Archives for: August 2012, 07
I didn't like the Michele Bachmann six-degrees-of-separation charges against a public official. Huma Abedin's father, dead for many years, knew a guy who later helped found an organization that had association with another organization that eventually developed ties to a group that became recognized as a terrorist group. Not only that, but her siblings may have known some people who know some people who shook hands with ... it goes on and on.
But at least I understand her. She is transparent as a beautiful piece of crystal. Bigotry is slimy but comprehensible.
I don't like the tactics of Harry Reid. I don't like public officials making unsourced accusations. It was considered quite acceptable before the days of Joe McCarthy, but McCarthyism is a label that still carries some weight for those us with trans-generational memories or younger folks with some interest in history.
I also don't understand Harry Reid.
If he is telling the truth, and a very credible source tells him Mitt Romney paid no taxes for a decade, then why would he not simply turn the story over to a news journalist? I don't much care for anonymous sources in news stories, either. Their motives, and therefore their credibility, are often unexamined. But anonymous news sources are considered fair by those who are not ... well ... me. Just from a tactical standpoint, why would Senator Reid not enlist a journalist willing to use a credible but unnamed source?
If Harry Reid is not telling the truth, he has to know that there is some possibility that Mitt Romney will eventually release his tax records. If he does, it would be with the demand that Harry Reid apologize, then that he apologize more emphatically, then that he apologize on the Senate floor, then that he apologize to members of the Senate, then the Romney family, and so on and so on.
So I don't understand Harry Reid if he is telling the truth. I don't understand him if he is not telling the truth. I don't understand him if he doesn't know one way or the other if his "credible source" is truthful. What is he thinking about? It's a mystery to me.
Mitt Romney is not so much a mystery to me as he is a mystery on steroids. He has a history in past campaigns of adamantly insisting, with great indignation, what his campaigns for office later admit is not quite the truth. He has a history on the tax issue itself of demanding that one political opponent go beyond the release of her own tax returns. He demanded that she release the returns of her husband. "What has she got to hide?"
I do understand the Romney painted corner. Even if Mitt has nothing to hide, he could lose face by releasing returns he insisted would never see the light of day. For weeks, Mr. Romney and his campaign have been painting the corner into an ever smaller patch. How can he avoid the flip issue if he flops after all the huffing and puffing on I-will-do-no-such-thing?
In a perverse way, Harry Reid could have done Governor Romney a favor. Mitt Romney could have released his returns without the least appearance of surrender. He could have done it as President Obama managed the release of the long form of his birth records. He can do it as gangster Michael Corleone "just this once" allowed his spouse to ask about his business. I will violate my own pledge to maintain my privacy just to disprove this reprehensible lie. But let's be clear. There will be no floodgate. This is it. This issue is dead. I won't talk about it any more, there will be no more invasions of my private life. I have that right and I intend to keep it. So there!!
But he isn't doing that. Each day makes it less likely he will.
If Mitt really does have something to hide, the mystery deepens. Why not get whatever it was out into the open much earlier? Deal with it early on, and there is time to recover. Delay and you either manufacture your own October surprise, or you keep the issue alive. And alive and alive.
Whether Mitt Romney has something or nothing to hide, the current strategy is the subject of Churchillian hyperbole. Mitt Romney's method of addressing the issue is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
The way to challenge Senator Reid and handle the controversy would have been to let loose the assistant deputy to the temporary secretary of the press liaison to make fun of the accusation. Let the fight go on at that level. Harry Reid versus a very, very low level staff member. By equivalence, turn Harry the Lion into Harry the Lilliputian.
Instead of a low level rebuttal by third level spokespeople, the big guns have been rolled out. The chair of the Republican National Committee makes Sunday headlines by declaring on television that Harry Reid is "a dirty liar." A Republican Senator doubles the attention by repeating the name calling. And Mitt Romney himself goes Dirty Harry on dirty Harry. "Make my day," he says, after telling the real Harry to "put up or shut up."
Does he really think voters will wonder about who should be putting up? I could be wrong about this. Voters have no idea what a filibuster might be. They are not at all familiar with Republican voter suppression efforts. But I suspect most voters think it quite ordinary for candidates to release tax returns.
For reasons that completely escape me, the Republican Presidential campaign has been presenting their candidate as a strange creature who cannot understand ordinary people, an unusually disconnected individual who has devoted so much time bending technical financial sub-paragraph clauses to his advantage that he thinks ordinary traditions do not apply to him.
If the Obama campaign invented all that as an explicit accusation they would be laughed at as an over-the-top exaggeration machine. As it is, they seem to have been caught by surprise by the Reid vs Romney food fight. Their reaction, for the most part, has been a bland deferral to Reid or Romney or the public record. When pressed, they seem befuddled by it all. I can relate to that.
A two and a half day story has been front and center for almost two weeks and shows no sign of subsiding. That because Republicans keep fanning the flames. Is it really a smart move for the Romney campaign to continue escalating this story?