New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie this morning on NBC's Today Show, straddling the fence defending Mitt Romney's decision to release only his 2011 tax returns and to wait to do so until April and backing Rick Perry's demand that Mitt Romney release his returns immediately :
LAUER: Is Mitt Romney missing the boat on this [releasing his returns]?
CHRISTIE: Well, I don't think he's going to. I think he will release his tax returns.
LAUER: Why wait?
CHRISTIE: Well, I think the most relevant information is the most recent information. He's going to release when he files in April, and that's going to be personally up to him. My practice all along has been that I release my tax returns every year as soon as they're filed, and that would be my practice.
LAUER: The appearance here is you wait until April, the nomination would be secured by that time, and you don't have to worry about fallout in the primaries.
CHRISTIE: Well, listen, I think he already started to speak about it yesterday, about the rate he pays. What I would say to Governor Romney is, if you have tax returns to put out, you should put them out, and you put them out sooner rather than later, because it's always better to have complete disclosure, especially when you are the front runner.
Although Christie is telling Mitt Romney to act "sooner rather than later," he's also throwing Romney a bit of a lifeline here by saying only the most recent returns are relevant. Presumably, that means he is backing Romney's decision to only release his 2011 returns, and both Christie and Romney could plausibly say those won't be available until April.
Given that Romney has basically locked up the nomination, whether he releases his 2011 returns now or in April is beside the point, however. The real issue is whether he will release returns from before 2011. President Obama has released all of his tax returns going back to 2000. Will Mitt Romney follow suit?
In addition to calling on Romney to release his returns, Christie questioned Newt Gingrich's commitment to capitalism, saying Newt's criticism of Mitt Romney's record as a vulture capitalist at Bain Capital was an attack on American free enterprise. Although Christie suggested that Newt wasn't a capitalist, he criticized Newt's half-million dollar credit line at Tiffany's. Apparently, Christie believes it's fair game to criticize how somebody spends their own money, but it's not fair to criticize how someone earns their money—especially if they earned their money by firing people and putting companies into bankruptcy.