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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Is Trump Pulling a Clinton Trick?

Trump is refusing to release his tax returns, at least for now, and Mitt Romney says that the only explanation is that they contain a "bombshell of unusual size."

There is an alternative explanation, however.  Suppose Trump is trying to hype the expectation that his taxes reveal something hugely wrong, even though they don't.  As he continues to stonewall, the speculation will keep mounting.  And then when he finally releases them, any problems or anomalies will look pretty small in comparison with what his critics are suggesting.

If this scenario unfolds, credit should go to the original author of this trick: Bill Clinton.  In 1998, he had to manage expectations about video of his grand-jury testimony.  Howard Rosenberg reported at The Los Angeles Times:
For days there had been breathless reports throughout TV, based on anonymous sources, about the coming video showing Clinton folding under pressure like a rattled and red-faced Capt. Queeg. He was depicted by some even as angrily halting the grand jury proceedings from time to time when the questions hit too close.

The president did get a little testy occasionally, as did at least one of his questioners. But lose his cool and bring out the ball bearings? Whatever else Clinton was on the video, he was none of that.
Thomas DeFrank and William Goldschlag reported at The New York Daily News:
In part that may have been due to some clever White House damage-control work. One source said that Clinton spinners had leaked reports that the President was enraged by the questions of Starr's lawyers and stormed out of the room at one point in hopes of making Clinton's steadier demeanor seem more palatable by contrast. "I guess the expectation didn't live up to the spin," the source chuckled.
The lesson for Trump critics:  do not raise extravagant expectations about what the tax returns may contain. Trump may be playing you just as Clinton played his GOP critics in 1998.