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The mental opportunity cost of taking Trump's bait

MSNBC

It's Day 55 of the Trump presidency, and we still take the bait. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow tweeted before her show last night: "BREAKING: We've got Trump tax returns," implying a cache. It turned out to be two pages, and the White House preempted her by releasing the info first:

  • The White House statement: "You know you are desperate for ratings when you ... push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago. ... [In 2005,] Trump paid $38 million ... on an income of more than $150 million," an effective rate of 25 percent (more than Romney).
  • Maddow to Lawrence O'Donnell: "I don't think there's any reason to ... expect that this will be the only Trump tax document that ever comes to light. ... [T]he more we learn about this, the closer we're going get to the truth about whether or not his foreign entanglements explain more about what just happened in our election."
  • The story raced onto the front pages of The Times, The Post and USA Today. The Boston Globe's lead story: "Trump releases 2005 tax returns." Um, no.
  • A quick column by CNBC executive editor Jay Yarow pointed out that the fracas amounted to "a nice victory" for Trump: "[T]his story has created the appearance that Trump does in fact make a lot of money, and he pays millions in taxes."
  • N.Y. Times' Michael Grynbaum: "On Twitter, journalists complained that Ms. Maddow had overhyped."

What was the mental opportunity cost?

  • A more consequential MSNBC headline — "GOP SKEPTICISM OF HEALTH PLAN GROWS AFTER CBO REPORT" — got shorter shrift. The two-column lead of today's WashPost is "Trump allies call Ryan's bill 'a trap,'" by Bob Costa and Phil Rucker: "A simmering rebellion of conservative populists loyal to President Trump is further endangering the GOP health-care push." (Wall Street Journal lead story: "GOP Plan Hits Snag With Own Senators.")
  • Over on CNN, we learn that Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said FBI Director Comey promised on March 2 to tell him TODAY whether the FBI is investigating ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
  • The Fed is expected to raise interest rates today (statement at 2 p.m.; Yellen presser 2:30 p.m.).
  • "Trump's revised travel ban will be scrutinized in federal courtrooms across the country — the day before it is supposed to go into effect."
  • And driving the non-Fed day ... "Polls open in Dutch election that is barometer of populism" — AP/The Hague: "Polling booths opened ... in Dutch parliamentary elections that are being closely watched as a [sign] of the strength of far-right populism ahead of national votes in France and Germany later this year."

We only have so many hours and brain cells. They're a terrible thing to waste.

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