“Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.”
I was reminded of this ancient proverb as I read of the latest controversy surrounding President Trump’s taxes. Many politicians, from Adolf Hitler to Franklin D. Roosevelt to Warren Harding, have claimed to be God’s instrument to fulfill His purpose. President Trump has not yet, to the best of my knowledge, made a similar claim, although I would not be surprised if he someday did so, or if someone who knows more than I do shows me he already has. But whether or not Trump is the instrument of Someone or Something, his critics are acting as if Somebody Up There (or maybe Down There) wants Trump to succeed and is making it easier for Trump by making his critics seem mentally ill. Consider how nutty his critics have become on the issue of whether Trump’s been paying his taxes.
For several decades presidential candidates have released their income tax returns, despite the absence of any law requiring them to do so. Trump has not done so, thereby inspiring much speculation as to what he may be trying to hide.
And along comes Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, claiming to have hard evidence—Trump’s 2005 tax return, to be precise—which could conceivably shed light on this subject.
But wait minute! The tax return shows Trump earned taxable income of $150 million, on which he paid $38 million, or 25% in taxes. What gives? What’s the big deal?
The big deal is that there is no big deal. The tax return show Trump earned a lot of money but paid a hefty percentage of it to the Internal Revenue Service. The story is that there is no story.
But that hasn’t stopped Trump’s critics from hatching conspiracy theories to try to explain why Trump, in this instance at least, was acting like a good citizen and a normal human being by paying his taxes.. For example, Rachel Maddow has speculated that given that 2005 was the year Melania became a citizen, the Donald was trying to pay the government to naturalize her by making a big income tax payment. Another theory is that Trump himself, or an operative, leaked the tax return to the media to make Trump look better and his critics look worse. After all, Trump’s critics have gone from complaining he may not be paying his taxes to complaining he does pay his taxes, and Trump himself is the only party to the controversy who’s looking good right now.
Accusations that Trump does not pay his taxes, or that he does pay his taxes, or whatever, do not sink to the level of evil of accusations that his wife is a prostitute, his 10-year old son is a psychopath, or that his elder daughter is his sex partner. But they are nonetheless stupid, silly, and distracting, and those who preoccupy themselves with such nonsense make themselves mentally unfit to discuss the serious issues of the day. For example, Trump’s promotion of trade protectionism and his refusal to make meaningful reforms in entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare may damage the economy down the road, as will his immigration policies should they morph from rational and temporary pauses in admitting refugees to outright bans on immigration. On the other hand, Trump’s judicial appointees may enhance the quality of the branch of government and make it more competent to decide on the issues which may come before it. But those who pre-occupy themselves with the issue of “Did he didn’t he” fleece the IRS, or the media will never be able to get to the real issue on which we need debate, much less contribute intelligently to the debate.
And maybe that’s the point: God, or Satan, or the Great Pumpkin, or Someone wants Trump to succeed, and He/She/It is poisoning the minds of his would-be detractors with nonsense so they can’t stand up to him and prevent his agenda from becoming law. And by the way, can anyone prove that Trump isn’t employing witches or warlocks to invoke divine or some other sort of supernatural protection? Heck—it’s only a matter of time before Rachel Maddow accuses Trump himself of being a warlock. How else to explain the fact he is President of the United States?
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.