August 4, 2016

Is there any point in saying that Donald Trump is having a bad week?


It’s been a confounding week to be paying attention to Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency. However well it has been established that Trump deviates from the behavior expected of candidates—and it seems almost silly to point out that this has been very well established—he continues to take actions that send jaws the world over plummeting and beggar the vocabulary of journalistic neutrality.

This week, three particular scandals have had commentators reeling. Firstly, there was Trump’s response to Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of Humayun Khan, a US Army captain who was killed in action at the age of twenty-seven in Iraq in 2004. Addressing Trump from the stage of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Khizr Khan said, “Let me ask you: Have you even read the US Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy.” (In book news, the speech appears to have made a bestseller of the United States Constitution.) It is, of course, unheard of for a presidential candidate to assail the parents of a fallen US soldier, but that’s what Trump did, tweeting that Khan had “viciously attacked” him, and telling George Stephanopoulos of ABC News that “If you look at [Mr. Khan’s] wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably — maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me..” (Mrs. Khan responded with an editorial in the Washington Post, in which she wrote movingly of her loss. “The place that emptied will always be empty.”)

Secondly, there is his public reluctance to endorse high-profile members of the party he has summited, particularly Paul Ryan and John McCain, in what Philip Rucker of the Washington Post has called “an extraordinary breach of political decorum.” It is a breach made all the more extraordinary by the fact that both Ryan and McCain overcame their own misgivings to endorse Trump months ago, and have declined to rescind their support even during the Khan debacle. Even Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, has broken with him to endorse Ryan.

Lastly, there are Trump’s tax returns. While not formally required of presidential candidates, the disclosure of tax returns has been a universal element of their campaigns for more than forty years. Trump is the first candidate since Nixon to refuse to make his tax records public, in the face of mounting pressure from a vast range of sources, including billionaire Warren Buffett, who offered to disclose his own in exchange for Trump doing the same.

We are fortunate that, in the case of this third mystery, David Cay Johnston, author of the newly-released The Making of Donald Trump and a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist with decades of experience on the tax beat (and, indeed, on the Trump beat), appeared Tuesday night on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes to offer some facts and insights:


The Trump campaign shows no signs of becoming more self-explanatory anytime soon. For more of the crucial context Johsnton provides, buy your copy of The Making of Donald Trump here.