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“Nothing To Do With The Office He’s Seeking”: Trump’s Scottish Trip Is A Bigger Mistake Than He Realizes

There’s a fair amount of precedent for presidential candidates traveling abroad ahead of the election. In July 2008, for example, then-Sen. Barack Obama wowed international audiences with a historic visit to Berlin. Almost exactly four years later, in July 2012, Mitt Romney took an overseas trip of his own. (It really didn’t go well for the Republican.)

So when Donald Trump’s campaign said the presumptive GOP nominee would travel to Scotland ahead of the Republican convention, it was only natural to assume Trump was headed abroad to bolster his foreign policy credentials.

But as the New York Times reported, the truth is a little more complicated.

His campaign is desperately short of cash. He has struggled to hire staff. Influential Republicans are demanding that he demonstrate he can run a serious general election campaign.

But, for reasons that emphasize just how unusual a candidate he is, Donald J. Trump is leaving the campaign trail on Thursday to travel to Scotland to promote a golf course his company purchased on the country’s southwestern coast.

This may sound like some sort of joke, but it’s quite real. This isn’t a situation in which an American presidential hopeful has scheduled meetings with foreign officials, and he’s checking in on his business interests while he’s there; it’s largely the opposite. Trump’s Scottish sojourn appears to have practically nothing to do with the office he’s seeking.

The Times report added that Trump’s business interests “still drive his behavior, and his schedule. He has planned two days in Scotland, with no meetings with government or political leaders scheduled.” The Republican’s itinerary “reads like a public relations junket crossed with a golf vacation,” complete with “a ceremonial ribbon cutting.”

Scott W. Reed, senior political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, added, “Everyone knows this is the wrong thing for the nominee to be doing now, and it is amazing this can’t be stopped.”

Wait, it’s even more amazing than that.

If the Scottish golf course were a wildly successful venture, Trump could at least point to this as evidence of his prowess as an international businessman.

Indeed, Trump has made exactly such an effort. In a Scottish newspaper, he recently wrote an op-ed with a headline that read, “How Scotland will help me become president.” In the piece, the Republican candidate wrote, “When I first arrived on the scene in Aberdeen, the people of Scotland were testing me to see just how serious I was – just like the citizens in the United States have done about my race for the White House…. I had to win them over – I had to convince them that I meant business and that I had their best interests in mind. Well, Scotland has already been won – and so will the United States.”

The problem, as the Washington Post reported yesterday, is that the entire venture has been a bit of a disaster.

[T]o many people in Scotland, his course here has been a failure. Over the past decade, Trump has battled with homeowners, elbowed his way through the planning process, shattered relationships with elected leaders and sued the Scottish government. On top of that, he has yet to fulfill the lofty promises he made.

Trump has also reported to Scottish authorities that he lost millions of dollars on the project – even as he claims on U.S. presidential disclosure forms that the course has been highly profitable.

In early May, Trump, in an entirely serious way, pointed to his role in the Miss Universe beauty pageant as evidence of his international experience. Unfortunately for the GOP candidate, his Scottish golf course is his other piece of evidence, and it’s a failure.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 23, 2016

June 25, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, Presidential Candidates | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“For Trump, Presidential Means Being Polite”: Why Donald Trump’s Idea Of ‘Presidential’ Is Both Curious And Disturbing

Just as St. Augustine asked the Lord to grant him chastity, just not yet, Donald Trump is ready to be “presidential,” just not yet. Whenever he brings up the idea of presidential-ness, Trump always says that a personality transformation is on its way, but will have to be delayed while some more pressing campaign matters are attended to. Like so much about Trump, his conception of what it means to be presidential is both curious and disturbing.

As near as one can surmise, for Trump, to be presidential means to be polite. When he’s criticizing his opponents, he isn’t being presidential. So he says that when his daughter Ivanka begged him to be more presidential, he replied that he had to knock off the other Republican candidates first. “Let me be unpresidential just for a little while longer, and maybe I’ll be a little bit unpresidential as I beat Hillary.” He’ll often add, “At some point, I’m going to be so presidential that you people will be so bored.”

But he promises that at the right time, he will bring the presidential-ness, and bring it hard. “If I want to be, I can be more presidential than anybody. You know, when I have 16 people coming at me from 16 different angles, you don’t want to be so presidential. You have to win, you have to beat them back, right?” But he will be “more presidential than anybody other than the great Abe Lincoln. He was very presidential, right?”

Well, yes. But Lincoln was happy to make his disagreements with other people clear; his presidential qualities did not consist in turning the other cheek. So what does “presidential” mean to the rest of us? At the simplest level it suggests a combination of dignity and command, someone who holds enormous power and demonstrates him or herself worthy of it. But for most people, “presidential” is less about behavior than about identity: A person doesn’t act presidential, a person is presidential.

And until recently, that meant a certain kind of person: a tall, handsome white man, in late middle age, but aging well, strong of jaw and grey of temple, with a firm handshake and a steely gaze. Basically, Mitt Romney. Which is why back when he ran for president, so many people said Romney looked “straight out of Central Casting.”

But it may be more accurate to say that Mitt Romney is what used to be considered “presidential.” In 2016, that’s no longer the case, though it was just a short time ago. When the film Deep Impact was released in 1998, the fact that Morgan Freeman — a black man! — portrayed the president of the United States was seen as somewhere between notable and shocking. Since then, however, Hollywood has given us a whole spate of non-Romneyesque presidents of varying ethnicities and genders. Even 24, in many ways the prototypical right-wing drama of the George W. Bush era, had not one but two black men serve as president, followed by a woman.

Hollywood, of course, is always trying to cram its liberal values down the throats of good old-fashioned heartland Americans. But Barack Obama may have changed forever what we think of when we think of someone being presidential. The default face of a president may still be that of a white man, but the idea is no longer exclusively and necessarily white and male. And now it’s entirely possible, perhaps likely, that the nation’s first black president will be followed by the nation’s first woman president.

That thought makes some people very displeased; as the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre said last year when considering Clinton’s run for the White House, “I have to tell you, eight years of one demographically significant president is enough.” And many of them happen to be the people Donald Trump is appealing most directly to: those who feel that in a changing country, they’ve lost something as others have gained. With women and African-Americans and Latinos and Asian-Americans all demanding respect and consideration, with popular culture embracing polyglot sounds and challenging ideas, they feel diminished, ignored, passed by, and passed over. They want their country back, and Trump promises to give it to them.

There are many qualities we might associate with being presidential, like maturity, intelligence, thoughtfulness, or compassion. But Donald Trump obviously isn’t thinking of that when he talks about being presidential; he seems to think it just means not making up schoolyard nicknames for people or talking about the size of your hands. He may not realize it, but just by being a 69-year-old rich white guy, in the eyes of his supporters he’s as presidential as could be. But in 2016, people who see that as the beginning and end of being presidential are probably in the minority. Just like people who support Donald Trump.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, April 29, 2016

April 30, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Presidential Candidates, Trump Supporters | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Issues Are Not Even Close To Parallel”: Tax Transparency: Jane Sanders Goes Back On Disclosure Promise

Jane Sanders, wife of Bernie, backtracked Tuesday on promises both she and the senator made to release the couple’s complete tax returns for the years 2006 through 2013, making a red herring excuse.

The returns will be released, Jane suggested, when Hillary Clinton provides transcript of her lucrative speeches to Wall Street firms. Clinton should absolutely release the transcripts and she should have done so long ago, but the issues are not even close to parallel.

Two wrongs do not a right make. And being a good guy politician does not exempt one from criticism from those who favor many of his policies, including me.

In comments to Wolf Blitzer on CNN midday Tuesday, Jane Sanders revealed that she and her husband either lack an understanding of the historic reasons it is crucial that presidential candidates release many years of complete tax returns, that they lack a broad regard for integrity in government or that they have something to hide.

The latter concern grows from Jane Sanders’ own conduct. First, she falsely asserted that the couple had repeatedly released tax returns, an assertion with no basis in fact as my April 13 National Memo column showed. Then there was her role as the president of a small, financially struggling nonprofit college, where she reportedly funneled $500,000 to her daughter and may have made false statements on bank loan papers.

But even if the Sanders tax returns are clean as a whistle, we should care about the Sanders tax returns. That the one nearly complete return they have made available, for 2014, is pretty standard for a couple in their age and income brackets is entirely beside the point.

We should care because we want every single person running for president to make public their complete tax returns – including schedules, statements and worksheets – for many years so that we do not ever again have an unindicted felon in the White House or an admitted tax cheat just a heartbeat away.

If a white hat politician like Sanders will not follow a tradition dating to the corrupt, tax-cheating presidency of Richard Nixon and his first vice president, Spiro Agnew, it gives aid and comfort to those who want to hide their black hat conduct.

Sanders runs as Mr. Transparency, railing against what goes on beyond closed doors when Wall Streeters and CEOs meet with politicians. Yet the junior Senator from Vermont seems willfully blind to how his own conduct undermines his important arguments, which have received far too little attention in the mainstream news.

If Sanders will not walk his talk he cannot credibly challenge those whom he says, with good reason, are rigging the economy for their benefit. That loss of credibility is terrible because Sanders is raising issues that need our attention, about policies that must change or the wealthiest Americans will grow ever richer by diminishing the income and assets of the vast majority, as I have been documenting for more than 20 years.

But much worse than damage to Sanders’ credibility is the aid and comfort he gives to politicians, including Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich who have released nothing (Trump) or only summaries (Cruz and Kasich). Cruz and Kasich are both rich thanks to Wall Street. Heidi Cruz is a Goldman Sachs-er and Kasich made a fortune fast at Lehman Brothers, the overleveraged firm whose collapse set in motion the Great Recession.

The only one of the Final 5 who has fully released is Hillary Clinton. Her and Bill’s complete tax returns to 1992 are posted at taxhistory.org as are many other partial and complete tax returns dating back to the Franklin D. Roosevelt administrations.

We really need to see the full tax returns of those three before any one of them is nominated by their party, but Sanders is making it easy for them to say no to disclosure.

Think ahead to the elections of 2020, 2024 and beyond, especially if the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision stands, enabling the wealthiest Americans to pour unlimited sums into elections. Some of that money will be to persuade. But as presidents including John Adams and James Madison warned, the business aristocrats will also trick people when it is in their interests to do so – and with Citizens United they can do so with abandon.

Plenty of people who want to exercise power over us from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will want to keep their tax returns out of public record now and for as long as the United States of America endures. Many of them who have something to hide will cite Sanders as their model. Some because their tax returns will show they paid little or no income tax for many years (Romney in 2012, Trump in 2016). Others may have taken aggressive positions that raise questions about their character and conduct. Still others may have unreported income, which we might learn if they disclose fully for many years and disgruntled business associates, mistresses or others come forth with cancelled checks, financial statements and other proofs.

What does it tell us that Sanders and his wife, who knew full well a year ago that they would be asked for their complete tax returns at least since 2007, have played a game of “hide the documents”? What does it tell us that Jane Sanders made an unconditional promise on Mark Halperin’s Bloomberg television program and now dishonors her word? What does it tell us that a man who rightfully demands transparency from others will not hold himself to the same standards?

And if there is something the Sanders need to hide – and I sure hope not — we need to know that, too. Why? Because even if Sanders fails to get the Democratic Party nomination for president, we don’t want crooks in the Senate any more than in the Oval Office.

 

By: David Cay Johnston, The National Memo, April 27, 2016

April 28, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Presidential Candidates, Tax Returns | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“He Needs To Walk His Talk”: Tax Transparency; Jane Sanders Claims Returns Released In ‘Every Election’

A basic rule of politics is that when you have a problem, get it all out and put it behind you. The worst response is to dither and then shoot yourself in the foot.

With the Bernie Sanders campaign, we are seeing the candidate repeatedly shoot himself in the foot over what would be a non-issue, if only he had forthrightly answered a question that has dogged him since last summer.

Where are your tax returns?

It’s a question that goes not just to Sanders but also to all the other politicians who want us to trust them in the most powerful office in the world but want to hide their finances and tax strategies. That includes Donald Trump, whose tax returns I will be shocked if we ever see; and Republicans Ted Cruz and John Kasich, who like Sanders have only released the summary form 1040 and not their complete returns, as I recently noted here.

Last summer, NPR and the Washington Post asked Sanders for his tax returns, a question the senator had to know would be raised because releasing them has been standard practice for presidential aspirants since Watergate, when America had an unindicted tax criminal in the Oval Office and a confessed tax felon a heartbeat from the presidency.

Sanders had made available only his and wife Jane’s 2014 Form 1040, a summary lacking crucial details about their sources of income, deductions, and tax strategy.

In late March I asked for Sanders’ complete tax returns back to 2007, when he became senator. What I got back was a dissembling statement from his campaign spokesman, followed by silence when I sent follow-up questions via email.

Now this story has taken a very troubling turn, one that raises serious questions about the Senator’s judgment and his wife’s veracity.

On Bloomberg TV’s With All Due Respect last Mondayhost Mark Halperin asked Jane Sanders when she would disclose the couple’s tax returns. In her reply, she claimed “every election we released them.”

My diligent reporting has failed to turn up any indication that her statement is true.

I made extensive telephone calls, interviewed a former Sanders election opponent, thoroughly searched Google, the Internet archive known as the “Wayback Machine,” the Nexis database, Newspapers.com, and files of Vermont’s largest newspaper, the Burlington Free Press. I called veteran Vermont political reporters and operatives.

Except for one reporter who said he had a vague recollection that perhaps, some years ago, he may have seen a partial Sanders tax return, nothing I learned lends any credence to what Jane Sanders claimed.

Halperin asked a series of questions trying to pin down Ms. Sanders, who said she prepares the couple’s tax returns using the TurboTax computer program. She indicated a vague awareness that their taxes had been sought during the prior two weeks by, she suggested, the Hillary Clinton campaign.

But I was the one doing the requesting. I clearly identified myself as a journalist. I have no connection to the Clinton campaign and, for the record, am registered to vote in Republican primaries. (I have also written favorably about Sanders’ economic proposals and appeared as a guest on his radio show.)

While Halperin pressed Ms. Sanders repeatedly, she pleaded for time to find and release their pre-2014 tax returns. She promised without reservation that the returns would be released, adding, “Well, sure, I will have to go back and find them — we haven’t been home for a month.”

Halperin asked if she would release full returns, not just Form 1040.

“Sure, no problem,” she replied.

When?

“I would say well, when they are due I would expect them to come out,” she said.

Halperin asked how many years of returns would be released, noting Hillary Clinton has released eight years. (Actually all of the returns filed by her and her husband dating back to 1992 are available at taxhistory.org).

That was when Jane Sanders said: “Every election we have released them…we did when he ran for election, yeah. I’ll release this year’s as soon as they’re due… and can I have time to go home to retrieve the older ones?

Just how Mrs. Sanders would prepare the 2015 tax return by the April 18 deadline, but not have access to a prior year return, is an interesting question that Halperin did not ask.

Had those returns been released in 2012, 2006, and in Sanders’ earlier races, it would be reasonable to expect that there would be at least passing mention of them in Vermont news reports.

Furthermore, the candidate would be able to point me or anyone else inquiring to a staffer, a political operative, a friend, or someone who had kept a copy of his returns or even just remembers seeing a copy.

Richard Tarrant, a successful medical software entrepreneur who ran against Sanders in 2006, told me that had he ever seen either the form 1040 or the complete tax return of Bernie and Jane Sanders, he would have reviewed the document carefully to learn all he could about their finances — and whether the tax return showed any political vulnerabilities in that race. Tarrant, who had a big interest in seeking the Sanders’ returns, said he never saw one.

Michael Briggs, chief press spokesperson for the Sanders campaign, did not respond to questions I submitted in writing.

The silence from Briggs is itself troubling, since his employer is campaigning as Mr. Transparency.

Now there may well be nothing of consequence in the Sanders tax returns. But that is not the issue. Sanders is giving aid to those politicians who want to end the practice of disclosing tax returns, while marketing himself as a politician untainted by big donations and lobbyists.

He needs to walk his talk.

And meanwhile if anyone out there has an old Sanders tax return, please send it to me: [email protected]

 

By: David Cay Johnston, The National Memo, April 13, 2016

April 16, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Presidential Candidates, Tax Returns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“America Needs An Attitude Adjustment”: Here’s A Reminder About The USA’s Many Accomplishments

A wise friend once pointed out to me that the relationship between an individual and her to-do list is called “attitude.” Profound, right? If we think “I can’t do it all,” then we can be sure that we won’t. Whereas if we decide “I can do this,” we have a good chance.

Attitude applies to everything from work, to relationships, to weight loss. It also applies to things beyond ourselves, such as politics, leadership and governing.

So picture, for one moment, each of our leading presidential candidates. Are they smiling? Any of them? I didn’t think so.

Picture the American people, however you might conjure that. Do they look happy?

I’m sure you can see where I’m going here. The “I can do it” or “we can do it” attitude is embodied by one of the most beautiful human characteristics: the smile. “I can’t do it” or “we suck” is characterized by the most-unflattering frown or scowl.

Our country is past due for an attitude adjustment. We yearn for a leader to bring us that gift – to renew our optimism, our healthy attitude. We remember great leaders like Reagan and Kennedy as men who were smiling.

But if we aren’t going to get that type of leader any time soon, it might be up to us to enact a national attitude adjustment. So let us take a break from criticizing our politicians and our government. Let us focus on the good things about the U.S. of A.

We live in a country where a young, brilliant and stunningly wealthy entrepreneur – Napster founder and former Facebook president Sean Parker – just announced he is contributing his innovative leadership and personal wealth to cutting-edge efforts to cure cancer. That kind of thing happens here. It doesn’t happen everywhere in the world.

We have contributed – and continue to contribute – the most incredible technology, medicine and art to the world. To illustrate, I’ll point out just a few in each category: the light bulb, the telephone, television, airplanes, the personal computer, transistors and the integrated circuit, social media and, thanks to Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, the swivel chair. General anesthesia, immunotherapy for cancer, 3-d printed prosthetics and organ transplants. Hemingway and Faulkner, American television (OK, bear with me, I’m talking about “Seinfeld,” “The Sopranos” and “Breaking Bad,” not “The Bachelor”), American movies, and American music. (How sad the world would be without the blues and jazz.)

Seriously, when you look at that very-short list, why are we – and our leaders – so busy beating ourselves up? I mean, I didn’t even mention how many medals we win at the Olympics. I didn’t even mention Oprah. Or Oreos. Or Yellowstone National Park. Or small business. Or Uber.

We all like to complain about our own political parties a lot, too, and maybe we ought to ease up a bit. After all, both the Republican and Democrat parties have produced some excellent leaders and public policies. When the parties have worked together, they’ve achieved many incredible successes, such as defeating the evils of fascism and imperialism in World War II, and then helping to rebuild post-war Europe and Japan, standing up to Soviet expansionism, and enacting civil rights laws to protect all Americans. Oh, and yes, it was America that put the first man on the moon.

A reminder to both citizens and leaders: If beating ourselves up was an effective way to make things better, we’d all be amazing. (For example, I, personally, would be very, very thin if my own hurtful self-critiques somehow magically produced weight loss.)

But that kind of attitude doesn’t work. Not for individuals, not for our country, not for our leaders. And if those leaders haven’t figured that out yet, we – the people – are just going to have to be the example. This power, like the power of our country, does still rest in our own hands.

 

By: Jean Card, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog; U. S. News and World Report, April 14, 2016

April 15, 2016 Posted by | America, Politics, Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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