Townhall‘s Guy Benson has a fine post up listing four reasons why Mitt Romney should not release more tax returns, followed by five reasons he should. Guy ultimately concludes the five pro-release arguments outweigh the four anti release. His pro-release arguments are:
(1) Honesty is the best policy: In short, it’s the right thing to do, even if it causes a few temporary headaches. These too shall pass.
(2) People won’t care: Even if the tax information packs a modest political punch (look at how richie-rich he is!), the public will get over it quickly. Obama partisans will harp endlessly, naturally, but average voters won’t give a hoot about Romney’ personal wealth come election day if the economy continues to sputter and Romney offers a positive alternative vision for the nation. According to Gallup, Romney’s affluence only negatively impacts 20 percent of voters. We call these people “liberal Democrats.” That number might temporarily spike a little if the tax returns make major headlines, but better to weather than mini tempest in July or August than to have the 2012 presidential home stretch focused on Romney’s “secrecy.”
(3) Bad optics — for them: Romney is a boy scout who has lived a life of great personal rectitude. He strikes me as a dot-every-I-and-cross-every-T sort of fellow. He’s also a man of guiding and grounding faith. I am confident that his affairs are all in virtually perfect order, and that they do not contain the knock-out blow Team Obama is hoping for. When the records become public and there isn’t much there, Democrats will look silly, petty and desperate for harping on the issue for weeks on end.
(4) A strengthened moral authority: If Romney complies with Democrats’ requests, he’ll have increased standing to confront Obama over his myriad shortcomings on the transparency front. Imagine this line at a debate: “Your campaign insisted that I release more of my personal tax returns from years past. I did, Mr. President. Now why don’t you tell the American people why you’ve asserted executive privilege to obstruct an investigation into a gun-running scandal involving your administration that has resulted in hundreds of deaths, including the murder of a US agent? It’s time for you to come clean, Mr. President. I have. It’s your turn, and the American people deserve complete transparency and candor on this matter.” Over to you, champ.
(5) Distinguishing accusations: Democrats have unapologetically undertaken a massive obfuscation effort in recent days, intentionally conflating various accusations against Romney and merging them into an overarching narrative. They’ve got nothing but hot air on Bain Capital, a fact confirmed by multiple fact-checkers, CNN, the New York Times and even Bob Woodward. What’s helping them get away with their flagrant lies is their seamless transition into a simultaneous tax harangue. Taken together, they hope, voters will succumb to a sense that Romney’s somehow up to no good. If Romney proactively takes one line of criticism off the table, all that would remain is the discredited Bain/”felony” nonsense. That’s a much easier fight to contain, rebut and win.
I don’t find these particularly persuasive.
1) Honesty may be the best policy, but there is a difference between honesty and disclosure. You can, and should, be perfectly honest with what you disclose. But that does not mean you need to install a live webcam in your campaign headquarters or release every document about your life going back to your kindergarten report card.
2) People most certainly might care. As the existing Bain attacks show, Team Obama will twist any factoid Romney gives them into a new attack ad. I don’t know what is in Romney’s tax return, but if the professionals that run Romney’s campaign think Obama will distort something in them, I am inclined to believe them.
3) Team Obama will look vindicated if Romney caves. Even if there is absolutely nothing in Romney’s returns, a big if, Team Obama will claim a victory for transparency. Romney will look weak for caving.
4) Obama is impervious to others’ moral authority. He’ll laugh at Romney’s call for transparency the same as he laughed at Romney’s request for an apology.
5) The request for documents will always be endless. Romney’s dad gave 12 years of returns. If Mitt did that, then that would bring us right into the middle of his tenure at Bain. Does Guy really think the Obama campaign would let Romney stop there? No! They would want his returns from all of Romney’s time at Bain. And then before that. And then before that. They are even asking for the minutes of the board meetings at Bain. There is simply no satiating Team Obama’s appetite for more Romney documents.
The only way to shut Team Obama down on this issue is to say ‘no’ and stick to it.