Despite what Jon Stewart and “The Daily Show” said about it, I find myself actually impressed with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). This is a guy who just last week won the Bottom of the Barrel Award for blaming the Senate’s already full schedule for not being able to discuss gun control in the wake of the Aurora shooting. But now, he’s managed to redeem himself with his massive brass balls.
I’ve certainly found points of contention with aspects of their commentary in the past, but usually I find myself agreeing with Stewart and his writers because they are even-handed and fair in their critique of both the Left and the Right, as well as their respective media mouthpieces. In this case though, I think what Reid is doing is politically savvy and actually quite commendable and rare these days. He’s actually going out on a limb, taking a risk as a legislator and politician, and he’s declaring in public what he feels to be the case about Mitt Romney’s income taxes. He’s doubling and tripling down on the assertion that the reason Team Money doesn’t want to release his tax returns is because they will show that he didn’t pay any income taxes for a ten year period, thanks to the tax code back-flips and loopholes he had at his disposal.
Stewart called it a “Bullshit shot” for Reid to make his claims, and to invoke Romney’s late father in the process, saying that George Romney would have been “embarrassed” by his son’s lack of transparency. Reid himself says he is not totally sure of his claims, and that’s what Stewart really takes umbrage with, not the accusation, but its voracity or lack thereof. On this point, Stewart is correct, that Reid should be speaking from a place of fact and not supposition. But Senator Reid has made it clear that his sources, while he’s unwilling to divulge them, or reliable, and they must be. He’s sort of staking his reputation as a Senator on them.
Then again, given how shitty this Congress is, is that really saying much?
No, it really is saying quite a lot, and ultimately I think it’s a wise move, though one that will not be officially sanctioned by the Obama campaign. It’s an instance of a politician “going rogue” but in a very calculated way. Many in Mitt’s own party are calling on him to release more tax returns, and his recent Bungle-A-Thon of a European trip didn’t do anything to kill the story about his stubborn refusal to release more years’ tax returns. Now, Reid is turning up the heat by publicly calling Romney out. Reid knows that if it’s indeed true that Romney managed to cajole the system into allowing him to live income tax free for a decade, the American people will have a hard time buying that he’s just an Average Joe American who made it big and now wants to help us all make it big too.
The bottom line here is actually really, really simple, and I’m sure Stewart knows it. There is a very simple way for Mitt to make this tax return story vaporize: RELEASE MORE TAX RETURNS. The longer he waits, the more speculation he allows to swirl around why he’s not releasing them, the more credibility Reid’s assertions get. George Will, the voice of Conservative gentility and intellect even said that there must be a reason that Mitt’s not releasing them, and so therefore all that’s left is speculation, and Senator Reid is not the only one doing the speculating.
Clearly this is an issue the Democrats feel is worth pursuing. Yes, it’s a personal attack. Yes it’s harshly critical, but Romney’s not applying to be the head cook at Denny’s. He’s asking the American people to put him in charge of the Big Red Button. He’s asking America to allow him to run the entire fucking country for four years. Expecting someone to be more forthcoming, especially when it’s abundantly clear there’s a big reason for being so secretive is a curious strategy, and Reid’s accusations exemplify why it’s dangerous for Romney to continue to harrumph is way through the tax return issue.
Just yesterday, after Mitt Romney told Reid to “put up or shut up” on Hannity’s radio program, Reid released a statement in which he tripled-down on the accusations that Romney hasn’t paid taxes in ten years. Senator Reid either has evidence that he really feels is credible, or he is one crazy man. At this point it doesn’t matter because he’s clearly decided to make this his fight, and he’s masterfully doing so. With every statement, and every assertion that he claims is based on very reliable information, the corner into which Team We Love Money is painting themselves into gets a little tighter.
There is certainly risk in Reid’s decision to press this issue. He’s making an allegation based on the word of people who he trusts, but that’s still just hearsay. Obviously, if the truth comes out and Reid is wrong, the impact will be devastating to his career as a politician. But there’s one massive problem with that hypothesis: Mitt has to release more tax returns to prove Harry wrong.
Don’t start holding your breath, America.