While You Were Distracted, Romney Won the Battle over His Tax Returns

Any time a politician faces pressure to do something he doesn't want to do, there's a calculation involved about the arc of the story and the cumulative effect of the two courses he could take. I can take the slings and arrows of the moment and hold out, in the hopes that the story will go away, or I can succumb and hope that by getting the pain over quickly, the damage will be minimized. The conventional wisdom has become that any time there's damaging information about you, you have to get it all out as soon as possible, and there are certainly plenty of cases in which a politician didn't do so and ended up suffering both from the information itself and his initial stonewalling against releasing it. But that need not always be the case. Mitt Romney may just have bet correctly that he could stand firm against releasing his tax forms from any year before 2010 and get away with it.

We need not go over all the possibilities of what might be in them, but suffice to say it's something Romney really, really doesn't want people to know about. So he made a decision to just refuse, and he has certainly paid a cost so far, in a lot of negative coverage and fodder for Obama television ads. But in the end he won, sort of. Democrats will continue to needle him about it, but I'm guessing that the intervention of a major news event (the mass murder in Colorado) provided just the distraction Romney needed to get people to stop talking about his taxes. Unless something happens to bring the issue back up, reporters will quickly start treating it like a settled question that no longer needs to be discussed at length. And we're never going to see them, which for Romney was apparently the most important thing.

Now, I think the idea that you could become president of the United States without sharing detailed information about your finances beyond a year or two with the American public is absurd. When you want to occupy the highest office in the land, there are some kinds of privacy you're just going to have to give up. But as has happened so many times in the past, Republicans realized that there are almost no rules in American politics, only norms. And once you decide a norm doesn't serve your purposes, you can just ignore it, and if you've got your party behind you, before you know it the norm will cease to exist.

There is one thing that could revive this discussion and resume the pressure on Romney to let people see those previous years' returns, however, and that's the release of his 2011 return. Romney has said he'll release them when they're ready, and I guess they aren't ready yet—that team of accountants he employs sure does take its time. I wouldn't be surprised if they become ready some time around the second week of November.

Comments

You have to love John McCain's non-committal statements about Romney's tax returns, which we are supposed to assume they actually read before making a carefully considered decision to choose Palin over Romney. There's nothing in them that's "disqualifying", but he supports Romney releasing only two years' returns.

That lends a lot of support to the various theories that, (a) they may not be disqualifying, but there's a great deal of incredibly creative accounting and deductions that would raise the eyebrows of a lot of Americans... Consider that the possible "depreciation" over one year for only one of their several dressage horses exceeded the average income of an American family.

But more than that, McCain seems to be deliberately distracting people from the tax returns Romney would have filed after the 2008 primary campaign, which may well reflect Romney's participation in the tax amnesty for dubious overseas bank accounts, as well as possible write-offs (or capital gains) from the stock market bubble that might have all-but erased his tax burden (or given him windfall profits) on his eight figure income at a point in time when pretty much everybody else in the nation was struggling.

I expect Democrats to keep picking at the issue, as opportunity presents itself. Unlike a "gaffe" or a manufactured scandal, it's possible for future events to raise new issues. It could be that the issue scabs over through the election, but with enough picking it could fester or become septic.

Pennsylvania Lawsuit? Why? Everyone is only one person and for anyone voting for Obama 40 times like the kid who went on TV and said he voted for Obama in 40 different counties??? What does that prove, that he can move fast? Its sure didn't make Obama a better person for the job....he is destroying American and all the freedoms our ancestors have died to protect. He is destroying Medicare by giving OUR money to all his friends and family in Afganistan and Pakistan to rebuild Mosques. We are going down and we are going down fast...don't you Democrats read anything???

Forgot...you are worried about Romney's tax Returns but not about the fact that Obama is not even a citizen! Where is his birth certificate, it has been proven to be FAKE!!! He lies about everything and when he stops you from voting.....along with all your other freedoms, (down the tube), maybe then you will learn to read. There is a lot more in ObamaCare than health. The Feds are going to take over and you will be paying taxes on every bank transaction!!! Isn't this great news!!!!!???? Read it for yourself, its all in there!!!

msvi - Your tin foil hat must be on too tight for you to think straight! Romney has only released two years of tax returns and both of them are quite suspicious and already show us how sneaky, greedy and unpatriotic Romney really is!
I guess you don't know that the REPUBLICAN Governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle publicly verfied Obama's birth certificate way back in early 2010! She stated that “the president was, in fact, born at Kapi’olani Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii.”! Please explain exactly WHICH freedoms that YOU think Obama has eliminated????? It is Romney who wants to take away your freedoms! And let's talk about this LYING accusation, HMM? Obama has not lied about a single thing, whereas Romney has done nothing but lie! Heck, he is lying today by telling Latinos that they don't have to worry about their student visa waivers after he has repeatedly sworn to abolish them! You need to wake up and smell the coffee before it is too late!

Unless he is being audited by the IRS, I do not care about Romney's tax return. Let's fix the economy.

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