The mental opportunity cost of taking Trump's bait
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.