Bob Shrum on Romney Hood’s Tax Returns

A seasoned political strategist, Bob Shrum weighs-in on Romney Hood’s refusal to release his tax returns, and it’s simply devastating:

Either his closest confidants have convened around a table and concluded that there’s political disaster in those returns, or the candidate already knows this all too well and won’t show them to any of his handlers lest the information leak. Logic and my own experience in presidential politics persuade me that the only reason to withhold something like this is if its release could put a near end to the campaign.

I don’t want a prevaricator as President of the United States, do you?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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25 Responses to Bob Shrum on Romney Hood’s Tax Returns

  1. andrewclunn says:

    Condemn him for his silence! LOLOLOLOL, it’s Romney Hood! Get it?

    Where’s the “unsubscribe until the election is over” button?

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Why do you think his silence is funny? He’s silent on his relationship to Mormonism; he’s silent on his taxes; he’s silent on his relationship to his company in the early 2000s; he’s silent on his overseas bank accounts; he’s silent as to his life during the Vietnam War; he’s silent as to whether he supports the sexism of his church; he’s silent as to his rationale for changing so many key political positions over his lifetime; he’s silent as to what he would actually do as president (other than tick-off ‘buy presidency’ from his life ‘to do’ list).

      If he wins, he’ll enter office as a complete unknown. Nobody, perhaps not even his wife, knows who this man is or what animates him. He’s the Republican John Edwards. There’s nothing funny about this. Romney is grotesquely corrupting the very meaning of having a democratic election. Most of his Republican primary opponents left the race hating him for his nihilism, his evasions, and his willingness to say anything.

      Romney’s success is evidence of the Republican family’s disfunction. There is a huge elephant in the room of this election and it needs to be talked about: Romney’s secrecy; his concealing of who he is from the electorate. He appears to have conned the higher-ups in his own party. They would have never supported him if it was revealed in the primaries that Romney had disqualifying issues with his taxes.

      –Santi

      • andrewclunn says:

        OMG, do you hear yourself? I’m not voting for Romney, but you are reaching bat-shit crazy levels of paranoia.

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        I’m open to hearing why you say that. I’m certainly capable of becoming emotional about politics at the height of an election, and it could be distorting my perception. But at least give me a reason or two that you say this (as opposed to just laughing at my concerns).

        –Santi

      • andrewclunn says:

        You are acting as though secretive or dishonest politicians were not the norm. An unknown? He was governor of Massachusetts! You make it sound like he was just a senator for 2 years in a state known for political corruption and back room deals, pushed forward on a vague notion of change or something. You have a fear mongering narrative stuck in your head and are seeking to justify it. Take it from a fellow non-Romney supporter. You’re off you rocker on this one. There are plenty of reasons not to vote for Romney, but you’re manchurian candidate scenario is way off.

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        Your critique makes sense, but, even by the low standards of politics, Romney is a power-liar on steroids. There seems to be no “off” button on his mendaciousness.

        It’s easy to simply say that “the real Mitt Romney” is the moderate Republican of Massachusetts. That guy I could readily vote for. And if he wins, I certainly hope he reverts to that and that fears about him prove ill placed. If he wins, I want him to be successful, ethical, and inspiring–even spectacularly so. But something weird happened to Mitt Romney after his governorship. He effortlessly morphed into a different person. And I’m sorry, but that’s creepy. It needs attention BEFORE the election. He needs to demonstrate forthcomingness, vulnerable human moments, and evidence of real conviction about some things. I don’t think it’s hysterical to say so. And if he’s done anything wrong, such as with his taxes, he needs to own it and let people vote in the light of that. And he needs to do these things to an equal degree with his previous concealments.

        The problem is this: I don’t know how we get any of this from Romney with just three months left before the election. The bubble is obviously sealing tighter around him. It will take a lot to coax him out of it.

        If he picks Paul Ryan as VP at least we’ll see him making an existential decision about the direction he wants the country to take. It will be something on which a reasonable person can cast a vote for or against him.

        –Santi

  2. concerned christian says:

    Santi, I know that you support Obama, that is why I stayed away from these discussions because in this issue you are a fanatic believer not an agnostic seeker of the truth, and I believe you have made up your mind already. But I am waiting for Romney to turn all these illogical arguments such as “if you don’t release your tax returns you are hiding something,” and simple say I will release my tax return when Obama allows his college records to be unsealed, and if Obama does not do that he is hiding something. If you are young and don’t see any problem in smoking pots, maybe you don’t see any problem in claiming that you are a foreign student to get a special treatment. I know a senate candidate who may have got a professorship at Harvard by claiming that she is a native American.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Concerned,

      There is a recent book out by a psychologist called, “The Righteous Mind,” and I have just this past week started reading it. So far, it’s pretty good. It discusses how human beings have not just a moral impulse, but a moralistic impulse, and that this moralistic impulse tends to function in a post hoc manner (that is, it makes up and vigorously defends rationalizations for its commitments AFTER it has made them). In this sense, the book is not just about human self-righteousness, but critical thinking and how it breaks down in the presence of emotion-based commitments.

      Over the summer, for example, I took up a vegan diet. I was vegetarian for about ten years, then when I married my British wife (who is a crazed lover of meat) and started having kids, I began eating meat again. Fussy diets simply don’t work well around a British wife and babies. But now that my wife also wants to cut back on meat eating and my kids are bigger, I’ve been pretty much back to eating vegetarian the past year and trying outright veganism over the summer. A friend, who I tried to persuade to join me in trying veganism, said “You’re such a pious asshole about this!” I’m sure he’s right about that, though I’ve been utterly unconscious of it. I think the whole Chick-fil-A thing set me off for the same reason.

      That’s a long way to say that, yes, I give Obama a pass on his health and college records even as I focus like a laser beam on Romney’s evasions. Of course, conservatives do the same in reverse. That, I suppose, is the righteous mind. As I read the book, I’ll be curious how the writer suggests how one modifies these behaviors in oneself.

      My own Obama love, I think, comes from a straightforward emotion: when I was a little kid, I was always protective of kids who were teased on the playground. Cruelty has long set me off. The misfits who wouldn’t get picked for basketball, I would pick them first. The kids of different races or religions, I would gravitate to them (three of my closest friends in high school were a Bahai, a Jew, and a black guy).

      So, for me, Obama’s presidency is a triumph of human justice, which pushes all my emotional buttons. I can’t imagine how anyone with a conscience could wish him ill or be repulsed by him (as so many conservatives do and are). One of the things that makes me suspicious of Romney is his effortless ability to stomach a run to unseat the country’s first African American president. White males have had the presidency for all of America’s history. Obama hasn’t done poorly and the country can surely enjoy another four years of him without the least harm. But conservatives like Romney want him GONE as if he were a plague on their psyches. I don’t get it. I think that Jeb Bush didn’t run against Obama because I sense that he shares the same emotional impulse: he couldn’t stomach a run against our good and decent first African American president.

      –Santi

      • andrewclunn says:

        ANd this is why we’re not going to get passed identity politics with GenX in charge either. Even their non-bigots are racist. Even thier “open mineded” justify their biases with adherence to some false dichotomy where, “The other side does it too!” Change (real change) will come one funeral at a tiem and no faster.

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        Andrew,

        The “Righteous Mind” author seems to argue that the moralizing mind is an evolved human trait, not just a cultural contingency. It’s unlikely that future generations will just break the spell when the oldsters die off.

        If I wanted to focus on Obama’s “dark side” (his failure to go after the corrupt bankers on first taking office; his marijuana crackdowns), I could certainly get myself in a lather and decide, on these two issues alone, to not vote in November. And that raises a question: where does one lay emphasis and attention, and why?

        We have narrative minds, and how we tell the stories of who we are and who others are largely governs what we see. But this is different, I think, from critical thinking as such, and yet narrative is inescapable. We can think quite critically, but critical thinking can’t seem to tell us what is the objectively proper thing to focus our critical attention on.

        Once we become convinced by our narrative and that our emphasis is proper (righteous), then our critical laser can really deconstruct things. It’s Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure.” When do we apply rigorous justice and when mercy?

        –Santi

      • andrewclunn says:

        Have you officially entered, “I’m just askign questions” mode? When you start using pejoratives for one politician’s name, you’ve gone beyond justifying the narrative to yourself, but you know this. Time to backtrack without admitting error by falling back on post modern deconstructions of any sense of objective truth, right?

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        Yes, I agree. You’ve got me there. But the questions are still important.

      • andrewclunn says:

        Alright then, here’s a question. Since you are admittedly of the left and do not live in a battleground state, what is your reason for not supporting Jill Stein?

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        Okay, I looked at the Wikipedia page on Stein. She sounds okay to me–a green activist raising general environmental awareness and acting up. Good for her. I’m not in favor of her Keynesian “Green New Deal,” though I might be if she financed it solely in exchange for 30% cuts in the military (which is part of her proposal, but not all of it). I think the military budget for the US is grossly inflated. We don’t need to spend as much as we do each year on the military. And I think we need to balance the budget (get tax revenues in line with what the government spends, which I would cap at 20% of GDP).

        –Santi

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Yikes. You’ve got me on Jill Stein. I’ve never heard of her. Is she a Californian?

      Also, I admit to be very, very, very far on the left, culture-wise, but I do not admit to being on the left concerning economic issues. In terms of economics, I lean libertarian (though I’m not a libertarian). I think that Milton Friedman basically makes a better argument than Keynes, I fervently believe that free trade and global urbanism is the hope of humanity over the long-term, and I want to see the U.S. federal government find some way to bring its spending to 20% of GDP and to take in revenues of 20% to pay for it.

      I do think the government has a greater role in regulation than libertarians would grant: I want sensible environmental laws and bank regulation.

      As for Stein, I’m taking my kids swimming, but later in the day I’ll find out about her and give an impression. Is she the Green Party presidential candidate who beat Rosanne Barr recently? I really didn’t pay attention to that dust-up.

      If she is, my relationship to the Green Party is an evolving one. When I was in college, I would have called myself a Green and went to a Green conference at the University of Amherst when the Green Party first got started in the U.S. I share Green concerns, but not most of their solutions. I think, for example, that eating strictly locally produced foods and organic is economically and environmentally naive. Urbanism and international trade will sustain the planet and 7-9 billion human beings better than ruralism and isolation. But Greens raise important questions and culturally are my kind of people. I like hippies.

      –Santi

  3. Or maybe Romney is just stubborn, thinks his money is his business, and isn’t listening to his advisers. The old political adage “If you’re explaining, you’re losing” applies here and I don’t know why Romney wants to let the Democrats spread rumors about his taxes, create a bunch of distracting noise, and force him off message. If Mitt can’t handle the dark arts of Harry Reid, what’s he going to do when he has to manage a real master … like Putin?

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Peter,

      Good points, but notice the guessing game you’re in. Like everything else with Romney, you have to guess what his motives are because he is never forthcoming. With regard to taxes, his problems are obviously multiple: he probably claimed losses after 2008 in excess of his tax bill and so paid no taxes at all; he has foreign bank accounts that raise questions; he has somehow figured out how to put millions of dollars into his IRA by low-ball assessing of his assets (you can only put a max of 30,000 dollars a year in an IRA). He did the same with his kids’ trust fund, thereby avoiding gift taxes. These are the basic outlines of the things that he’s likely hiding.

      When Romney says, “I pay taxes every year,” it’s likely a con. If you buy something, you pay sales tax. The thing he needs to say is, “I have paid federal taxes every year.” He probably can’t say that, and so this too would account for his dodging about. Reid is trying to smoke Romney out on this.

      –Santi

      • That could all be true. I’m partially influenced by my personal “No one would be so stupid as to …” syndrome, which is when I used to say (for example) “No politician would be so stupid as to hide his tax returns when he has nothing to hide” only to discover, indeed, there is a politician who is stupid enough to do such a thing, and pretty much any other stupid thing you can think of. Well, this might be fun to watch. In contrast to the rest of the campaign.

  4. concerned christian says:

    I am looking forward to a heated discussion about Obama and Romney until November at least, and I believe that the best approach to debating such a subject is the Socratic model. You let one side states what he believe is right and then you start working your way into his/her argument taking it apart one piece at a time.
    We all know what happened to Socrates in retaliation for his wise guy approach, but the mostly unanimous postings on the web allows us the freedom to say what we want without any need to drink hemlock.
    So let the discussion continue.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Concerned,

      The problem is that the Socratic discussion, because of Romney’s opaque and ever shifting persona and political positions, invariably comes back to “Who is this guy?”

      When Romney picks his VP, this might get a bit better, especially if he picks a serious person like Ryan. It means that he is taking a stand and saying, “If elected President, I’ll take the country in direction x.” Then people can vote and say yes or no.

      I’d like to see him cut sharply into moderate positions and pick a pro-life moderate woman as VP (like Rice). That too would show him to be choosing and giving voters something to say yes or no to.

      I suspect, however, that Romney will either throw light-weight red meat to his base for VP or he’ll pick someone as opaque politically as he is (such as General Patreaus).

      But the contours of a Romney presidency are clearly emerging: shifting, slipperiness, secrecy, evasion, paternalism toward women, no core values, serving the interests of those with money over the country as a whole.

      When he makes his VP choice, it will also say some new things about him (as he actually has to make a decision).

      On the plus side, Romney is very smart (he went to Harvard, as you’ll recall). And in my more hopeful moments, I’m hoping that if he wins he reverts to the Massachusetts moderate that he seems to have been as Governor. But who knows?

      –Santi

  5. concerned christian says:

    Maybe Romney’s positions are not well defined yet, but his background is much better than Obama’s. To avoid insulting Obama’s supporters I will state only Romney’s background and let you figure out what would you say about Obama on the same issue.
    Family: well established in American politics, his father was a Governor and a cabinet member , his mother tried to get into politics at least once.
    Business experience: Like or not, he worked his way up in the real world and made a fortune
    Leadership: Guided the 2002 Winter Olympics and turned it around
    Governor of the liberal state of Massachusetts
    Religion: Served as a Bishop in the Mormon Church

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Concerned:

      You’re comparing Obama of four years ago with Romney now. Obama has one thing on his resume that Romney can’t equal: he’s been president for four years. It’s a difficult job and Obama has clearly shown himself to be up to the task. Romney, like anyone coming into that job, would be adjusting and learning for at least a year. Romney, like Obama, is no doubt a quick study, and would be competent at the task.

      Conservatives felt Obama was an unknown quantity four years ago (as liberals feel about Romney today). But Obama now has a record, so it’s hard to say he’s opaque. Romney, because of his flip-flopping, secrecy (both with regard to religion and politics), and evasions, continues to be opaque. If Romney wins and has four years to make decisions, he’ll cease to be opaque. Should he win, I hope to be pleasantly surprised.

      –Santi

  6. Anonymous says:

    Why not Gary johnson?

  7. David Yates says:

    Any thinking, fair-minded person knows the reason Mitt Romney why is so reluctant to release any more of his tax information than he already has (and all his 2010 return indicates is that he makes a lot of money, pays a lot in taxes, and gives a lot to charity — so obviously that’s insufficient to the left). Simply put, it’s because it doesn’t matter what’s there, the ideological left are going to find things to carp about.

    It doesn’t matter how much Romney paid in taxes, it won’t be enough — it won’t be “his fair share” (whatever the heck that is). And it doesn’t matter how much he gave away, it won’t be enough and/or won’t have been to the “proper” charities or “right” organizations. And given how Byzantine and complex the current American tax code is, and that generally the more one earns the more complex the return, a Romney-opponent can say pretty much anything inculpatory, base it on their “analysis” of Romney’s returns, and Romney and his people, having little choice but to appeal to mind-numbingingly boring, difficult, and arcane tax language, then have to spend the rest of the campaign on the defense, explaining how his listing this “expense” or utilizing that “deferral” was in actuality perfectly legitimate. And they may even do an excellent job of it. But none of it will matter one iota, because people don’t like having to think about their own taxes any more than they have to, much less anybody else’s, and so, in the end, just having been accused will be enough to do him in. Because most people aren’t going to pay much attention to the far more tedious explanation than they would to the far easier to comprehend accusation (“He’s a rich capitalist who somehow cheated on his taxes!”) — which would be repeated ad nauseum by the left-leaning, Democrat-compliant, Obama-loving mainstream media — when it came time to pulling the lever or marking the ‘x’ beside either name on election day, even if vague and ultimately inaccurate, the underlying meme within a lot of people’s heads would be that Romney is somehow not to be trusted. The bottom line is, Romney releasing any more of his tax returns is a lose-lose, no-win scenario for him.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      David,

      Why are you dissing the autonomy of the voter? Some voters will conclude that Romney paid enough and some will not. Some will give it weight and some will not. And of course there will be spin from both sides and the voter will have to weigh that as well.

      Voters are like jurors and democracy depends on candidates making a good faith effort to be reasonably forthcoming. Romney has broken this social contract. He has flip-flopped in ways that make it difficult to detect his true values; he does not speak to things of importance (either to his religion, his policies, his offshore bank accounts); he has a “tick” of habitual buck-passing whenever he is asked about his role and responsibility in matters (as with Bain and his Mormonism); he feigns a poor memory at key moments (as with his hazing of a gay student in prep school); he shows cruely, cynicism, and contempt for key constituencies over whom he would be President (gays, blacks, and women, most obviously).

      A good reason to release his taxes is this: if he released them, he would have to defend the existing tax law and explain why he low-balled his assets so dramatically and kept others in offshore accounts. In other words, all of the lobbying by rich interests to skew the tax code would come to the fore, and he would have to take a definite position, promising either to reform the tax laws he took advantage of or to keep them because he thinks they’re just. In either event, voters would have a basis of decision.

      But he won’t release his taxes, and so the voter then has to weigh Romney’s habits of evasiveness–rather than his tax behavior–in making their decision as to how to vote in November. If you hate Obama, maybe nothing else matters. If you don’t, then you have to decide if you want to give the most powerful political office in the world to a man who has a long history of shameless lying.

      –Santi

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