The Corner

Politics & Policy

There Is No Magic Bullet Against Trump

As somebody who would like to see Donald Trump fulfill his promise and release his tax returns, I can’t help but view last night’s much-mocked MSNBC crazylogue as the mother of all counterproductive steps. For a moment, it seemed that Rachel Maddow was in possession of a genuine scoop. And then, all of a sudden, it didn’t. Not only was Maddow’s story a cringe-inducing bust, but it actually served the opposite effect than the one intended. Thanks to MSNBC, the suggestion that Trump has “paid no taxes in 18 years” has now been definitively proven to be false. Moreover, Trump seems to have paid a higher tax rate in 2005 than did most political figures, and to have enjoyed a sizeable income to boot. Whether the report was cherry-picked we cannot possibly know. But on the basis of what was presented last night, the president looks both pretty accomplished and perfectly law-abiding. What, one wonders, did Maddow think she was achieving?

In isolation, the incident was extremely amusing; not since Geraldo opened the vault have the squibs been rendered so damp. In context, however, Maddow’s folly tells us something important about the way in which many in the press have been going about their business of late. Judging by the reactions during the lead-up to the reveal, an awful lot of Americans seem to be hoping that a “magic bullet” will bring down this president in a flash. Perhaps it will be in his tax returns? Perhaps it’ll be on a server somewhere? Perhaps the bureaucracy will uncover it and then leak? And, judging by the media’s behavior, the men in suits know this. In a more sober environment, Maddow’s “scoop” would have presented as one small piece of a larger puzzle. Instead, it was trailed as if it might be Watergate. And why wouldn’t it be? Millions of people are looking for a one-hit wonder. So up to eleven go the dials.

We hear a great deal at the moment about the “delegitimization” of the press. But what is more likely to achieve that than a habitual overselling of every tidbit of information? Rare is the war that is won by a single atomic bomb; numerous are the victors who took each village along the march. If there is a debilitating scandal at the root of the Trump empire, it will be exposed piecemeal, not in one fell swoop. If the case against the president is that he is unfit for office, the brief must be advanced line by line. As a disinterested observer, I cackled last night at the hallucinatory nature of the editorial I was being sold. But as an avid consumer of the news, I sighed wearily and without joy, as yet another impatient traveler picked the incorrect option at the ubiquitous fork in the road.

Most Popular


Trump’s Disgraceful Press Conference in Helsinki

On Monday, President Trump gave a deeply disgraceful press conference with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. The presser began with Trump announcing that although the Russia–U.S. relationship has “never been worse than it is now,” all of that “changed as of about four hours ago.” It was downhill from ... Read More

Democrats Are Dumping Moderates

The activist base of the Democratic party is lurching left fast enough that everyone should pay attention. Activists matter because their turnout in low-turnout primaries and caucuses almost propelled leftist Bernie Sanders to victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Last month, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unseated New ... Read More

Questions for Al Franken

1)Al, as you were posting on social media a list of proposed questions for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, did it occur to you that your opinion on the matter is no more relevant than Harvey Weinstein’s? 2) Al, is it appropriate for a disgraced former U.S. senator to use the Twitter cognomen “U.S. ... Read More
National Security & Defense

Trump’s Helsinki Discord

Donald Trump is not, and never will be, the Moscow correspondent for The Nation magazine, and he shouldn’t sound like it. The left-wing publication is prone to extend sympathetic understanding to adversaries of the United States and find some reason, any reason, to blame ourselves for their external ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Strzok by a Farce

An investigation is one of two things: a search for the truth, or a farce. The House is conducting a farce. That fact was on full display during ten hours of testimony by Peter Strzok, the logorrheic lawman who steered the FBI’s Clinton-emails and Trump–Russia probes. The principal question before the ... Read More