The season of "the October surprise" is hard upon us, but this year we're getting the October surprise on the installment plan. There's a medium-sized surprise with the morning paper every day.
The New York Times delivered what it thought would be the A-bomb late last week, with the news that Donald Trump had used the tax laws to count losses against tax liabilities to defer paying $916 million in taxes.
This October surprise was apparently meant to prove that the Donald was either an incompetent businessman and couldn't be the rich man he says he is, to run up losses like that, or an unpatriotic genius, to use the tax code to enable him to save his business and stay alive to earn again. Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, called it "genius," reminding everyone of the obvious, that the tax code enables every American, even an American despised by the "elite" media, to count losses against income.
This elite media was beside itself through the weekend, confident that The New York Times had finally fashioned a silver bullet if not an A-bomb, and the Donald would be destroyed once and for all, restoring civility, good table manners, peace in our time, free pot and soothing silence to the fractious land. Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the newspaper, was celebrated as a particular hero because he promised to go to jail to get the story in print. Bob Woodward, an editor at The Washington Post, said he would have printed it, too, and wants to go to jail, perhaps to share a cell with Mr. Baquet.
The story collected considerable tarnish over the first few hours, however, with the news that The New York Times had avoided paying taxes as well, on a pre-tax profit of $30 million, with a nearly identical legal exploitation of the same tax laws. (That was "different," of course.) The Times not only got to delay paying its taxes, but through another loophole discovered by its million-dollar lawyers, it got a $3.5 million dollar refund. (Note to everybody else: "Don't try this at home.")
There may be a "rest of the story." Federal law prohibits publishing an unauthorized tax return, with offenders risking five years in federal prison. Mr. Baquet and his newspaper can seek refuge in the First Amendment, and probably will, but newspapers and the men and women who edit them get no immunity in the Constitution for breaking the law, and the Donald has mean and expensive lawyers, too, and an appetite for litigation.
This story may have staying power, since it's about money, which a lot of people understand, but other little surprises have surfaced with October, and some of them are about sex, which everybody understands. An old story about Bubba's purported love child in Arkansas has surfaced again, this time with a plea by a handsome, fair-skinned young black man, now 30 years old, to "meet my daddy."
The love-child story, with its history of charge and countercharge, heated and re-heated in the incandescence of a half-dozen political campaigns, bubbles up again just as a half-dozen of Bubba's women have re-emerged, like Marley's ghost, to challenge Hillary Clinton's carefully contrived image as the warrior-avenger of abused women everywhere.
This begs the question of how can Hillary, who presided over the destruction of the reputations of women abused - in the credible story of one of the women, raped, now be the champion of feminine honor? Hillary once fiercely defended the proposition that women don't lie about rape, that every accusation of rape must be believed, and just as told. But no longer. Hillary's defense of that feminist proposition has been erased from her Web site. (The lady does seem to have trouble with anything connected to the Internet.)
Julian Assange, the master of Wikileaks who has bedeviled Hillary's campaign with the release of some of her most embarrassing emails, has promised more juicy stuff. He has hinted for weeks that something bigger than the story about the Donald's taxes, that it will be big and important enough to restore the killer reputation of "the October surprise." This Tuesday was supposed to be the big day. Then, speaking from the Ecuadorean embassy in London where he has taken refuge to avoid extradition to the United States, Mr. Assange said he would have to postpone until a later date the detonation of his bomb, all for "security concerns."
He did not identify the "security concerns," immediately recalling the strange and sometimes fatal coincidences that happen to people who cross the Clintons. Then the revelations were restored.
What a wonderful time to be alive.