian to mine.
Sometime soon, the profound distrust of “the system” and of politicians in general — a distrust shared across almost all demographics, but particularly apparent in the young — will finally start attaching itself to Trump, especially as he dodges and weaves like a two-bit political hack on things like his tax returns. John Fund is right that, one way or another, conservatives should be working on serious contingency plans.


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