Taxes, Sex Tapes And 3am Tweets: Donald Trump's Week From Hell | Gradient
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Taxes, sex tapes and 3am tweets: Donald Trump’s week from hell

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Have you ever had a week where nothing seemed to go your way? Health problems, car breakdowns and job stresses all piled on at the same time, making you want to shake your fists to the sky and demand answers from whatever cruel deity awaits us there?

Of course, given the benefit of time, you might come to realize that fate was not entirely to blame your all your bad luck. A little more foresight, responsibility and positive action could have staved off the worst of what befell you. You stop blaming others and start using your misfortune as an instructive moment for your own betterment. That’s the best possible outcome to bad weeks.

And then there’s Donald Trump, who objectively just had one of the all-time worst weeks in political campaign history, and if he is using it as any sort of means towards self improvement, he has yet to tell us about it. There was Saturday night’s bombshell about Trump’s tax returns, of course, but that’s really just the last swirl of the toilet bowl flush. We’ll get to it but, first, let’s go over it all, play-by-play.

Things kicked off with the first presidential debate, a debate Trump lost by every measure exempt Trump’s own gut feeling. Legitimate polls said the public felt Trump lost by as many as 30, 40 or even 50 points. Trump was able to dig up a poll from the Drudge Report that had him in the lead, prompting eye rolls from all involved.

But that wasn’t the worst fallout from the debate. The worst fallout was Hillary Clinton’s story about former Miss Universe Alicia Machado or, as Trump liked to call her, “Miss Piggy” or “Miss Housekeeping.” Instead of disavowing or apologizing, Trump dug his heels in, defending his right to mock her for gaining weight.

That was the sole purpose of his campaign for a few days and, more notably, a few nights: on 3am Friday morning, Trump told his millions of Twitter followers to “check out” her (non-existent) sex tape. This would be the first time a presidential nominee recommended that America look up a sex tape, fictional or otherwise.

A slightly more real sex tape exists in the guise of a 2000 softcore Playboy movie called Video Centerfold; a movie featuring Donald Trump in a supporting role (no, not that kind of supporting role). Buzzfeed must have just been sitting on this scoop for a rainy day. Around this time, former employees of Trump’s golf courses said Trump wanted to fire women who weren’t pretty enough for his tastes.

Another unfortunate fallout from the debate itself? Trump’s bighearted claim that he was too nice to attack Clinton for her husband’s affairs, something he and his team have spent the rest of the week doing, when they’re not reminding people about how magnanimous Trump was for not doing so. That culminated in a Friday chat with the New York Times, in which Trump attempted to smear Clinton for her husband’s affairs while denying that he has ever had any. He has had at least two. He attempted to coerce his second (confirmed) mistress to pose nude for Playboy.

We could spend a lot of time on everything that went wrong at the debate. He blamed a faulty microphone for his performance. He was caught in his longstanding lie about opposing the Iraq War. His impish interrupting “Wrong!” bleats were rife for SNL’s parody, and Alec Baldwin took to it with glee.

(We’re getting to the taxes, promise.)

All this prompted lengthy editorial takedowns from Wall Street Journal and USA Today, two papers not known for weighing in on presidential elections. They published damning editorials on Trump, with USA Today calling him “unfit for the presidency” and the WSJ’s right-leaning Dorothy Rabinowitz calling Trump the potential “most unstable, unfit president in American history.” The Arizona Republic weighed in as well, endorsing a Democrat for the first time since 1890.

Newsweek reported that Trump illegally violated the embargo on Cuba, something Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway didn’t even bother trying to deny on The View. The Washington Post found that the Trump Foundation is not certified to solicit money. If New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman decides to push the issue, the Trump Foundation could be forced to return donations (one bright spot for Trump this week: he hasn’t given any money to his Foundation, so this wouldn’t affect his bottom line).

Trump’s response to this was to suggest that Google is involved in a plot to suppress negative news about Clinton. “A new post-debate poll, the Google poll, has us leading Hillary Clinton by two points nationwide,” Trump said (according to the Washington Post), “and that’s despite the fact that Google search engine was suppressing the bad news about Hillary Clinton. How about that.” He also called on President Barack Obama to not to pardon “Hillary Clinton and her co-conspirators for their many crimes against our country and against society itself.” Clinton has, of course, not been charged with any crime against society itself or otherwise.

None of this mattered to former Ku Klux Klan Dragon David Duke, who called Trump “our candidate.”

And that takes us to Saturday night, when Susanna Craig at The New York Times landed one of the great political scoops of this election and most others: Trump’s 1995 tax records. This represents something of a holy grail for journalists, who’ve been dying to know what exactly has Trump so squeamish about his taxes that he’s willing to break with the decades-old tradition of releasing his taxes before the election. As it turns out, Trump was right to be nervous.

The tax records show Trump took a $916 million dollar loss in 1995 that could have allowed him to dodge paying taxes for 18 years. Trump has neither confirmed nor denied the records. His campaign released a statement saying that “Mr. Trump knows the tax code far better than anyone who has ever run for President and he is the only one that knows how to fix it,” which sort of like a bank robber wanting to be CEO of the bank because he’s proved he knows how to break into one.

At last Monday’s debate, Trump responded to accusations that he may not have paid taxes by saying “that makes me smart.” Setting aside the fact that this makes the rest of us who do pay taxes chumps, it takes a serious logistical leap to get from “I lost nearly a billion dollars” to “that makes me smart.” Trump is not a politician. His only claim to being qualified for the presidency is his business acumen, which now inspires as much confidence as “From the mind of M. Night Shyamalan.”

That was the week’s climax, but it’s long, slow denouement actually took place in Pennsylvania, where Trump went on a lengthy, sad, bizarre tear during a rally, “ignoring his teleprompters and accusing Clinton of not being ‘loyal’ to her husband, imitating her buckling at a memorial service last month, suggesting that she is ‘crazy’ and saying she should be in prison. He urged his mostly white crowd of supporters to go to polling places in ‘certain areas’ on Election Day to ‘watch’ the voters there. He also repeatedly complained about having a ‘bum mic’ at the first presidential debate and wondered if he should have done another season of The Apprentice.”

And so we come to the end of the week, which has honestly been as tough on us as it has been on Trump. It’s been the week from hell, but it’s been a hell of his own making. There is a world in which Trump could have released his own taxes and gotten ahead of the narrative, pitching himself as a sly manipulator of the rules. That’s tougher to do when your taxes are dragged into the daylight kicking and screaming. There’s also a world in which Trump simply apologized for his criticisms of Machado’s weight, deflating the entire story and allowing him to focus on his real message, whatever it is.

So what can we learn from this? That Trump shouldn’t be president, yes, but that’s not new information. Really, let’s take a moment to reflect on our own bad weeks, and our own role in them. Because no matter how bad your week actually is, it can always be made just a little bit better by simple virtue of the fact that you’ll handle it better than Donald Trump.

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