Thursday, August 04, 2016

A Disquieting Thought

Welcome to the mutually assured destruction campaign. Politico reports

During an animated discussion about his former boss Tuesday night on CNN, former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski suggested that President Barack Obama might be concealing his true birthplace by withholding his transcripts from his time at Harvard University.

The discussion began when Angela Rye, a former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, responded on "CNN Tonight with Don Lemon" to Lewandowski's criticism of President Barack Obama calling Trump "unfit" for office earlier in the day by remarking upon the Republican nominee's history with the so-called birther movement.

“Did he ever release his transcripts from Harvard?” Lewandowski asked, after Rye referenced Trump's past remark that Obama got into Harvard as a result of affirmative action.

Rye hit back, referring to Trump's refusal to release his tax returns.

“You raised the issue. I’m just asking," Lewandowski said. "You raised the issue. Did he, did he ever release his transcripts or his admission to Harvard University. You raised the issue, so just yes or no? The answer is no.”

We put aside the obvious notion that if young Barack Obama did get into Harvard as a result of racial preference, it is the best argument ever made for affirmative action, given that its subject went on to become President of the United States, which suggests a helpful tapping of potential.  Ignore, too, that Barack Obama, unlike Donald Trump, will not be on the presidential ballot this November, or that the matter in question occurred decades ago.

Obviously, college entrance and tax returns are totally unrelated. Give Lewandowski credit, however, for a response pertaining to President Obama, the individual who earlier in the day had called Grump "unfit" for the job.  It could have been worse for Obama's preferred successor and better for Trump.

Angela Rye hits the GOP nominee for failing to release his tax returns. Moreover, investigative journalist David Cay Johnston, who told Chris Hayes on Tuesday evening "Hillary Clinton's returns are all available, complete rturns, back to the '70s. There's no reason for Donald not to release the returns, by his own standard, that are no longer under audit."

While acknowledging that we don't know what is actually in Trump's returns, Johnston speculated that Trump may have spent many years not paying taxes and mentioned the "propriety of business dealings, about where his money is coming from."  There may even be "money coming out of Kazahkstan and other former parts of the Soviet empire to his businesses, which his son, one of his sons has acknowledged.  And all of his travels with the son of the reputed mob boss here in New York City...."

Still, there are too few voices currently calling on the nominee to release his tax returns. An outlier, Warren Buffett Monday raised the issue (video below). However, it has not been emphasized by either the Clinton campaign, the SuperPacs supporting Mrs. Clinton, or the candidate's surrogates.

Lewandowski said, barely less discreetly: so what about Obama getting into school because he was black?  Though his skepticism would have been less bold- the discussion touched on Obama, not Clinton- Lewandoski might have been more effective if he had asked "so how about those Goldman Sachs transcripts"?

As we can only guess what is in Grump's tax returns, we can only speculate about what Hillary Clinton said- and how she acted- during those appearances with Wall Street executives.   It may all have been fairly innocent- or very damning. While it's easy to conclude the latter, she may have little incentive to release them because there has been virtually no pressure on her to do so, and it certainly would't help.

Has anyone seen Hillary (or more likely, Bill) Clinton talking to each other recently? There is no conspiracy here, and probably no collaboration.  But it's important for the public to have access to the transcripts and even more vital to have access to the tax returns. We have neither and it's fair to ask whether there is a tacit understanding between the two campaigns that "we won't embarrass you if you won't embarrass us."

It does not bode well for transparency in the next Administration. But mutually assurred destruction kept the Soviet Union Union and the USA from destroying each other with nuclear weapons.This lack of transparency- which is likely to be the norm the next four years- may be the factor which has not completely destroyed the credibility of the two nominees.

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