Harry Reid Is Right to Focus on Mitt Romney's Taxes

Mitt Romney refuses to budge on releasing his tax returns, and Sen. Harry Reid refuses to let him get away with it.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., talks to reporters following a political strategy session at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 17, 2012.

Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada alleged, both in an interview with the Huffington Post and then later on the Senate floor, that Mitt Romney had not paid taxes in 10 years. The battle continues.

Romney called on Reid to reveal the source for his claim that he has not paid taxes for 10 years, stepping up pressure as two major fact-check sites ruled Reid had no basis for the "incendiary" allegation. (Sidebar: Those fact check sites also ruled that Romney's claim of creating 100,000 plus jobs had no basis in truth.) Romney said he doesn't believe Reid has a credible source but urged the Senate Democratic leader to reveal who it is.

"I don't really believe that he's got any kind of a credible source," Romney said. "I don't know who gave him this line of reasoning, whether it came from the White House or the DNC or a staffer, but he ought to say where it came from, and then we can find out whether that person has any credibility. I know they don't."

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

Reid said this is not about him; it is about Romney and his unwillingness to share his tax returns with the American people. Republicans got on the president and press secretary Jay Carney for not pushing Reid to back off or reveal his source, as if Reid were a child in a daycare center that the Obama administration runs. When I debated my usual sparring partner on the right, talk host Lar Larson, he alleged that Reid was doing this to help the president, calling it "sleazy."

Reid's remarks are his remarks. He's an adult, and is not controlled by some imaginary string between the White House and the Senate, regardless of the right wing's perception. Romney said that Reid "lost a lot of credibility." And if that's the case, Romney should be thanking Reid, not chastising him.

So which is it? A sleazy tactic by Reid to help the president? An unsubstantiated remark by an angry Democratic senator who refuses to leak his source?!

[See a collection of political cartoons on Mitt Romney.]

I'll tell you what it is. It is Romney, continuing to look down his nose at the American people with the elitist snobbery that gets him the low likeability in poll after poll after poll. The same attitude that got both the Brits and the Palestinians angry with him on his world tour. But it goes beyond that.

This goes back to 1973 when then Vice President Spiro Agnew plead no contest to tax evasion. It was then that the American people demanded to see the tax returns of candidates for president and vice president. And although this practice is not a law and is not in our Constitution, it has been a tradition that has agreed to by all presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle.

We all know Romney's father provided numerous years of tax returns. We know that Ronald Reagan provided six, Sen. John Kerry 20, Sen. Bob Dole 29, and President Obama 12! And Mitt Romney? One. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, when running for president, provided two years of tax returns, the lowest provided by any presidential candidate left or right. (The only exception was Gerald Ford, who was sworn in as president after the resignation of Richard Nixon—and he even provided a summary of years of returns.) And McCain has provided other tax returns for Senate campaigns throughout his career. Romney has provided the American people with one year (2010) and a summary for 2011. 

[Take the U.S. News Poll: Does Romney Need to Say More About His Personal Finances?]

So, this is not about Reid's source as Romney wants you to believe. Romney should thank Reid for the diversion. This is about what voters, both left and right, have asked Romney to do, which has been to do exactly what presidential candidates have been doing for decades: provide their tax returns. 

For a man who says he wants to run this country like he ran his companies, we need to know: How much did you make? Give to charity? Pay in taxes?  

Last week Romney said that Reid should "put up or shut up," Romney needs to heed his own advice. And in doing so, would prove if Reid's comments are true or false. Romney, America's waiting.

  • Read Peter Roff: Harry Reid's Despicable Romney Rumor-Mongering
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