Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you. Then there’s Rachel Maddow, who stuck her head in the bear’s mouth while talking trash. Chomp!
It wouldn’t be fair to call her Tuesday-night show the TV flop seen ’round the world. It was worse than that. Much worse.
It was a gut-punch embarrassment to Maddow, to MSNBC, to NBC and to all the lefties who bought her afternoon tweet that “We’ve got Trump tax returns.” Were she selling stocks, she’d be busted for running a pump-and-dump scam.
Yet for hours, between her boast and the actual show, Maddow launched a million fantasies. The anti-Trumpers had to be salivating, imagining that the big scoop would finally reveal the president as a tax cheat and liar, a filthy parasite on hardworking taxpayers.
This could be it, the Holy Grail, the silver bullet that finished him. The nation would rise up in disgust, Republicans would jump ship, Trump would be impeached, Vice President Mike Pence would take over, Dems would promptly eviscerate him and presto, the Clinton presidency would be restored!
And all because Maddow got the goods. She would be celebrated as the woman who broke the illegitimate president and saved America from the deplorables and irredeemables.
Because of her, Black Lives Matter would be important again. Transgendered men could pee in little girls’ bathrooms. Never again would terrorism be linked to Islam and saying “America First” would be a hate crime.
The outrage at Maddow on the unhinged left, and the mockery of her among sensible people, is that her sin went far beyond delivering a dud. She assembled an audience only to deliver a great gift to Trump.
Her scoop, courtesy of journalist David Cay Johnston, was two pages from Trump’s 2005 federal return. It showed income of $153 million, and a tax payment of $38 million.
That works out to a rate of about 25 percent, higher than the rate paid in recent years by MSNBC parent Comcast, tax hiker Barack Obama, socialist Bernie Sanders and Warren Buffett, among others.
Maddow made Trump a good guy. One can only imagine her anguish that the truth was able to emerge.
Her hoax is the kind that validates Trump’s claims of fake news. The hostility to him is blinding otherwise intelligent people to facts, and they recklessly rush through red lights.
Imagine what was going on with Maddow’s producers and staff. Did anyone dare say to her that we have a problem, that the tax return you’re boasting of actually shows Trump to be a billionaire who pays his fair share?
That’s not what anybody wanted. They came to bury Trump, not to praise him. And so they tried, and failed.
Heaven forbid that, faced with the facts it had, MSNBC would do the story the facts told. Not a chance. Trump must be savaged, truth be damned.
Beyond the obvious reputational damage, the episode is serious for another reason, too. Leaking someone’s tax returns is a crime, one Maddow celebrated because the victim is Trump.
But the rule of law can’t survive if enough people holding prominent positions believe the end justifies the means. It opens the door to endless conflict, and closes any hope of uniting our polarized nation.