By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – President Donald Trump is a walking contradiction.

He aggressively tries to hide things – unflattering facts about his behavior, the truth about the pandemic, his actual physical appearance. And yet he may be the most inadvertently transparent public figure ever.

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He constantly spills the beans about things best left unsaid on Twitter and in interviews. That’s where the most damning evidence in the Russia investigation and the impeachment came from.

And Trump is a compulsive practitioner of a psychological behavior called projection, the act of “unconsciously taking unwanted emotions or traits you don’t like about yourself and attributing them to someone else.” When he calls someone else a liar, or corrupt, or a failure, it’s an acknowledgement of those traits within himself.

And that’s what is happening when he dismisses the New York Times reporting on Trump’s history of business mismanagement, tax avoidance and – allegedly – fraud as “fake news.”

What’s he’s really saying is – I’m a fake.

Read the Times coverage for yourself. It documents the squandering of his windfall from “The Apprentice” on money-hemorrhaging golf courses and hotels, an echo of his earlier conversion of a multi-million dollar stake from his father into massive losses in the casino business at a time when that industry was a license to print money. All along, he was milking his businesses to sustain a gaudy personal lifestyle crucial to his brand – the freewheeling, high-styling, successful entrepreneur.

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Also known as fake news.

None of this would come as the slightest surprise to anyone who read the numerous biographies of Trump or the gobsmacking depositions he’s given over the years. But the leaking of the tax returns to the Times – with its revolting revelations about potential conflicts of interest and exploitation of tax loopholes – serve as a timely reminder of just how sketchy this guy is.

If Joe Biden can’t make hay with this Tuesday night in the first debate, he might as well pack it in.

Not that it matters all that much in the short term. Voter opinions of whether four more years are in order are mostly set in concrete already.

But if nothing else comes of this story, let it be a reminder of how important it is that people who want to wield the extraordinary power of high political power be required to make full financial disclosure as a prerequisite for running. The tax return is the witness stand of politics, one of the few places where lying is not just discouraged but illegal.

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Refusal to show it ought to be disqualifying. Especially if so many gullible voters are going to be such easy marks for flagrant con games.

Jon Keller