Hillary Clinton is getting plenty of criticism for not revealing her pneumonia earlier. Fine — she should have done so. Vice President Joe Biden says he also had walking pneumonia earlier this year. (Did we know?) Clinton’s lack of candor is indicative of her ability to make small, unhelpful stories big and big, unhelpful stories bigger. The good news for her, I suppose, is that it got the media off her emails.
Clinton has her problems with transparency, but they are not in the same universe as Donald Trump’s, and it remains a mystery why he is not enduring a fraction of the criticism that Clinton is getting over much less significant issues.
Trump’s doctor’s note, the only scrap of paper we’ve seen about his health, was somewhere between unhelpful and ludicrous. He nevertheless was never questioned on when and why he last saw the doctor, Harold Bornstein. He has never been quizzed on his bone spurs, which appeared just in time to excuse him from the draft. He was never asked whether he has had regular checkups, and if so, what conditions, if any, have been observed and/or treated.
His diet appears to be filled with fast food, he does not exercise except for golfing occasionally and his waistline suggests that his body mass index is, like a lot of Americans’, not ideal. At age 70, eating poorly, not exercising and being overweight are dangerous — more dangerous, I would suggest, than walking pneumonia that is treated promptly with antibiotics. Trump promises to put out lots of numbers about his health. That would be nice, but what is required is his medical history.
The biggest problem for either candidate in the transparency realm is Trump’s utter lack of disclosure on his finances, including his charitable donations. The Post reports:
A spokeswoman for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, seeking to rebut criticism of the GOP nominee’s history of charitable giving, said that Trump has given away “tens of millions of dollars” over his life.
But spokeswoman Hope Hicks offered no details about that number, beyond saying that it included donations from the Donald J. Trump Foundation — a charity that, despite its name, has been filled almost entirely with other people’s money in recent years.
Hicks also provided no information about how much — if any — of the donations she was describing had come from Trump’s own pocket.
That’s unacceptable. Every single interviewer and moderator should be demanding proof of such donations. There must be checks, tax returns and the like to substantiate the alleged gifts. If he is lying, and has been lying for months, that’s a scam on par with Trump U. Of course, there is a strong likelihood that there is no such proof and there were not tens of millions in donations:
In all, The Post has identified less than $9 million in gifts to charity from Trump’s pocket over his lifetime, including the $5.3 million he gave to his foundation before the last gift in 2008. In addition, Trump’s foundation has taken in about $9 million from other donors, and given away most of it.
Last year, the Trump campaign also put out a detailed list of what it said was $102 million in charitable giving from Trump over five years. But a close look by The Post found that not a single one of the gifts listed was actually a donation of Trump’s own money.
In other words, Trump likely has been badly misrepresenting his generosity, which in and of itself is deplorable. At the very least, we now know of five instances, unearthed by The Post, in which “the Trump Foundation’s tax filings described giving a specific amount of money to a specific charity — in some cases, even including the recipient’s address. But when The Post called, the charities listed said the tax filings appeared wrong. They’d never received anything from Trump or his foundation.” We already have evidence of his dishonesty, and yet he refuses to make records available.
This goes to some of Trump’s main disqualifiers — his rank dishonesty, misrepresentation about his financial success and utter disregard for the vulnerable — all of which the Republican National Committee shares responsibility for. The party allowed Trump to get the nomination without releasing tax returns, something he repeatedly promised to do. His continued excuse-making and refusal to disclose what every presidential candidate in the past few decades has provided should be the main topic in interviews and debates until he coughs up the returns. Here’s an idea: The presidential debate commission should require all participants to produce their returns if they have not already done so. After all, the commission is in the business of letting the public vet the major candidates; to allow Trump to continue concealing his returns is contrary to its mission.
The generous explanation for the media obsession with Clinton’s health is that the press is still bewildered by the notion of balance, feeling compelled to level the playing field after a brutal summer for Trump. The real reason is that it has simple facts. No complex policy of facts need be researched. It is ideal for lazy reporters and 24-hour cable networks, which regurgitate the same story hour after hour. It takes heroic effort to delve into and uncover the details of the Trump Foundation hoax.
Whether he is hiding a less-than-impressive income, a series of tax avoidance schemes, income from Russia or an absence of charitable donations, Trump has made a mockery of the notion of “transparency.” It is only Clinton’s political malpractice that has distracted the media and voters from a central premise of presidential politics: Without disclosure of all relevant information about the candidate, he or she should not be considered for the presidency.