No Returns from the Tax Returns

As a general rule tax returns are pretty dull reading, but President Donald Trump is an exception to an awful lot of rules, so of course there was was some interest in the two pages of his 2005 filing that was somehow intriguingly leaked. There wasn’t enough in those two pages to justify some of the resulting coverage, as it turns out, but the resulting hubbub is also newsworthy.
The two purloined pages were reportedly mailed to a journalist and published Trump biographer of little renown, then passed on to Rachel Maddow of the MSNBC cable news network, whose program relentlessly hyped the finding for hours and then spent a full 20 minutes of the long-awaited showtime in further build up before disclosing that there’s really nothing very embarrassing to Trump in the two pages. It was revealed that Trump paid $38 million in income taxes that year, which was more than most Americans did, and it represented a percentage of his income greater than what President Barack Obama or self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders forked over, and there was nothing about deductions claimed for contributions to the Russian mob or anything like that.
We’d call it the biggest journalistic anticlimax since Geraldo Rivera broke into Al Capone’s vault, but by now every other media in the critic in the country has already beat us to the analogy. All the ancien regime media cringed in embarrassment, and even such a fellow Trump-bashing liberal as the late night comedian Stephen Colbert couldn’t resist some piercing ridicule. Maddow is the most impeccably liberal voice on television’s most impeccably liberal channel, which has lately been racking up record ratings as liberals seek a “safe place,” but her fellows liberals are understandably miffed about how she muffed the far bigger story they still have hopes for.
Those tax returns reveal Trump would have paid even more if not for something called the Alternative Minimum Tax, which his tax reform proposals would repeal, but that’s a rather arcane policy point, and even such Trump-bashing conservatives as ourselves don’t believe that just because something’s bad for Trump it’s good the country, and it’s certainly not the sort of complicated economic argument you hype all day long and then have two pages of anti-climax to show for it. The bigger story that liberals would prefer to hype is that all we of know of the vast financial empire that Trump has not divested himself from is two pages of a 12-year-old tax return somehow includes only exculpatory evidence. A Trump campaign manager and National Security have already been forced to resign because of contacts with the Russian government Trump has thus far flattered, and his Attorney General had recused himself from an ongoing investigation in broader contracts between the campaign and Russia, and all that’s been released of the tax returns that would surely prove Trump himself has no financial ties with the Russian government were those two not-entirely-exculpatory pages. There are already rumors afloat that Trump himself leaked his $38 million tax bill, then preemptively tweeted his indignant denial of whatever MSNBC might report to cover his tracks, and although even the ancien regime media won’t touch that conspiracy theory we will note it’s at least as plausible as Sen. Ted Cruz’s dad being in on the Kennedy hit, and people are saying, and we’ll leave it up to Congress to investigate if it’s true or not, and let similar Trumpian standards of truth prevail.
There’s something fishy about Trump’s Russophilia even from our rightward Trump-bashing perspective, perhaps all the more so after so many years of Cold War vigilance, so we’re also annoyed that handsome Rachel Maddow fellow has momentarily muddied the media waters. With enemies of the people like these, Trump might be wondering, who needs friends?

— Bud Norman

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One of Our Aircraft is Missing

We freely admit that we haven’t the slightest idea what happened to that missing Malaysian airliner, but the rules of modern media apparently require that we offer some baseless theory about the matter. The best we can come up with is that those darned Koch brothers had something to do with it, and that they somehow landed it at the same tiny airport here in Wichita where that gigantic cargo plane accidentally landed a while back, and that the Citizens United decision has something do with it, so we’re going to go with that.
Although this is completely absurd, at least it is more plausible than a CNN anchor’s recent on-air speculation that the plane was swallowed by a black hole. Our theory also avoids the racist implications of the term “black hole,” which some people have actually griped about, and these days even the Washington Post will believe almost any fanciful conspiracy theory you can cook up about the Koch Brothers. We note that CNN’s constant coverage of the missing Malaysian airplane story and it’s blatantly racist speculating about it has been a ratings bonanza for the beleaguered network, so we can hope that our more politically-correct musings will have a similarly helpful effect on our traffic.
There has already been considerable media coverage about the media coverage of the missing Malaysian airliner, which will no doubt prompt some serious media coverage of the media coverage of the media coverage, but at the risk of being redundant we also have a theory about that. The more high-minded media critics have objected to the pointless theorizing in absence of any meaningful facts to be reported, and rightly so, but then they engage in their own fact-free theories about the motive. Ratings and ad revenues and a need to fill all that air time they aren’t devoting to the Internal Revenue Service scandal or the disintegration o the world order are all valid reasons, obviously enough, but we believe it’s mostly because deep down in their ink-stained souls journalists loathe admitting they don’t know what the hell is going on.
Aside from its prima facie plausibility, this theory is also bolstered by decades of experience with journalists. Our many years of journalism brought us into contact with hundreds of these people, and we can confidently generalize that by and large they are about the most cocksure bunch of know-it-alls you’ll ever have the misfortune to come across. Most truly believe that the people still look to them for the truth, and for that matter The Truth, and whenever they’re fresh out of the stuff they’re simply too embarrassed to admit it. Almost every editor of our experience has insisted on knowing even the unknowable, and such excuses as the votes haven’t been counted yet or they haven’t brought all the bodies out yet have always been found unacceptable. It’s a fateful hubris that has led to many a red-faced retraction, but it is bred in the journalistic bone.
The happy result of all of those restractions is that the public takes this nonsense less seriously, even as it tunes in ever-greater numbers for the sheer entertainment value, and one can only hope they note the absurdity of the rest of it.

— Bud Norman