The Times' report was timed, of course, to dominate the Sunday news cycle. And predictably, Trump surrogates Rudy Guiliani and Chris Christie appeared on the Sunday morning political talk shows to defend their man; both called him a "genius" for his canny use of the tax code. Harder to spin: what the Times, two sentences into its report, pointedly described as "the financial wreckage he left behind in the early 1990s through mismanagement of three Atlantic City casinos, his ill-fated foray into the airline business and his ill-timed purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan."
Indeed, in a piece in today's Washington Post titled "Following Trump tax revelations, voters in Toledo question his business acumen," John Gillespie, an Ohio tool-and-die maker, is quoted as saying, "This was in 1995? This was during an economic upturn -- and he managed to lose $916 million? That tells me a lot about his economic skills." Then again, Mike Allen, a Pennsylvania man whom the paper describes as "a former wrestler who now does stand-up comedy," declares that "I want somebody who knows the loopholes. I love it. That's the guy I want for president. If it was done legally, he deserves that, his employees deserve that. My hat's off to him."
As for Alec Baldwin's turn as Trump, well, I have to say that I've already started to conflate Baldwin's Trump with the actual Trump -- in the same way that, eight years ago, it instantly became impossible to think of Sarah Palin without thinking of Tina Fey's Palin impression ("I can see Russia from my house!"), which she introduced on the 34th season "SNL" opener. Fey exposed Palin's folksy, outspoken charm for what it was: preposterous, aggressively haughty emptyheadedness.
"SNL," remember, treated Donald Trump as an amusing joke in its last season -- even inviting him to host the show in November 2015 when he was still just one of many Republican candidates vying for his party's nomination. And before "SNL" creator Lorne Michaels enlisted Baldwin to do Trump (reportedly at Tina Fey's suggestion), Darrell Hammond was the show's Trump (Hammond appeared later in Saturday night's show as Bill Clinton). As one Reddit commenter put it on Sunday morning, "Hammond's Trump is sort of a gentle, harmless braggart," while "Baldwin did a much better job catching the nastiness." Another Redditor concurred: Hammond's Trump is "the buffoon Apprentice Trump. Baldwin is the dangerous fascist Trump."
Once you watch Baldwin's version of Trump -- which nails his preposterous, aggressively haughty emptyheadedness (plus his schoolyard-bully scowl) -- Trump the man comes into sharp, disturbing focus.
Sorry, Donald. Alec Baldwin's Trump is you now. And it's gonna stick.
Simon Dumenco, aka Media Guy, is an Ad Age editor-at-large. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.