"Tax returns? I don't got to show you
no stinkin' tax returns!!"
Those un-released returns
keep voters a-wondering
By CHUCK McFADDEN
Mitt Romney has steadfastly refused to unveil more of his income tax returns. Hes revealed them for 2010 and an estimate for 2011, but no more. Hes standing on principle, he says, an unusual stance for Mitt.
Romney is not usually steadfast about anything except ambition, figuring whatever sells today in the political world is the way to go.
Except its not selling. If he doesnt reveal additional income tax returns, hes handing Barack Obama a Louisville Slugger that the president can use to bludgeon him mercilessly between now and November.
Its become almost routine for presidential candidates to make public their income tax returns. Richard Nixon, not the most forthcoming of presidents, did. So did George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. George Romney, Mitts father, did when he ran for president. John Edwards let it all hang out. Not Mitt. Not so far.
There is, as you might expect, all kinds of speculation about Mitts motives. He says its a matter of privacy. Scarcely anyone believes him. The preferred theory, especially among Democrats, is that Romney has something deep, dark, and sinister to hide, and thats why he wont release the returns.
Conservative columnist George Will theorizes that Romney and his advisors are making a calculation that goes as follows: 1. Not releasing the returns hurts Mitt politically. 2. Theres something in the returns that, if revealed, would hurt him worse. 3. So suck it up and dont release.
Scott Fitzgerald famously told us in "The Great Gatsby" that the rich are different than you and I. That, I submit, is what Romneys reluctance is all about. Its not that there is anything in there saying that Romney carried on a 15-year affair with a Muslim communist who made bombs whenever there was a spare moment. Its just that the returns may reveal a different world than than the one most of us know
-- the world of the super-rich.
Romney in the past has exhibited a politically unfortunate tendency to say things that mark him as apart from the world of Joe Sixpack, innocently remarking that his wife has two Cadillacs, and that he is friends with NASCAR owners, and proposing a $10,000 bet with Texas Governor Rick Perry during one of the Republican debates.
Romney, bless his heart, saw nothing untoward about any of those actions. Multiple
Cadillacs, $10,000 bets and even an elevator in the garage to move cars around are unremarkable parts of his world. Whats the problem?
So, Ill bet the additional Romney tax returns, if they ever see the light of day, will not contain a smoking gun. Rather, they will reveal a series of complicated tax dodges, arcane financial moves and use of accepted practices among the super-rich that are foreign to the 99 percent. Nothing illegal, just different from what most of us are concerned about. The danger to the Romney campaign is that such ordinary-to-the-rich practices will further emphasize his remoteness from the daily concerns of the middle class.
To a candidate in a tight race -- especially a rich Republican candidate -- thats a tough problem. You may be sure that if the returns are made public, Team Obama within minutes will have a crew of researchers going over every word and number, waiting to pounce on something that gives any promise of being made into a campaign Whoop and Holler. Do you suppose they may find that Mitt paid a lower percentage of his income than, say, Warren Buffets secretary? Wouldnt that be likely to set off a storm of gleeful pseudo-outrage among the Democrats?
So Mitt is on the horns of a political dilemma. Keep the returns secret, and suffer the slings and arrows of a daily Obama barrage.
Reveal the returns, and get blasted as a remote multi-millionaire scarcely qualified to empathize with Middle America.
Its enough to make a grown man weep. Maybe Mitt can comfort himself
by buying another Cadillac.
©2012 by Charles M. McFadden. The McFadden caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. This column first posted July 30, 2012.
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