Talking points seeming in hand, top surrogates to the Trump campaign, including Chris Christie and Rudolph Giuliani, used a consistent word — “genius” — to describe the New York Times’ revelation that Donald Trump may have parlayed a spectacular business failure into possibly avoiding paying federal income taxes for up to 18 years.
Losing $916 million, as Trump claimed in his 1995 income tax returns, isn’t genius. Neither is taking advantage of a profoundly flawed tax system after the fact.
Trump has predicated his presidential campaign, and indeed his high-profile public persona, in large part on his business acumen. But multiple business bankruptcies and a trail of stiffed contractors are examples of fiscal and ethical failure.
Leveraging this failure for personal gain isn’t genius, either. In fact, most voters, even supporters, should consider it deeply cynical, at best, especially given Trump’s rhetoric on underfunded infrastructure, military and other needs.
The Times report, however significant, does not provide all of the financial information voters rightfully expect from candidates of both parties. Still unanswered are fundamental questions about Trump’s net worth, charitable contributions, foreign business exposure (particularly as it pertains to Russia) and how much, if any, income taxes he has paid over time.
Hillary Clinton has released her returns. So have Democratic and Republican presidential candidates dating back decades. Trump should be held to the same standard so that those participating in the true genius of America — its democracy — can make an informed decision on Nov. 8.