Among the most obvious flaws of this approach:
- It doesn't tell us anything about how Mitt made that money. Was it from passive investments? From purchasing and/or closing particular companies? From selling orphan blood to vampires? There's a reason people want to read the fine print, and it isn't because people enjoy reading tax forms. How you run your own business is a damn fine character study in how you'd run other people's businesses.
- It doesn't tell us if or when things shifted. If Mitt paid a large percent in taxes during the Clinton years, but on small amounts of money, and paid almost nothing in subsequent years on truly massive amounts of money due to things, maybe Cayman-Island based things, that'd still count as meeting Mitt's 20 percent-ish claim—but it would be misleading. (That Mitt thinks this is apparently a perfectly reasonable amount for a fabulously wealthy person to pay is another issue.)
- It entirely avoids the thorny question of how closely Romney was involved with Bain during some of their most controversial actions—and whether he played particular roles in managing particular companies.
- How did Romney manage to get $100 million into his tax-free retirement account during those years? Accountants across the country have been scratching their chins on that one, and Mitt still isn't saying.
What we have learned today is that Mitt Romney is willing to kick in quite a bit in extra taxes to get to that magic 13-14 percent figure he thinks of as being so noteworthy. The doctor's note on the rest of it, though, is just ridiculous. You can tell how ridiculous it is by imagining what the Romney campaign's reaction would have been if Paul Ryan had tried to pass off a similar note to them instead of providing his own tax returns; they would have laughed him right out of the room.
If anything, the "note" is insulting. Mitt Romney knows exactly why the press and the public want to see how he made his money, and what he paid on it, and when; he, for reasons he only knows and we can only speculate on, doesn't want to show it. Instead he presents a meager little note from his accountant promising the rest of the planet that everything is on the up-and-up, so stop asking.
Forget bringing Mitt's father or any other politician into this: Mitt Romney's own campaign would never have settled for that. I'm not sure what possesses him to think the rest of us would.