You know a candidate is in trouble when sentences about him begin, “Even Richard Nixon ...” And that’s what is happening with Trump and the Great Tax Return hoopla.
Trump initially said that he would release his tax returns when ongoing audits were over. But now he seems to be digging in with that famous Trump bravado and saying his tax returns are none of the public’s business.
Only, they are the public’s business, which even Nixon recognized despite his tendency to underpay. As for Trump’s audit defense, Nixon released his tax returns while they were under audit. Trump has no excuse for not releasing the returns other than his own hubris, and that he’s ready to show everyone.
Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, notes that she and her husband have released something like 33 years of tax returns. Such releases have been a 40-year tradition in American politics.
And it’s a good tradition. The American people have a right to know about the financial dealings of those who seek to lead them since a big part of that leading will involve taxes and the fairness of who pays what.
Trump on the stump has claimed he might support higher taxes for the wealthy. He says he’s for middle- and low-income working people. He has also boasted, repeatedly, of his own business acumen, though his estimates of his personal worth have been cut in half by Forbes and other financial publications.
So if Trump is such an upright guy compared with the opponents he has repeatedly called liars, why won’t he release his tax returns? “None of their business” isn’t going to cut it, and if Trump thinks the Clintons are going to let the matter drop ... well, he doesn’t know the Clintons very well.
As long as he delays, Trump prompts legitimate questions: Is he trying to hide something? Does he pay so little in taxes he knows it would anger middle-class taxpayers? Would information about his multiple bankruptcies lessen his credibility as a financial genius?
Or is it a matter not of privacy but of vanity? Is the man who declares himself “very, very rich,” actually not so rich?
Yes, there are lots of questions stirred by Trump’s reluctance to release his tax returns. And suspicion is the last thing a candidate without even strong support in the establishment of his own party needs.