There come times when history repeats itself–or should. This is one of them. The issue is the President’s taxes and the Supreme Court’s decision on them. If short, “the president’s court” ruled against him, regardless of what he tweets. He is neither above the law nor are his taxes beyond the pale of Congressional or prosecutorial view. However, it will be a while before they are usable in cases against him. Therefore they will be of no use in voters’ decision making by the election…unless…
Here we come to the famous case of the Pentagon Papers. They were at their heart a history of US involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to the end of the ’60’s. In that official, if classified, history we read such nuggets as the Johnson administration lying to the public, the Johnson administration lying to Congress. Other such nuggets were secret talks with other Southeast Asian nations that allowed the secret advancement of the war into Laos and Cambodia. All this without permission from or even reporting to those bodies legally entitled to give permission no less know.
Daniel Ellsberg was a chief compiler of the research and writer of the report. As “The Shadow” used to say, “Who knows what (evil) lies in the hearts of man? Then there was a pause and his gravelly voice would declare, “I do.” Well who knew the what and why of the President’s mind and those of his advisors? Who knew why decorated Generals chose either to lie to the President or lied to the people because the President told them to? Who knew that you couldn’t bomb your way out of the mess, the geological and geographic quick sand in which our troops were sinking? Daniel Ellsberg was touched with the Shadow complex. He knew.
That is the easy part, knowing. The hard part was telling. After all, two wrongs don’t make a right. Even though Ellsberg had proof of the wrongs, he was bound by confidentiality agreements that would put him in the wrong too. So at its finest point, this issue became one of ethics and morals, which we naively hope are always part of what America does.
Now Ellsberg was a good and decent man. He wasn’t a religious man. As far as we know he had no spiritual advisor to guide him. He was a guy in a big quandry guided principally by the things he was taught by his parents. What to do? What to do? In his mind, these two wrongs did make a right. No one was above the law and the American people had the right to know so they could make informed decisions about their protests and votes. He spilled the beans. And he went to jail. He was released on appeal. That too is fascinating but we must return to ethics and morals as they pertain to the president’s taxes.
It no where says that a president must release his tax returns. It is a precedent started by Carter (seems understandable to me) and has been adhered to by every president up until this one. So what’s the big deal? Does anyone really care if Trump’s claims of wealth are off a few billion? Or even if folks who are supposed to know about this stuff, like Forbes magazine, say his claims of such wealth are preposterous. We also know that in spite of a president’s net worth going into the white house, it grows like Jack’s beanstalk afterwards. Those million dollar book deals and quarter million dollar speaking engagement. The tens of thousands to play golf with this guy or sail the calm seas with that one, they all add up and quickly.
That is not the case here. During the campaign we were asked to sign a bill of goods. That bill outlined in large measure a portrait of “the Donald.” But like so often on a child’s paint by numbers piece, it was missing a section here, a piece there, the colors were wrong in another part. Looking at it, you knew, art aficionado or not, that this picture smelled. But you didn’t have the number code and couldn’t figure out why.
Well, those who have been following the numbers (or the money), know this. They know there are huge deceptions in the picture to make you think you see something that is not there. You know looking at the banking picture that based on the deceptive picture there were loans that would not have been allowed if the truth had been outed. If one believes there is fire to come wherever there is smoke, the numbers of people who has attested to the sliding scales of property assessments that go up and down depending on whether Trump Enterprises needs money or has to pay money make your eyes raw from the amount of smoke being directed at them. All of this is common sense, something our founding fathers held great stock in and everyone after our own fathers seems to have abandonned. Nike says, “Just do it!” I say, “Just think!”
We know something else. We know that there are people in the government who have the returns or access to them. They are in several different departments of the government. These people could be today’s Daniel Ellsburgs. They are faced with with that fateful decision. What to do with the truth they know, no matter if it favors or debases the president. More parochially, do they want their government jobs or do they want to sleep at night knowing that in this administration there is only one good that is served?
We’ve seen it already time and again. At any moment, one can go from hero to goat, from in to out. In no time at all you can be Col. Vinman following the letter of the law, telling his father in front of America that he will be fine because this is America, and then hounded out of the armed services in part because he was wrong about today’s America, in part because he is an immigrant, in part because he is an Eastern Block immigrant from a country the President still hopes to mine for political dirt, and yes, in part because he is a Jew.
So the next Mr. Ellsburg what’s your call. Me? It’s gotta be done. The bottom line is America can not to lied to–at least from my perspective.
Drawing this time on politics, ethics, and faith, WIlliam Gralnick will appear here again next week. This topic sticks in his craw so expect something on the ethics and morals of the relief money distribution. Until then remember his mantra, “Read! It good for both of us.” And while you are remembering…”The War of the Itchy Balls and Other Tales from Brooklyn” Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com, kindle or nook, paperback too.