Yesterday, former McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt rebutted the insinuation that Mitt Romney's tax returns cost him the vice presidential selection by saying that it was Romney's wealth, not his tax returns, that cost him the job. But while Schmidt was clearly trying to suggest that Romney's returns are clean, by the end of the day, he acknowledged that he'd never actually seen them.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: So, Steve, we have to go straight to you -- 23 years of tax returns handed over in the vetting of a possible vice presidential candidacy for Mitt Romney. Did you see those tax returns or who at the campaign did see those tax returns?I'm inclined to believe Schmidt when he says McCain's campaign didn't see Romney's tax returns as a problem—but that says more about McCain and his vetting operation than it does about Romney's returns. Remember, this is the vetting team that picked Sarah Palin. If they couldn't figure out that Palin was the disaster she turned out to be, isn't it a bit unreasonable to expect them to have figured out the byzantine maze that Mitt Romney's 10,000+ pages of tax returns surely presented?
STEVE SCHMIDT: No, I never saw the tax returns, Lawrence. They would have been seen by A.B. Culvahouse and Rick Davis who ran the vetting operation for Senator McCain in that campaign.
But certainly, there was nothing, as we talked about Mitt Romney, seriously, as a vice presidential candidate, as a team. We never talked about -- there was no indication that there were any problems with the taxes. But I don't know the specifics of them.
So given how incompetent they were at judging Palin, I just don't think it's likely they took the time to really understand Mitt Romney's tax returns. But whether they did or they didn't isn't really all that important a question. The important question is why won't Romney release his returns before 2010? What's in there that he doesn't want people to see?