Mitt Hangs Tough
The list, as compiled by the Center for American Progress, is impressive- sixteen Republicans who have suggested Mitt Romney should release more than the one year of tax returns he has thus far. They include strategists Ana Navarro, Matthew Dowd, Rick Tyler, John Weaver, and John Feehery; United States Representatives Ron Paul, Pete Sessions, and Walter Jones; former RNC chairman Michael Steele; Governor Robert Bentley; Weekly Standard editor William Kristol; broadcast journalist Britt Hume; real journalists George Will and David Frum; and the editors of The National Review.
There is, however, one individual significantly absent: Senator John McCain. That would be former GOP presidential nominee John McCain, whose campaign in 2008 obtained from Mitt Romney the latter's tax returns from the previous 23 years as part of the vetting process of vice-presidential hopefuls. Campaign manager Steve Schmidt- who did not personally run the process- told the Huffington Post that critics who claim Romney was rejected because of his taxes "have no way of knowing any of the basis of that statement. It's a rhetorical flourish." McCain himself said "of course not" when, according to Politico, the Arizonan was asked "if the contents of Romney's tax returns disqualified him from the selection process" (pity Politico didn't note exactly what McCain was asked; that would be good journalism).
As Bob Dole would have said: whatever. It would not be a radical move for John McCain to be the 17th Repub to urge Romney to make public several more years of tax returns. But he has not done so, and that's probably no accident (though discerning the mind of John McCain is perilous).
On a web only segment (video, below) of MSNBC's The Last Word, MSNBC personality Krystal Ball (if the family's name is "Ball," shouldn't your name be "Crystal" rather than "Krystal"?) characterizes herself as "a contrarian" and suggests the candidate is "better off taking the hit for lack of transparency." She maintains "I don't think they're that stupid, though. I think they've actually thought this through and there is something bad enough in the returns that it legitimately justifies keeping them a secret." That might be "an effective tax rate of 0% or close to it." Alternatively, she believes, Romney may have taken advantage of "a 2009 amnesty" in which individuals with money illegally in overseas accounts had an opportunity to report it to the I.R.S. without facing criminal sanctions. Merely having a bunch of overseas accounts, she argues, would be insufficient motivation for the candidate to withhold his returns.
Although the Obama team probably will be wise enough to come back throughout the campaign to the matter of Romney's tax returns, in the short run some real or imagined crisis, foreign or domestic, is likely to pop up and take the media's attention away from this issue. The betting (and with Sheldon Adelson contributing multi-millions to his campaign, Romney would approve wholeheartedly of betting) here is that the candidate is smarter than his fellow Repubs who are telling him to disclose.
It is unlikely Mitt Romney would be so intransigent if there were not something very damaging in one or more of those tax returns. Very, very damaging.