If Law Day is so important, why doesn't our justice system address the worst miscarriage of justice in the last 50-plus years? The FBI investigation into the crimes of Hillary Clinton and her employees was a farce. What happened to equal justice under the law?
Some time in 2015, Donald Trump made a calculation. If he refused to release his tax returns to the public like every other presidential nominee and president in the past four decades, he’d get criticism from his opponents and the media, but that criticism would be more tolerable than allowing whatever was in those returns to become public. He could take the hit without fundamentally harming his chances of winning and eventually the issue would fade away.
It turned out that he was right—except for the part about the issue fading away. If anything, it’s getting more important, even undermining Republican unity and threatening the party’s chances of passing tax reform.
For that, you have to give liberals some credit. Who would have imagined that they could get tens of thousands of Americans to turn out at protests all over the country to demand the release of Trump’s returns? It’s not what you might consider a sexy issue. Meanwhile, congressional Democrats have signaled that a demand for Trump’s returns will be a centerpiece of their argument against whatever form of tax reform Republicans come up with.
All of this is going to put Republicans in Congress in an uncomfortable position. They desperately want to pass tax reform, or at the very least a big tax cut, even if they don’t do a total overhaul of the system. But the politics of it will already be tricky. Their top tax priorities are cutting individual taxes at the top end and cutting corporate taxes. It just happens that this puts them in a diametrically opposed position to the American public, whose top two complaints about the tax system, according to the Pew Research Center, are that corporations and the wealthy don’t pay their fair share.
Trump’s personal taxes therefore offer Democrats a way to take an abstract and wonky debate and make it more compelling and personal—both for voters and for the news media, which loves to frame stories in terms of personalities, none more so than the president’s. A debate in which every Republican proposal is met with, “How much money is that going to put in Donald Trump’s pocket? We need to know!” is not the one Republicans would prefer to have, particularly when three-quarters of the public says Trump should release his returns.
It’s already having an effect. As the New York Times reported this week:
More than a dozen Republicans—from recognizable names like Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa and Representative Mark Sanford of South Carolina to backbenchers like Representatives David Young of Iowa, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, Ted Yoho of Florida, Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey and Justin Amash of Michigan—have agreed that Mr. Trump should release his returns.
That’s a modest number at the moment, but that’s only because most Republican members probably haven’t been forced to take a position on the question. But the more Democrats manage to keep it a central part of the tax-reform debate, the more Republicans will have to say where they stand. And while their default reaction is always to get behind their president, in this case his position is practically indefensible. (Note that Sen. Tom Cotton, Ark., got booed by his constituents for parroting Trump’s utterly bogus line that he can’t release his returns while he’s being audited, which of course he can.)
But it’s one thing to say that Trump should release his returns, while it’s something else entirely to try to force him to do so. While Republicans could theoretically insert a provision into a bill (on taxes or anything else) requiring the president to make his returns public, then pass that bill through both houses and force Trump to veto it, the chances of that happening are close to zero. Your average Republican member of Congress would like to stand up for transparency by saying that he himself believes Trump should release the returns, but that member of Congress would also like the returns never to become public, because they might cause a scandal that would engulf the whole party. So don’t expect Congress to actually force the issue, so long as it remains in Republican hands.
So if your member of Congress says “I believe that the president ought to release his tax returns,” you might want to ask: Okay, what are you going to do about it?
If the Democrats can take back the House in 2018, we’re probably going to see Trump’s returns.
Why? Two words: Subpoena power. If and when the subpoenas arrived, Trump would sue to quash them. It would ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, and he might win. But he might not. And then the real investigation would begin.
If and when those subpoenas arrive, Trump would sue to quash them. It would ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, and he might win. But he might not. And then the real investigation would begin.
Where are the grown-ups? I have found myself in a snit this week about the lack of teamwork in Washington. It’s been going on for years, but this past weekend, my patience wore thin. I wanted to go into “mom mode” and knock heads (figuratively). I am aware that politics is often referred to as a game, but we pay (mostly men) large sums of money to engage our win-lose obsessions. Politicians may use gamesmanship in building support for policy, but democratic government requires them to get closer to win-win or draw.
Three specific examples come to mind. Health care legislation, a supreme court nomination and immigration policy. Each of these issues are of significant impact to the wellbeing of the citizens of the United States. Each of these issues are reported to be at impasse. Each of them is surrounded by the politics of blame and inflexible positions.
I understand the significance of appointing a well-qualified jurist to the Supreme Court. I understand that there are differing judicial philosophies. Most importantly, I understand that Supreme Court judges should be non-partisan. With the exception of Justice Thomas, I believe that most of them are. Even the late Justice Scalia had a well-reasoned judicial philosophy, even if it did appeal mostly to a political faction. Making sure that a nominee is knowledgeable, collegial and incorruptible is important to the process. Making sure that a justice will always agree with a political agenda is a minor concern at best.
I was depressed when an appointment to the court was held up for the sole purpose of being able to promise a more reliable partisan nominee during the presidential campaign. I object to using a “nuclear option” to push through a nomination because the opposition wants “payback” for holding up a nomination. Notice that I didn’t name names. I don’t care who did it. I want it to stop.
Health care is vital to our unalienable rights of life and the pursuit of happiness. I want the government to regulate health care to provide that it is universally available. I know that it is a subject that is full of complexity. I know that all complex systems require trial and error when they are adjusted. I know that everyone except those who already have satisfactory (both cost and coverage) insurance don’t want to fuss with what is working for them. I know that those who aren’t satisfied are resigned or actively trying to work for change. I don’t want one party to refuse to negotiate because it would give the other party a win if the ACA were improved or if they couldn’t fulfill the promise to repeal and lose the “win” for a despised president. I don’t care which party wins, I want improvement.
For this next example, I must name names. President Bush proposed a comprehensive immigration reform package. Nancy Pelosi would not let Democrats support it to overcome some Republican opposition because she did not want to give him a win. By the time legislative power had shifted, the Republicans were held to no action by their leaders. Now the subject has been conflated with H1B visas, terrorism, refugees and “American Jobs!” Opportunities for moderation were lost. I wanted it addressed earlier. I don’t care who would have scored the win. Now everyone is losing.
Maybe there should be a new political party, or maybe there should just be a reform movement in both of our established parties. I am going to be looking for candidates who can build consensus, not contention. The American dream, for me, is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If we establish an autocracy of either the right or the left, people will be disenfranchised and increasingly angry. Too much blood has been spilled “in order to form a more perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility … promote the general welfare … .” I will not let all this go on my watch. The political kids must stop this immature behavior and act like responsible adults.