I seem to have acquired a fondness for multiple-choice questions lately. Here’s another one for you: Why has Mitt Romney refused to release any personal pre-2010 tax records? 1.) He is a man of great principal. 2.) He makes those affected crosses on the number seven. 3.) He has something to hide.
I would imagine that those not steeped in Fox News’ "fair and balanced" interpretations might go for number 3. The Fox faithful would certainly opt for number one, although the adjective "principled" is usually used to characterize people who cling to certain core values for a period that lasts longer than the amount of time they wear the same pair of socks.
On her television program, Rachel Maddow wondered why Mr. Romney felt he could list his wife’s horse as a business deduction on the tax returns that he is willing to make public. It’s a good question and will probably have a special resonance with people who had to give up their pets because they couldn’t afford to feed them any longer. I’m constantly amazed (not to mention amused) at the creative interpretations that tax lawyers can lend to dull old returns.
I guess we should bear in mind that Mr. Romney’s history as a venture capitalist -- outsourcing work to other countries and downsizing work forces in America -- is going to fix all that. And then we can collectively click our heels together three times and go back to Kansas.
Romney is kidding no one about why he isn’t releasing tax records. South Carolina’s premiere statesman, Sen. Lindsey Graham, even suggested that there is something endearingly American in fudging your tax returns.
We haven’t heard too much from Sen. Graham lately, a blessing that I place just behind Paris Hilton’s fade from popularity. South Carolina itself has been bumped back a few spots in the list of states with the fewest tethers to sanity. Arizona and Wisconsin have been giving it some enthusiastic competition.
I understand Graham has been traveling with Sen. John McCain in what might be called the Disgruntled Hawks tour. Both legislators are upset because the terms that the Republicans in Congress accepted to avert the nation’s default on its financial obligations last summer includes cuts to one of their sacred cows -- the military. The senators aren’t so thrilled about the agreement now that the prospect of following through on it looms.
None of us should throw stones. When you were a kid you probably talked one of your parents into buying something you wanted on the condition that you would clean your room when you got home. Remember how the deal didn’t seem so appealing when you had your toy and you got home?
So, the hawks have come home to squawk. And, if they can’t avert the cuts they agreed to, at least there was the potential of making some political hay out of the situation. Sen. Graham proposed that defense contractors be forced to send out layoff notices four days before the election in November.
The timing, Graham stated with a straight face, has nothing to do with politics. He also reiterated his opinions that voter fraud is a major problem in the U.S., global warming is a myth, the rich need their tax breaks, and that Fort Sumter was just asking for trouble.
Segueing awkwardly back to the issue of Mr. Romney’s allusive tax returns, the most unfortunate aspect of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s unsubstantiated assertion that Romney hadn’t paid any taxes in ten years is that it brings the Democratic discourse down to the level where the GOP is usually dug in to fight its battles. Nixon’s dirty tricks, Swift boats, birth certificates and death panels are all a part of that glorious history.
Aside from the slightly laughable spectacle of collective Republican indignation while they rake in money from the likes of Sheldon Adelson, the Koch brothers, the NRA, and the Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Reid’s petulant defense of his nebulous claim pointed up one of the most persistent and odious aspects of American politics today.
What Sen. Reid said, in effect, was, "I made the accusation. Let him prove it isn’t true."
This has been the modus operandi for Limbaugh-type rabble-rousers and Internet lowlifes hiding behind anonymity for years. Hurl the charge, no matter how groundless or outrageous it may be and let the accused be responsible for cleaning up the smear. Even when the accusation is discredited, some of the mud sticks and the people responsible for throwing it are well aware of that fact.
Mitt Romney isn’t refusing to release his tax records out of some grand principal and everyone knows it. He has already admitted to stashing away millions in shelters in the Caymans and in Switzerland while he professes his great love for the country in which he earned the money. That isn’t what principled men do, it is what a greedy man does. It is what a man who doesn’t think that he should be held to the same standards as others who aspired to the presidency might do.
Harry Reid’s careless and irresponsible assertion only undermines the real validity of the issue itself and the concern that the American people should have over the specter of another champion for the conspicuous consumption crowd gaining the White House -- again.
Alden Graves is a columnist and reviewer for the Banner.