(UPDATE II) Mitt’s Tax Return Problem: ‘I Love The Smell Of Republican Panic In The Morning’
The 2012 tilt will be the 11th (count ‘em) presidential campaign that I have been involved with as a reporter, editor or blogger. That bit of lineage noted, I cannot recall anything remotely resembling the spitstorm — in which powerful Republicans and now a majority of voter have joined the Obama campaign and news media — in criticizing Mitt Romney over his continuing refusal to release income tax returns beyond a modest dump in January of his 2010 return and estimated 2011 return.
Count me among the people who have gone from believing that Mitt was merely being stubborn in not going with the presidential candidate flow, which included his dear old dad, in releasing all of his returns. It is now beyond obvious that his refusal is not about being bullheaded or private. It is about being scared — well, scared spitless — concerning the fallout from what might be revealed in those returns. Did he not have to pay any taxes in a particular year? Are there bombshells, or maybe one really big bombshell, that might effectively end his quest for the White House? Or as is most likely, would the returns show that he paid far less in taxes than he might have through financial sleights of hands not available to mere mortals like insider trading and pumping millions into a tax-deferred retirement account?
No one knows for sure and John McCain ain’t talking, but it is curious that Mitt made available all his returns when he was being vetted as the Arizona Republican’s running mate in 2008 and McCain instead gave the nod to Sarah Palin. An interesting theory that is being much bandied about given the vacouous responses of Mitt and his campaign spokesmouths, but one that is probably a little too neat to be true since McCain was said to be a fan of the Killa From Wasilla’s posterior and didn’t care that she had the world view of a tree stump.
While Mitt might have erred in putting his Irish setter in a cage on the roof of his station wagon on a now infamous family vacation, he screwed up majorly in failing to anticipate that his returns would be an issue. After all, his opponents made the returns issues when he ran for the Senate in 1994 and Massachusetts governor in 2002, specifically over his involvement in . . . are you ready for this? Bain Capital.
An alternate theory some 18 years on — 1994 being the year the Teddy Kennedy beat Mitt in a battle of millionaires — is that he not only has no empathy for a poor working stiff whose IRA is tens of millions of bucks less than his, he believes himself to be well above working stiffs in general. Besides which, Obama smoked pot as a teenager.
But change the subject as he and his surrogates might try to do, there is now a focus on those mystery returns not seen since the frenzy of speculation over what was in mobster Al Capone’s vault. As we found out, there was nothing in the vault except debris. While Geraldo Rivera has not yet been signed to do a television special on what’s in Mitt’s returns, there is little likelihood that it’s merely dirt and empty booze bottles.
At this point Mitt can run but he can’t hide.
Fundraisers in London that were expected to be low key opportunities for Mitt to bond with deep-heeled ex-pats are suddenly anything but as several of the events’ hosts are top executives at banks tied to the interest rate-fixing scandal that is now belatedly engulfing staid London’s financial and political world. And so Mitt is linked — however superficially — to yet another messy moment over a global financial market that is addicted to corrupt practices.
In yet another sign of just how politicized the scandal has become, 11 members of Parliament have signed a resolution naming Mitt that called for Barclays, the bank at the center of the rate-fixing scandal, to “cease fund-raising for political candidates” and focus on rebuilding consumer confidence in the banking system.
Wife Anne is furious that Obama and his surrogates, and now the news media, including Fox News, is impugning her honey bunny’s integrity.
“There are so many things that will be open again for more attack,” she said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “And you just [would] give more material for more attack.” Then in a Marie Antoinette moment, she added, “we’ve given all you people need to know.”
Thanks for the upbraiding, but try telling that to voters who by a small but growing minority tell pollsters that they are coming around to the view that Mitt should release more returns. In other words, something that had not been an issue among voters has become one because of the candidate’s intransigence.
Mitt himself obvious has his underwear — special or otherwise — in a knot. This has led a news source that is reliable except when it isn’t reliable to quote two anonymice in Mitt’s campaign as saying that they are now prepared to go eye for eye after ceding the momentum to the incumbent for weeks. This would entail calling him a liar, referencing that pot-smoking thing, as well as that Colombian marching powder thing that he also has fessed up to, and . . . hang onto your sombreros! that he associated with dirty Chicago politicians.
It will be left to the voters to decide who is dirtier: A Windy City pol who has his palm greased in return for leaning on the city to install streetlights in an alley or a pol whose claim to fame is getting filthy rich on the backs of those working stiffs. If you ask me, the tax return debacle defines Romney better than any opposition caricature could. And that might be fatal