Romney’s answer won’t satisfy everyone. (More on that below.) But, in asserting that for the last decade he has never paid less than a 13 percent tax rate, Romney is calling Democrats’ bluff and forcing them now to call him a liar if they argue that he paid any less. In short: The burden of proof has now shifted from Romney to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democratic party more broadly.I'm not sure how Mitt Romney pulling a number out of his (censored) and saying that settles the argument counts as "calling the Democrat's bluff." I'm also intrigued by the notion that by claiming he paid, golly gee, at least the pitifully low figure of 13 percent as taxes somehow now makes Mitt Romney look like the good guy. Thirteen percent counting what? For how many years? On how many millions of dollars, and how can the rest of us get in on such a sweet, sweet tax rate?
Narrowly, however, I'm intrigued by this whole burden of proof argument. Mitt Romney has, I might gently point out, not "proved" a damn thing. He has asserted something, without evidence. He has asserted it without evidence because he is explicitly withholding the evidence, and the evidence being withheld—tax returns—is something that other politicians are regularly expected to provide. Even Mitt's own father recognized the inherent dishonesty of not doing such a thing, so I really don't think the Democrats are in a real bind if they think that Mitt Romney asserting something without evidence is not, in fact, the automatic end of the story. I know of no literary mystery that ends with the suspect saying "I did not do that," upon which all the policemen and detectives go on their merry way, considering the case closed. I realize that this is an argument about a rich person's money, and as the MF Global Goldman Sachs and countless other cases have demonstrated in the last few years, the entire planet is supposed to bend down on one knee when a rich person makes an assertion about the provenance of their money or what might they might have accidentally done with yours, but still. Really?
Mitt Romney has so much money in his retirement account alone that outside observers struggle to come up with any way someone could even do such a thing without extraordinary luck or considerably more ordinary dishonesty. Here's a guy with bank accounts in all the usual places used by wealthy people to hide their money where Uncle Sam won't know about it or can't do anything about it. We've already caught him lying through his teeth, repeatedly, about when he supposedly even "left" the company that made him so very wealthy. Being so Broderesque as to say "well, but he says everything else is on the up and up, so I guess now his opponents are the bad guys if they question him" is too "balanced" by half.
For the record, yes, a great many people have been calling Mitt Romney a liar for some time now. I don't know whether he's lying about the 13 percent figure, but he's lied so brazenly about so many other things—even the obsessively faux-neutral Politifact has documentation enough of that—that I do not think Just Because Mitt Said So really ought to be used as the argument-ender that he wants it to be. I am sorry if that makes me a bad person, but I am very, very tired of taking the very rich man's word for it when he says he's not lying about his goddamn money. He wants to become the leader of the nation, and that, of necessity, requires a level of scrutiny that he needs to just suck up and deal with already.
Nobody but Harry Reid can vouch for things asserted by Harry Reid, but it is distinctly not the Democrats' fault if they hold him to the same level of accountability that has been considered standard fare for every other politician but Mitt Romney.