By Warwick McFadyen
After the roiling storm over the disclosures of Donald Trump’s attitude to women and the fallout in Republican circles – and a pre-debate press conference where Trump sat among accusers of Bill Clinton – the second debate came and went in a series of wind gusts. Each side blowing hard against the other. Attack v counter-attack and so on and so forth.
The more illuminating moment stills echoes from the first debate.
It is about time that this country had somebody running it that has an idea about money.
Donald Trump, first debate with Hillary Clinton
And really, there you have it. What supreme irony that it now emerges that he did not, in effect, pay taxes for 18 years. It is worth quoting The New York Times recent exclusive:
‘’Donald J Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns, a tax deduction so substantial it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years, records obtained by The New York Times show.
The 1995 tax records, never before disclosed, reveal the extraordinary tax benefits that Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, derived from the financial wreckage he left behind in the early 1990s through mismanagement of three Atlantic City casinos.’’
After the clamour of that first presidential debate, and the hiss of this latest, the residual hum in the background is emanating from that one sentence, and this revelation, from Donald Trump. It seems innocent enough, possibly even legitimate, but it goes into the heart’s dark chambers of the man. With Trump the deal and the national spirit are one and the same thing. He equally salutes the flag and the dollar.
When he declares that he wants to make America great again. He means great again to do business. And, at first glance, this is good. Booming business means jobs for Americans, greater profit, greater prosperity for all.
Ronald Reagan made the same claim in his presidential campaign more than 30 years ago when the US was wrenching itself out of stagflation and the oil crisis and myriad international fiascos in the Mid-East and Central America.
But here’s the thing, Trump trademarked the slogan. That’s the difference between Trump and the rest of the world. Trump’s impulse is to protect Trump, promote Trump, make sure that Trump by whatever means comes out on top. Everything else is secondary. While a bankruptcy to most people is financial hell, to Trump it is grist to the mill. And he has had many and he will say that is what is so great about America, you can bounce back. Well, he can, not the hoi polloi. And he wants to make it greater.
Each day seems to bring new shocks, but really it shouldn’t. Many see the latest disclosures from the sex tape as a tipping point. Many leading Republicans who had given him support now have publicly censured him. He is odious and, in Robert De Niro’s words, a “bozo”. But still his defiance is born and propelled in the malformed creature that lives with the two hearts of money and power.
Millions upon millions of words have been written and said about Trump. His character and his ethics have been investigated by journalists and authorities, his values forensically examined. It’s come to the point that a beggar in New York, as writer Garrison Keilor relates, can make a fortune by saying, “Give me a dollar or I’ll vote for Trump.’’ His hat was overflowing as people laughed and acceded to his threat/demand.
But it’s no laughing matter.
History can be a hard teacher. After the dignity, statesmanship and decency of Barack Obama, the first African-American to be president in a country that used African-Americans as slaves, is it possible to go backwards? Yes, it is. The progression of human nature is not linear.
America was great when it elected Obama. For Trump to bellow that he wants his countrymen and women to vote for him to make America great again is an insult not only to Obama but it is a kick in the guts to the nation, he allegedly loves himself. Trump only loves that part of the country that can help him or build on his ideal, sorry prejudices, of what that country should be. His raison detre is to exclude, not include. His is a narrow soul. There simply is no room for the tide and complexity of humanity.
Hence his frothing at the mouth at outsiders. Hence his self-proclaimed swagger that he has a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Hence, his bullying bravado that the word of Trump will, like the trumpets at Jericho, cause the walls of his enemies to crumble and fall down. Historians believe that that account from Joshua in the Bible did not occur. Trump should take note of the facts, but he won’t. They’re inconvenient, “bullshit”, in his own words, just like climate change.
The fallback position of clear-sighted people that “reason will prevail’’ come polling day in November isn’t supported by history. Reason is one of the first casualties, along with truth, along the road to war and other catastrophes.
And here’s the other thing about Trump and achieving greatness; to do so to his ideal is to embark on a cleansing of the waters. The dark currents of ethnicity and Islam, for instance, need to be purged. How will he do it? Well, that’s easy. The overwhelming force of his personality will prevail. The sheer will to power. Nietzsche would love him, then laugh at him.
If only this were a reality show. Oh yes, sadly, it is.
Warwick McFadyen is a freelance writer and editor