Tuesday, October 11, 2016

TOP STORY >> Art of deal fading fast for Trump

Special executive editor

“My father would be so embarrassed.”

— Michael Reagan on Donald Trump’s campaign

If the polls continue to show a widening lead for Hillary Clinton — she’s now 14 percent ahead — there will be no art of the deal for Donald Trump this November.

His second TV debate was even more jarring than the first. He seems more eager to hold on to his 35 percent base of support and run like a third party candidate who’s gone off the rails. Sure, 35 percent will win you the nomination against 16 other Republicans, but if a candidate can’t rise much above that in October, all signs point to an Electoral College blowout.

His support among women, independents as well as Republicans keeps dropping as more tawdry revelations raise doubts about Trump’s character.

Every day, dozens more prominent Republicans withdraw their support in the final stretch. House Speaker Paul Ryan made the sensible decision when he announced Monday he will distance himself from Trump and concentrate on preserving the GOP majority in the House. More likely, Republicans will lose control of the Senate as Trump drags down GOP senators in swing states.

Perhaps for the first time ever in a presidential election, Trump threatened Sunday to jail Hillary Clinton if he’s elected. His stalking her onstage horrified most women voters.

There’s fear inside his campaign that more damaging tapes will be released any day now. Last week’s release of the sordid recordings from a celebrity TV show ended his hopes of winning the presidency. His campaign had been in trouble for weeks — the release of his income tax returns from 1995 (almost certainly by his second wife, or someone close to her) claiming almost $1 billion in losses and the likelihood that he hasn’t been paying income taxes in 20 years — threatened to derail his campaign.

But his bragging about sexually assaulting women shocked many more supporters, even though his base is sticking with him.

Contrast Trump’s stonewalling on his taxes with Warren Buffett, whom he accused of taking the same kinds of deductions that Trump claimed after those huge losses. Not so, said the sage of Omaha just hours after the debate.

“My 2015 return shows adjusted gross income of $11,563,931,” said Buffett, who is also being audited by the IRS, like Trump, but that didn’t keep him from disclosing his taxes.

Buffett gives most of his money to charity and the government, which is a lot more than Trump ever did.

“My deductions totaled $5,477,694, of which allowable charitable contributions were $3,469,179. All but $36,037 of the remainder was for state income taxes.

“The total charitable contributions I made during the year were $2,858,057,970, of which more than $2.85 billion were not taken as deductions and never will be. Tax law properly limits charitable deductions.

“My federal income tax for the year was $1,845,557. Returns for previous years are of a similar nature in respect to contributions, deductions and tax rates,” Buffett said.

Obviously the wrong billionaire is running for president.

The latest polls show Trump has lost 12 percent support among Republicans (13 percent of GOP women) after tapes were aired over the weekend, which may not sound like a lot, but he was about just 5 percent behind Clinton before the tapes were released. That 12 percent loss translates to about 5 percent of total votes, meaning Hillary is more than 10 percent ahead.

Republicans are jumping ship and concentrating on downballot elections and looking to 2020, which is why Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) campaigned in Iowa last week.

The campaign had been in trouble since the GOP convention, when prominent Republican officials, including both President Bushes, boycotted Trump’s coronation.

Trump had a chance to quit the race in August, when revelations about his ties to the Kremlin and refusal to release his tax returns called into question his qualifications. Dozens of former national security officials said he was unfit to serve.

They pointed to several Trump aides on Vladimir Putin’s payroll. The Russian dictator arrests his political rivals every day. No surprise that Trump told Clinton he’ll put her in jail if he becomes president.

Putin wants Trump in the White House and keeps releasing Clinton’s hacked emails and speeches. Trump cheered Putin on during Sunday’s debate, saying he supports the Russians going to war on behalf of Syrian dictator Assad.

Trump, acting as a Kremlin mole, repeats Russian propaganda about Syria, Libya and Ukraine. At a rally in Pennsylvania on Monday, he read a fake email created by Russian agents who distorted the words of an American journalist and attributed them to Sidney Blumenthal. Even Drudge wouldn’t fall for that kind of deception.

Abandoned by party leaders, Trump’s campaign has no money for advertising. The self-described billionaire should have poured at least $200 million into his campaign if he had any chance of success, but he doesn’t have that kind of money or wants to hold on to it knowing he can’t win.

The worst presidential nominee in history will bring down the Republican Party along with Fox News, which promoted him as a presidential candidate for at least a decade.

The Trump signs have started to come down in many areas around the country. The Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, which Trump opened in 1990 after borrowing $650 million, closed Monday. It was the first of his six bankruptcies. His name had come off the building after he sold the casino to investor Carl Icahn, who said he lost $350 million in just the last few years.

Some successful businessman. It’s a stunning story of deluded self-invention and hubris, crashing down in flames and damaging our democracy perhaps for years to come. It’s too early to calculate the fallout for Republicans and to our Republic, but it’s bound to be significant.

From this week’s editorial in Christianity Today, founded by Billy Graham: “Enthusiasm for a candidate like Trump gives our neighbors ample reason to doubt that we believe Jesus is Lord. They see that some of us are so self-interested, and so self-protective, that we will ally ourselves with someone who violates all that is sacred to us.”

To quote Sen. Ted Cruz, who narrowly lost the Republican primary in Arkansas to Trump, “Vote you’re conscience.”