“My parents didn’t want to move to Florida,” Jerry Seinfeld used to say in his standup routines, “but they’re in their sixties, and that’s the law.”
The joke resonated with audiences in New York, where there has been a decades-long migration of older residents to the Sunshine State in search of warmer weather and lower taxes. Now, at 73, President Donald Trump is going too.
Trump’s legal change of residence from New York to Florida was reported by the New York Times Thursday. Trump’s move may well reduce his tax liability but reporting on his tax returns has suggested he has been very successful at avoiding them even while living in a high-tax state.
“Trump’s legal move to Florida may indeed be about taxes, as Trump himself suggests, but just not about paying taxes, which Trump doesn’t do. Instead, the move seems inspired by attempts to disclose Trump’s taxes, which the President also very much does not like to do,” observed Edward McCaffery.
“New York has been aggressive on the front of trying to shed light on Trump’s taxes: The state legislature passed a law facilitating Congress’s access to Trump’s state-level returns, and the Manhattan district attorney, Cy Vance, has been pressing the case for access to Trump’s returns in court.” But Florida’s Republican state officials will likely take a different stance, McCaffery noted. “In Florida, Trump can work on his tan while not worrying about any tax forms being disclosed to anyone.”
Errol Louis wrote, “We may not know Trump’s precise Florida-vs-New York tax math, but the political math behind relocating is crystal clear…Trump clearly hopes to carry Florida’s 29 electoral votes again to win re-election — he kicked off his 2020 campaign with a rally in Orlando — but he knows that it’s still a true swing state, going to Republican President George Bush twice (in 2000 and 2004), then swinging back to Democratic President Barack Obama (in 2008 and 2012).”
The move has the added benefit for Trump of distance from a state and city whose politicians are particularly opposed to the President. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been a fierce critic, Rep. Jerry Nadler heads up the House Judiciary Committee, which is part of the impeachment process, and Chuck Schumer leads the Democrats in the US Senate.
Impeachment game on
As the House voted to officially launch an impeachment inquiry, the divide between liberal and conservative commentators last week could not have been any starker.
Joe Lockhart, a Democrat who served in the White House during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, credited House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a smart strategy and suggested that upcoming public hearings on impeachment are likely to be persuasive: “By having staff counsel lead the questioning, Democrats have a very good chance of methodically telling the story of why the President should be impeached.” By contrast, he wrote, “The White House does not appear to have a strategy at all. The President has tweeted his way through the last few weeks looking desperate and angry, flitting from one defense to another.” He gave Pelosi and the Democrats an A, House Republicans a B minus and Trump an F on strategy.
Republican Scott Jennings completely disagreed. The House will impeach and the Senate won’t remove Trump, he predicted. “There will be nothing to show for it but wasted time and a diversion of the nation’s political conversation away from issues that real people care about,” he lamented.
“Let’s be honest. The Democrats were always going to do this. From the minute we realized on election night that Donald Trump had won, they began fantasizing about nullifying the election results.”
All in the family
Impeachment became a family affair last week. Ivanka Trump quoted a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to his daughter in 1801 bemoaning “enemies and spies catching and perverting” his statements. Ivanka Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, said in an interview that he has been busy cleaning up “messes” left behind by former vice president Joe Biden. While Kushner’s comments to an Israeli TV station likely pleased his father-in-law, wrote Michael D’Antonio, they “also remind us that the stickiest aspect of the impeachment crisis involves Biden in a way that reflects very negatively on the Trump side.”
Of course, family is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, which focuses on the allegation that President Trump withheld aid to Ukraine while pressing that nation’s new president to investigate Biden’s son, Hunter. (No evidence of wrongdoing has surfaced against Joe and Hunter Biden.)
Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project On Government Oversight, argued that there’s more than a little hypocrisy in Trump’s focus on Hunter Biden. She wrote: “It is difficult to comprehend how Hunter Biden’s activity is different from the ways in which Trump’s own children are enriching themselves, with the one big exception: Trump’s daughter and son-in-law are simultaneously acting in a governmental capacity…Trump is an utterly absurd messenger for this issue.”
More smart takes on impeachment:
Julian Zelizer: Why impeachment is not a ‘coup’
Elie Honig: House vote on impeachment will sting Trump
Coming soon: Fractured States of America
This month, CNN Opinion will publish a special project examining the American political divide and how to bridge it. John Avlon provided a preview last week, and we asked you for your thoughts. Hundreds have responded so far — but there’s still time for you to submit ideas via the reply box in Avlon’s piece.
He described the stakes: “Polarization is killing our country. It is weakening our political and social bonds, separating our economic fortunes and driving bitter cultural divides… A fixation on our differences is fracturing us into warring tribes, threatening to turn our country into little more than a collection of grievance groups who believe that folks on the other side of the divide are the ones really tearing our national apart.”
What would you take?
If you had to suddenly abandon your house and faced the prospect of never seeing it again, what would you take with you? Matt Villano had to make that kind of choice when he was forced to evacuate to escape the Kincade fire, one of the blazes besieging California. “Two cats, my wife’s wedding dress, a case of my best brandy and some computer equipment. When it was time to leave my Sonoma County home on Saturday for what I thought could be the last time, these were the things I loaded into my car first,” he wrote.
David Perry‘s 10-year-old daughter saw video of the wildfires last Sunday and asked at dinner, over a bowl of fettuccine, “California’s on fire?”
“My wife explained about the drought and the high winds, and I told our daughter that this was part of climate change making the natural world more dangerous…when I see the worry and empathy in my daughter’s eyes, I know I have to do more than just allay her fears. I have to believe my own message and remember there’s genuine hope — and then get back to work pursuing that systemic change.”
Alice Hill, a former special assistant to President Barack Obama, lived in fire-prone parts of California for two decades. She noted that California’s improved building codes have saved some homes, but that’s not enough: “California keeps adding more homes to areas already deemed at high risk under current conditions. Just days after the Camp Fire, which was up to that time the deadliest and most destructive fire in California’s history, Los Angeles County approved the construction of 19,000 houses in an area that, according to the state’s own analysis, was already at ‘high’ or ‘very high’ fire risk, even without the added risk from climate change.”
The end for ISIS leader
On Sunday morning, President Trump made the announcement: ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had died during a raid carried out by US special forces. Trump deserved to take a “victory lap,” wrote Peter Bergen. “Trump’s campaign against ISIS is one of the unalloyed foreign policy successes of his presidency,” noted Bergen, adding that Trump and former president Obama had taken many of the same approaches to targeting terrorist groups and their leaders.
But ISIS is not dead, he wrote, and “as we saw with the death of Osama bin Laden eight years ago, the ideology of jihadism is not extinguished with the death of any one leader.”
Trump’s victory speech, with its so-far unverified claim that Baghdadi died “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way” was over the top, in the view of Bill McGowan and Juliana Silva. “As Americans, we like to think of ourselves as winners. But winners should behave accordingly. As the famous saying goes, ‘When you make it to the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.'”
Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky warned, “Trump’s public rollout, his overt partisanship and the absence of a post-Baghdadi strategy to deal with ISIS in Syria…may well rob the administration of any lasting political and strategic gain from a well-deserved accomplishment.”
Writing from Turkey, CNN’s Sam Kiley zeroed in on Europe’s passive role in the broader Syria story. “They are good at dismay, the Europeans,’ he wrote. “Their cheek-clutching horror at…Trump’s abandonment of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) was worthy of Munch’s ‘The Scream.'” Europe’s “armed forces need to be able to function outside of an American life support system and show some initiative, rather than wailing when the White House does something surprising.”
Hero and the smear
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who serves in the White House on the National Security Council staff, emerged as a key witness in the impeachment inquiry. While his decision to speak out was applauded by Democrats, Vindman was criticized by some pundits on the right, who suggested the Purple Heart-winning soldier’s loyalty might be in question because of his roots in Ukraine. “The slanderous suggestions that he’s disloyal because of birthplace and because he speaks Ukrainian are plainly disgusting,” wrote Jill Filipovic. “And they are profoundly unpatriotic.”
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling recalled a conversation he had with another immigrant soldier who was working in a role similar to one Vindman once had. “She reminded me that of all the countries the US had as partners or were allied with as part of NATO, only one took an oath to defend a piece of paper…the Constitution. That’s what makes us different, she said, because we don’t vow to defend land or the head of state, we vow to protect and defend ideas.”
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Twitter’s CEO made Facebook’s plight look even worse last week. Jack Dorsey announced that Twitter would no longer accept political advertising in the midst of a raging controversy over Facebook’s decision to run political ads even if they’re false.
Stanley Fish wrote that Twitter’s move increased the pressure on Facebook’s chief, Mark Zuckerberg, who has been visibly struggling to explain the company’s stance, most notably in an exchange with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Zuckerberg last week defended the policy on a call with Wall Street analysts after the company reported blockbuster revenue and traffic.
“He is pledged to two contradictory ambitions,” Fish wrote. “On the one hand, he doesn’t want to censor anyone’s speech, but on the other he doesn’t want his platform to be the vehicle of evil effects.”
“The dilemma that produces Zuckerberg’s comical performances is baked into the situation. Neither Facebook nor any other platform will ever be able to strike the balance Zuckerberg seeks.”