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I Do Not Think That Phrase Means What You Think It Means: Romney Tax Edition

August 3, 2012

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had been getting pummeled reasonably hard for his recent, undocumented assertion that an anonymous Bain Capital investor told him that Mitt Romney “didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years”.

So who’s the political genius who decided the Romney campaign’s response would come from the candidate himself, and the response would be in the form of Mitt Romney going on Sean Hannity’s radio show challenging Reid to “put up or shut up”?

This seems wrong in so many ways:

  1. Reid was already getting hammered by the media for his statement.
  2. Challenging Reid is a job for surrogates—Eric Fehrnstrom, Tim Pawlenty, Rob Portman—not the candidate.
  3. Going on Sean Hannity’s radio show to attack Reid makes Romney look weak.  Go on “Meet The Press”, or “The Rachel Maddow Show”, or the CBS Evening News if you want to look bold.
  4. Challenging Reid ensures the daily news coverage is about Romney’s tax returns, not about Obama’s economy.

But the biggest mistake was Romney’s “put up or shut up” line.  That’s a line to use when an opponent has been repeatedly ducking an issue for weeks or months.  Like, say, Mitt Romney releasing his tax returns.

Not surprisingly, Reid—an amateur boxer in his youth—relished the opportunity to respond to Romney.   In a call to Nevada reporters Reid said, “I don’t think the burden should be on me.  The burden should be on him. He’s the one I’ve alleged has not paid any taxes. Why didn’t he release his tax returns?”.

Reid’s not the one running for president.  Reid’s not the one whose 2010 tax return revealed he paid income taxes at a low rate of 13.9%…and revealed his use of offshore accounts in tax havens like Bermuda, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.  Reid’s not the one who’s been running for president for 7 1/2 years and has had all that time to “clean up” his personal finances.  Reid’s not the one who has the documents that can lay this whole story to rest.

Put up or shut up.”  I do not think that phrase means what you think it means, Gov. Romney.

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