Last year, when President Barack Obama held a press conference to announce that he had requested a copy of his birth certificate from the state of Hawaii to settle conspiracy theories that he was born to a virgin in the jungles of Kenya (or was it to an Islamic polygamist in the desert?), he explained that given the challenges the nation faces, now isn’t the time to be distracted by such utter silliness. As he put it, we’ll never manage to rise to these challenges “if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts. We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.”
Mitt Romney (pictured) has the same opportunity to do this now with Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), whom he may feel is his own “carnival barker.” The Senate majority leader has been making headlines, after revealing that an apparent investor of the company Mitt help found, Bain Capital, told him that the Republican presidential contender hadn’t paid any taxes in 10 years. Romney has denied this, and as expected, Republicans have hammered hard at the senator.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called Reid a “dirty liar,” and has pushed him to make public who allegedly told him about Romney’s tax history. Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, the head of the Republican Governors Association, slammed Reid over a “reckless and slanderous charge.”
Reid doesn’t really seem to give a damn, though.
He told reporters at his home on Monday that all of this “would end very quickly if [Romney] would just release his income tax returns just like everybody else that runs for president.”
Reid also added:
“No one should feel sorry for me. The issue that I raised has nothing to do with me,” he continued. “It has everything to do with the first presidential candidate in more than 30 years who refuses to show the American people his income tax returns.”
Reid has seemingly tagged House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to further push the message. Speaking with the Huffington Post, Pelosi said plainly:
Harry Reid made a statement that is true. Somebody told him. It is a fact. Whether he did or not can easily be disposed of: Mitt Romney can release his tax returns and show whether he paid taxes.
Yes, it’s a cynical plow to get Romney to share more than a single year of tax returns…and it’s pretty genius. Birthers were successful in getting a sitting president to share something that would prove what any moron who can hold his tongue in his mouth for more than six seconds knew as a given anyway.
The birth certificate never settled their complaints — see Donald Trump, who only tweeted on Tuesday that an “extremely credible source” told him that Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud. That is obviously a poke at Reid. I’m even more sure that “extremely credible source” was a voice inside his politically dense head.
Nevertheless, people like Trump and other GOP leaders have used the “birther” issue to their political advantage, so it’s ironic to see them whine so much about the Democrats finally returning the favor. And more importantly, at least the Democrats have a more relevant issue to work with. Do I believe Mitt Romney hasn’t paid his taxes in 10 years? No, but neither does Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi.
What we all pretty much suspect, though, is that Mitt Romney has used every trick in the book to pay as little as possible. Even if the reality that rich people use tax havens to forgo paying their fair share ultimately hurts some other well-to-do Democrats, it surely would help President Obama’s bid for reelection in the interim. That’s what is most important, and thankfully, Reid keeps hitting at Romney over his tax returns.
In this situation, Romney is damned if he do, damned if he don’t, but the latter option is far more harmful to his desire to be president. He shouldn’t even be mad at Reid about it. As Rachel Maddow recently highlighted, it was Mitt Romney who scolded the late-Senator Ted Kennedy for not releasing his tax returns. And like his fellow Republican brethren, they all have a knack for being self-righteous when it suits their own self-interests.
This is political karma, Mittens. Pay up already.