Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the revelations about Trump’s taxes in The New York Times is how so many of us, me included, believed the story.
The Times offered no documentation – not one tiny PDF of a single document with Trump’s signature on it. We have no idea where the information came from except that the Times said it “obtained” the records from people who had legal access to them. (That is, nobody hacked into anyone’s server and stole them.)
The universe of people who had legal access is small, and the Times, properly, has refused to release any documents because even a tiny slip could reveal a source who has put themselves at great personal risk.
But I never doubted the accuracy of the report for a second.
Trump, of course, at first railed about “fake news,” although if the documents were in fact forgeries he could have solved that problem in an instant by releasing even one page of his legitimate returns. He did not.
But for most of the country, and most of the news media, this was big news, despite the very limited source material.
That’s because, for all its flaws, we trust The New York Times. We know that a story this big was reported carefully, over months, with the reporters making every effort to verify the facts. This was real, careful, trustworthy journalism. And in this age, that matters a lot.
I have spent much of my career criticizing the Main Stream Media. I’ve also spent a lot of time criticizing Main Stream Democrats.
But right now, at this point in history, I’m just glad the NYT is around.
So new we get to the deeper question: Does any of this matter?
The most recent polls show that there are hardly any undecided voters at this point, and Trump’s voters don’t seem to care what he does or doesn’t do. Four years ago, his reputation as a savvy business operator clearly helped him; today, the evidence that he’s a business failure and survived only because of a reality TV show isn’t going to change many hard-core Trumpers minds.
They still see him as someone who is out to get the Elite Coastal Liberals, and that’s more important than his actual behavior.
Nate Silver says that a revelation like this, coming just as people are starting to vote, could have a discernable impact. If nothing else, Trump is behind, and Silver says that anything preventing him from controlling the narrative and making progress will keep him from making up ground.
But again, I don’t think that matters too much. This race will be won or lost on voter turnout, and the question is whether the tax returns scandal discourages some Trump voters from going to the polls or encourages more Biden voters to turn in ballots. (And will those Trumpers who vow to intimidate voters at polling places really show up to help a tax cheat?)
Seems more likely the Supreme Court battle will motivate voters – on both sides. But there are more pro-choice voters than anti-abortion voters, and if that’s the referendum, Trump is in trouble.
So all of this is on the agenda when Biden and Trump “debate” tonight. (None of these events are really “debates;” they’re a series of candidate statements, most of which have been carefully prepared in advance. Although Trump does have a habit of going off-script.)
It’s going to be more about appearance – does Biden look healthy, sharp, and presidential? Can he make fun of Trump? How deranged does Trump look and does he say anything truly bizarre that even his fans can’t quite comprehend?
I read an interesting argument on Facebook this morning and I can’t remember who posted it (maybe multiple people, I didn’t take notes): The biggest debate question is how many people who turn it on at the beginning (6pm Pacific) stay until the end?
If everyone has made up their mind, ratings collapse midway. If there’s some chance that voters are paying attention, they’ll still be watching at 7:30.