Between Gaffes and Taxes, Mitt Romney Continues To Show He Would Make A Poor General Election Candidate

Mitt Romney did better in his last two debates against Newt Gingrich thanks to a new debate coach, but he still shows the propensity to make gaffes. Today a poorly worded statement places him at greater risk of being seen as not caring about the poor. Read this and think of the first sentence becoming the sound bite which most will remember:

“I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs a repair , I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich…. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”

The real dishonesty in this statement is not taking the first sentence out of context but the claim that Romney is concerned about the middle class. His policies actually help the wealthy, not those in the middle.

This is reminiscent of Romney’s recent statement that he likes to fire people. He was actually talking about insurance companies here, but the line still comes off as callous to those of us who own businesses and find firing people to be a very unpleasant experience. I would assume it is even more unpleasant for those on the other side of the desk.

Despite winning soundly in Florida, Romney continues to have the same negatives going into a general election campaign which I discussed following his loss in South Carolina:

The attacks on his years at Bain Capital and his mishandling of the calls to release his income tax returns cast serious doubts as to whether Romney is competitive in a national election. His offers to release a single return from 2010 only raises further questions as to what he has to hide. His tax shelters in the Cayman Islands and speculation that many years he paid far closer to zero percent than the fifteen percent he claims, make him a weak candidate in a year in which many voters from both parties are fed up with Wall Street. It also doesn’t make it easy for Romney to run against Obama after his repeated admissions that the economy is getting better under Obama, even if he tries to deny Obama the credit.

The blogger at U.S. Common Sense just got to discussion of the South Carolina primary today–something I can understand with the difficulties of balancing blogging and work in the real world. What is less understandable is the conservative propensity for creating false equivalencies in his comments on my post:

There was a lot in this short article that I could choose from, but this one covered a sore issue of mine. The author states “[his offer] to release a single return from 2010 only raises further questions as to what he has to hide.” No it doesn’t. For starters, there is no requirement for candidates running in the general election (let alone the primaries) to release their financial records. It has come a common practice over the past few decades, but it isn’t a requirement. And choosing not to release them cannot be taken as an attempt to hide anything. (This is the same logic used by the Obama campaign for choosing not to release the birth certificate and college transcripts early on in the 2008 campaign.)

First of all, saying that no questions are raised due to Romney’s failure to release his tax returns because there is no requirement makes absolutely no sense. The questions are already out there. There is no legal requirement to release the tax returns, but Mitt does look bad in comparison to his father (who had more integrity in his pinky finger than Mitt has in his entire body). George Romney set a much higher bar than his son:

In 1967, Michigan Gov. George Romney set the bar high for tax disclosure by presidential candidates. While running for the Republican nomination, he was “badgered” by a writer for Look magazine to release his most recent tax return.

Romney refused. Releasing a single return wouldn’t prove anything, he told the magazine’s senior editor, T. George Harris. It could be a fluke, or even a cynical manipulation designed to make the candidate look good. What really mattered was how a candidate managed his personal finances over the long haul.

“Stumped by his argument,” Harris wrote in the magazine, “I was not prepared for the move that it eventually led him to make: He ordered up all the Form 1040’s that he and Mrs. Romney had filed over the past 12 years — including those profitable ones when he saved the American Motors Corp. from bankruptcy and became a millionaire on the company’s stock options.”

The false equivalency to Obama’s birth certificate is also ridiculous. First of all, Obama did release his birth certificate. The Birther creation of a demand for the long form was an unjustifiable means of obscuring the truth, which was proven when the long form showed what any reasonable person knew all along–it was no different from the conventional form initially released by the campaign. It was the demands placed upon Obama, not Obama’s actions, which were unprecedented. In contrast, it is unprecedented in recent years for a candidate in Romney’s position not to release more financial information.

There was nothing on Obama’s birth certificate, and nothing which would be found in college transcripts, which would indicate a conflict of interests as might be found on tax returns. The claims about Obama not being born in the United States lacked any credibility. On the other hand, there remains very real reason to question what might be found in Romney’s tax returns. His propensity for tax evasion, already demonstrated in the tax return released, might not be illegal, but it is potentially damaging in a political campaign. There is very real reason to believe that the speculation that in previous years the rate he paid was closer to  zero might be real. There is reason to suspect that possibly criminal tax evasion and evidence of conflicts of interest might be present in his tax returns. Unless Romney comes closer to the standard set by his own father, these questions will continue.  Bill Maher summed up how the average person will view this:

Yes, Mitt finally released his tax returns for one year. It turns out he keeps a lot of his money in the Cayman Islands, in Bermuda, Luxemburg, a Swiss bank account. And he said he’s not trying to evade paying taxes by keeping his money in these places. That’s like saying I got caught with meth and crack, but it wasn’t because I was trying to get high.



  1. 1
    John Sonntag says:

    RT @ronchusid: Between Gaffes and Taxes, Mitt Romney Continues To Show He Would Make A Poor General Election Candidate

  2. 2
    U.S. Common Sense says:

    Thanks for the link and referencing my article.
    In regards to the quoted section above, my decision to mention the quest for Obama’s birth certificate and college transcripts with Romney’s taxes is to highlight the similar “witch-hunt” (for the lack of a better term) into a candidates’ history.  The items sought were not required documents to be submitted in order to run for office, and the reason why the opposition were/are not satisfied with what has been released is because they believe there has to be more that would disqualify (Obama not being born in the US) or diminish (Romney guilty of tax evasion) the candidate in the election.  As you noted, “[the] Birther creation of a demand for the long form was an unjustifiable means of obscuring the truth.”  The same argument can be made on behalf of Romney. 

    You are correct in that there is nothing illegal about the net rate paid by Romney on his taxes.  He’s in a position where he can take full advantage of the US tax code (capital gains being taxed at a lower rate than income, have funds/investments off-shore, etc).  And assuming the IRS has been doing their job, his historical tax returns would have already passed audit checks and/or are currently under review.   (Looking online, I don’t see anything saying where he is currently being audited.)  Now, should he better explain why he does have funds/investments off-shore?  Sure.  It would probably be politically beneficial to those who are uncertain about him, though I doubt it would satisfy those who are already against him.  That will be something his campaign will have to address.  Of course, the obvious question is, knowing in 2008 that he would probably run again in 2012, why didn’t he close those accounts four years ago to avoid any impression of impropriety?
    Lastly, as far as your comment about conflicts of interest, you do have a point (not addressed in my quick note in my article).  Any candidate – from the Romney’s and Kerry’s down to the Obama’s and Dole’s – are going to be exposed to a certain conflict of interest upon entering office if they have investments.  When elected, the President is required under the Ethics in Government Act to disclose their financial holdings (which becomes a part of the public record).  This way, financial conflicts of interest are identified.  Also, the Act also authorizes independent counsel to investigate politicians, so if a President has off-shore accounts, they can be examined.
    Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this topic.  Hope this clarifies any confusion from the quoted section above (it about exhausts my knowledge on the topic).  Keep up the good work!

  3. 3
    Larry Adams says:

    » Between Gaffes and Taxes, Mitt Romney Continues To Show He Would Make A Poor General Election Cand

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    The demand for Obama’s birth certificate was a witch hunt–especially as most of the demands for it came after it was actually released. The questions about Romney’s tax return are legitimate and are not a witch hunt.

    Whether the tax returns are legally required is totally irrelevant. Romney cannot be compelled to release his tax returns, but his failure to honor modern ethical standards would be a negative during the campaign.

    Only a tiny percentage of tax returns are audited. Seeing the manner in which Romney is evading taxes, it is a legitimate question as to whether he is not releasing older returns to prevent illegal actions from being revealed. It is also a legitimate question as to whether he has managed to legally pay even a far lower rate than he admits to.

    Monitoring of conflicts of interest after elected can be too late. Many voters will want information on this before the election.


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