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Loose translation of Mitt Romney's message to Republicans calling for him to release his tax returns: "Guys, trust me, if I release my returns it'll be even worse than it already is."

Mitt Romney on Pittsburgh's WPXI TV (July 17, 2012)
Oh, I think people in my party just say, "Look, this is a non-issue. Just release the returns and it will go away." My experience is that the Democratic Party these days has approached taxes in a very different way than in the past. Their opposition people look for anything they can find to distort, to twist, and to try and make negative.
So:
  1. Mitt Romney thinks that releasing his tax returns would be a bigger political problem than stonewalling.
  2. According to Mitt Romney, it's the Democratic Party's fault that releasing his tax returns would be a political liability.
  3. And, finally, Mitt Romney believes the important thing here is that he do whatever helps him politically—not that he do whatever the right thing is.

The absurdity of Romney's position is pretty obvious.

First, if releasing his returns would be a bigger problem than not releasing them, that doesn't say anything about the nature of the Democratic Party—it says something about what's in his returns. Democrats are going to attack Romney no matter what—that's just politics. But releasing his returns will only be a problem if there's something problematic in his returns.

Second, even if Romney's argument were right, it is a terrible one for him to make. It's one thing for a campaign staff to be so blatant about political calculations, but it really doesn't look good for a presidential candidate to make it himself. Romney is basically saying that he's putting his political best interests ahead of doing what's right. He might as well say he's running for office, for Pete's sake.

The only plausible scenario that I can imagine where Romney isn't spiraling out of control on this is that he's planning on releasing his returns soon, and his whining about Democratic opposition researchers is merely an attempt to condition his base to ignore whatever comes out from the documents. Perhaps he's calculating that a document dump followed a day or two later by a bold vice presidential pick could get him off the hook. If so, maybe he's right. But there's really no evidence that he's planning such a move. The one thing that is clear, though, is that the current situation isn't tenable. Something is going to have to give.

7:12 AM PT: This might be a bit of evidence that he's planning on releasing something new:

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said he heard from a Romney campaign source recently that the presumptive GOP nominee would release more information in the coming days.

“I stand behind him regardless of  what he decides to do on that,” said Lee.

That's pretty vague, and if he just releases an additional year or two, it won't settle anything. President Obama has released 12 years of his returns. Romney's father did the same. Now it's Mitt's turn.

Originally posted to The Jed Report on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 06:59 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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