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Good morning, it’s Wednesday, Sept. 22, the first day of autumn. President Biden’s job approval keeps declining, Donald Trump has sued the New York Times (along with his own niece), and Congress appears headed for yet another impasse on the debt ceiling, which could lead to another wasteful government shutdown. In other words, a break in the weather doesn’t promise to bring any improvement in our politics.

I’ll dispense with the historical homily today and get right to our original content. First, I’d leave you with one thought: Although anyone with a niece as spiteful and disloyal as Mary Trump would be tempted to retaliate, the lawsuit Donald Trump filed Tuesday in New York’s Dutchess County is a puzzler.

For starters, Trump is asking for $100 million in damages. Why? Does he need the money? If so, he’s been greatly exaggerating his wealth. (Imagine that.) Second, this litigation concerns investigative stories published in 2018 by the New York Times alleging that Trump participated “in dubious tax schemes” and “outright fraud” that increased his inheritance from his father. But this obsession by Trump’s adversaries -- in and out of the media -- with his taxes is partly Trump’s own doing. Alone among modern presidents, he refused to release his tax returns, despite promises in 2016 to do so.

And while congressional Democrats’ heavy-handed efforts to get their hands on the returns after he left office risk weaponizing the IRS as a partisan agency, if Trump’s lawsuit were successful, it would have a chilling effect of another kind.

It alleges that Mary Trump and at least three Times reporters “engaged in an insidious plot to obtain confidential and highly-sensitive records” about the former president’s finances. Leaving aside the “insidious plot” lingo, obtaining confidential and sensitive records, well, that’s what investigative reporting is all about, or should be. Much better than taking anonymous (and erroneous) leaks from partisan hacks to smear political opponents, which is what often passes for enterprise journalism in Washington these days -- as Trump knows better than most.

On that note, I’d point you to our front page, which aggregates, as it does each day, columns and stories spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a complement of original material from RCP reporters and contributors, including the following:

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Biden’s “Relentless Diplomacy” Is a Tough Sell to Wary Allies. Susan Crabtree has this analysis of the president’s speech yesterday to the United Nations General Assembly. 

What U.S. Credibility Really Means. At RealClearWorld, Grant Golub distinguishes between core and peripheral strategic interests in light of the Afghanistan withdrawal.  

Thinking About Race and IQ. J. Peder Zane considers assertions made in Charles Murray’s new book, “Facing Reality.” 

How Russiagate Became a Story of Friends in High Places. At RealClearInvestigations, Eric Felten spotlights how the indictment of a top Democratic lawyer last week illustrates the anti-Trump card Democrats played time and again to advance the Russia conspiracy theory. 

Defensive Gun Uses Far Outpace Murders in U.S. Also as RCI, John R. Lott Jr. has the details

Inside the 2021 College Free Speech Rankings. RealClearEducation editor Nathan Harden introduces the new list compiled from a survey of more than 37,000 students at more than 150 U.S. colleges and universities.   

If a Rising China Is Worrisome, a Declining One Would Be Terrifying. John Tamny explains why in RealClearMarkets.  

Mental Health Needs of Guard and Reserve Members. At RealClearDefense, Justin Hummer and Kimberly Hepner lament that these often-called-upon troops do not receive the same health care coverage provided to their active-duty counterparts.  

COVID and the Trust Trap. At RealClearPolicy, Kevin Vallier cites Denmark as a model for combating the pandemic through government transparency and straight talk.  

Scott Gottlieb’s “Uncontrolled Spread.” At RealClearHealth, Dr. Marc Siegel reviews the former FDA commissioner’s new book.  

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Carl M. Cannon 
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)
ccannon@realclearpolitics.com

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.



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