Romney continues to fight off Harry Reid’s conspiracy theory
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made unsubstantiated accusations that the reason Mitt Romney only disclosed tax returns dating back to 2010 is because he didn’t pay taxes in years leading up to that point. Despite having no evidence to prove this charge, Reid said the burden on proof was on Romney.
Romney has denied Reid’s claim, saying that the Democratic leader should “put up or shut up.” While the Obama campaign denies that Reid is doing their bidding, they are certainly taking the opportunity to call on Romney to release more tax returns. During an interview on State of the Union, Robert Gibbs told Cindy Crowley, “I’ve never seen anybody jump through more hoops to say…that somebody’s lying, but also to not put out a document that would prove what the real truth is.”
Those of us concerned with the Fast and Furious scandal could make the same point presented by Gibbs, especially after President Obama used executive privilege to keep information from Congress. But I digress.
While some Republicans are hinting that Romney should release more tax returns to put the controversy to rest, others are beginning to fight back against Reid’s frivolous claim:
The charge was first taken up by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaking on CNN’s State of the Union. “I think he’s lying about his statement of knowing something about Romney,” Graham said, accusing him of “making things up” at a time when Congress should be focusing on more important issues.
“I just cannot believe that the Majority Leader of the United States Senate would take the floor twice, make accusations that are absolutely unfounded, in my view, and quite frankly making things up to divert the campaign away from the real issues,” he said.
Later, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus echoed Graham’s accusations and took them a step further. “I’m not going to respond to a dirty liar who hasn’t filed a single page of tax returns himself,” he said on ABC’s This Week.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell called Reid’s charge “slanderous and reckless.”
“People don’t care about Mitt Romney’s tax returns,” he said on CBS’ Face the Nation. “They are [worried] about their own tax returns, and the taxes that are going to be increased under President Barack Obama, where nearly a million small business people are getting a whopping tax increase. That’s the issue in this race.”
Unfortunately, the political reality is that Romney will need to disclose more tax returns. The issue is unimportant in the grand scheme, but that’s not going to prevent it from blowing up as we approach election day. Voters tend to like Obama more than Romney, though polls vary as to who they trust most on issues facing the nation. And even though he should be running away with this election on paper just given the state of things, Romney is fighting an uphill battle, according to election guru Nate Silver.
Reid has certainly drifted into conspiracy theory land with these accusations. We should be equating him to Birthers and Truthers, calling Reid a “Taxer,” a label that has more than just one meaning. But with Reid and the Obama campaign driving the narrative the media, the issue will continue to be a distraction that will linger until Romney discloses more information, and by then, it could be too late. The damage will already have been done.