Spotlight on Trump’s taxes and charity foundation. Oct. 3, 2016. (CBS Miami)
If Donald Trump is a genius, as surrogates like former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani insist, he is of the evil genius variety and, like those in the movies, a menace to society.
This demonic denizen of social media takes to Twitter at 3 a.m. to rant about a former Miss Universe after Hillary Clinton called him out during their debate last week for his treatment of the woman. Ms. Clinton had recounted how Mr. Trump publicly ridiculed the Latina beauty pageant contestant years ago, calling her "Miss Piggy" and other demeaning names, because she was, in his estimation, too fat. Like other women he has singled out for what he considers physical flaws — including the actress Rosie O'Donnell; businesswoman and former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina; Heidi Cruz, the wife of another former candidate Ted Cruz; and any flat-chested woman — she was not an aesthetically pleasing 10 on his scale.
Now that the New York Times has disclosed how the $916 million loss Mr. Trump's reported on his 1995 tax returns — yes, $916,000,000 — could have been used to avoid paying federal income taxes for up to 18 years, he is now touting that as a measure of his brilliance. That makes him "smart," to borrow his word. The tweeting Mr. Trump says, "I know our complex tax laws better than anyone who has ever run for president and am the only one who can fix them." That, according to Mr. Giuliani and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, is the mark of genius.
What he models as the ways of an astute businessman feel sleazy to a lot of other people, including a proven billionaire, former Republican and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. At the Democratic National Convention in August, Mr. Bloomberg said: "Throughout his career, Trump has left behind a well-documented record of bankruptcies, thousands of lawsuits, angry shareholders and contractors who feel cheated, and disillusioned customers who feel ripped off. Trump says he wants to run the nation like he's run his business. God, help us".
A few days ago, Mr. Trump mocked Ms. Clinton for the bout of lightheadedness she suffered while attending a 9/11 observance with pneumonia on a hot, humid day in New York last month. "Here's a woman, she's supposed to fight all of these different things and she can't make it 15 feet to her car! Give me a break." He then went into the same kind of pantomime routine that he did months ago in apparently imitating a New York Times reporter who has a pronounced physical disability.
Mr. Trump's is a candidacy of innuendo — President Barack Obama's citizenship and Ms. Clinton's health are just two examples — and his aides hint that he might dive deeper into that pit by reviving stories about Bill Clinton's marital infidelities even though this would surely be a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
Mr. Giuliani and former Rep. Newt Gingrich — who, like Mr. Trump, are very experienced wife-cheaters — are among those who will supposedly make the case against Bill Clinton as a reflection on Hillary Clinton's qualification for the presidency. Go figure. Chuck Todd, the host of "Meet the Press," challenged Mr. Giuliani: "You have your own infidelities, sir," Mr. Todd said. Mr. Giuliani responded: "Everybody does. You know, I'm a Roman Catholic and I confess those things to my priest." I don't think Catholic clergy would appreciate that sort of advertisement; nor would faithful couples appreciate being painted with such a broad brush.
Mr. Trump, as a diabolical mastermind would, is priming the pump with hints that if he loses in, say, Pennsylvania, the reason will be that the election was rigged, especially in heavily-black areas. "I'm hearing too many bad stories," he told a mostly-white crowd in rural Pennsylvania, "and we can't lose an election because of you know what I'm talking about." He urged them to go monitor those other neighborhoods after they cast votes for him in their own.
There must be an endgame to all this chaos that Mr. Trump is sowing, and it might come down to what he predicted some years ago when he said he could become the only presidential candidate to make money out of a bid for the highest office in the land. This could be the ultimate scam by the dark knight of Trump Tower.
"I'm a New Yorker," Mr. Bloomberg said in August, "and New Yorkers know a con when we see one!"
You do not need to be a genius or a New Yorker to see that Mr. Trump sees American voters as the ultimate patsies. Open your eyes, folks!
E.R. Shipp, a Pulitzer Prize winner for commentary, is the journalist in residence at Morgan State University's School of Global Journalism and Communication. Her column runs every other Wednesday. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.