Drumbeat Grows from Right for Romney to Release Returns

The National Review, the Weekly Standard, columnists like George Will, and several prominent GOP lawmakers have all called on Mitt Romney to release additional tax returns. Even “objective” reporters have gotten into the act and criticized the candidate for keeping his filings to himself.


As the National Review puts it:

Romney may feel impatience with requirements that the political culture imposes on a presidential candidate that he feels are pointless (and inconvenient). But he’s a politician running for the highest office in the land, and his current posture is probably unsustainable. In all likelihood, he won’t be able to maintain a position that looks secretive and is a departure from campaign conventions. The only question is whether he releases more returns now, or later — after playing more defense on the issue and sustaining more hits. There will surely be a press feeding frenzy over new returns, but better to weather it in the middle of July.

If he releases more returns, Romney will be in a better position to resist the inevitable demands for even more disclosures. More important, he will be in a better position to pivot his campaign to what should be its focus — telling a story, through a series of detailed, substantive speeches, about where he wants to take the country. It is to President Obama’s advantage to fight the election out over tactics and minutiae. By drawing out the argument over the returns, Romney is playing into the president’s hands. He should release them, respond to any attacks they bring, and move on.


Romney is in an impossible position. Nothing he does as far as releasing his tax returns is going to satisfy anyone except a few inside the beltway Republicans. On the other hand, not releasing his returns invites questions from the media, the Democrats, and even some conservatives in the “what’s he hiding” vein. In that respect, the NRO guys have it right: in a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t scenario,” better to “do” and get it over with as quickly as possible. This is conventional political wisdom — lance the boil and let the healing begin.

A good piece of advice — unless you really do have something to hide and releasing the information would be a game-changer. Perhaps Romney didn’t legally pay any taxes at all one year. Or perhaps he invested in a notorious company. It wouldn’t have to be a criminal act for the political damage to be so severe as to permanently derail his campaign.

If that is the case, Romney would be justified in not releasing any more tax returns. In this scenario, he would hunker down and absorb the blows, hoping the issue fades away eventually. Or, he could try and turn the tables and say he would release more returns if President Obama released his college transcripts, or some other of the voluminous biographical hidden treasures that the president has guarded like Fort Knox. Or, he could blast it off the front page by making big news himself by naming his vice presidential choice before he heads off to the Olympics next week.


Whatever Romney decides, the Obama campaign has a tailor-made issue with which they are killing two birds with a single stone: savaging the opponent while keeping the national conversation off the economy — the one issue that would lead to the defeat of the president in November.


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