No, not offering Mitt an ultimatum. This is just an observation. If, and only if, there’s really nothing catastrophically damaging in those returns, then he has roughly 3 weeks to maneuver their release so that they appear to be on his terms and not another instance of him being pushed around. After that, if he releases them and they contain nothing particularly bad, he’ll just look stupid. He spent valuable months in a critical stretch of his campaign playing defense needlessly. How will he justify having done so? It makes him look strategically incompetent. How does this bode for his legislative of diplomatic strategies?
It seems to me that those returns do not contain anything nearly as bad as paying no taxes for ten years. This is someone who has been effectively running for president most of his adult life. He’s certainly shown that he lacks real political intelligence. But to simply NOT pay any taxes for ten years when you’ve got your eye on the White House? Someone that imbecilic could never have become the establishment GOP candidate. I find it hilarious when I peruse comments sections and see how frequently people on both sides refer to the other side as some manifestation of idiocy. There are some brilliant folks on the right, both with regard to policy and politics. Same is true on the left. Mitt’s politically flat-footed for sure, but he’s not deranged.
What’s left is that the returns will simply make him look bad to certain voter groups. It was a liability his campaign must have known about from the start. It was up to them to create a context fcor their release, either under cover of some other distraction or in a context where he might use them to make another point. He might, for instance, have used his own tax returns as representative of rational and responsible behavior under the current code. No one TRIES to pay more taxes than they have to. I pocketed my Bush refund as well (actually used it to pay down some debt). He might have used his own returns to suggest particular reforms that would effectively incentivize the job creating investment he obviously believes in. How could the code push people of his bracket to actually create jobs? He might have used it to illustrate how his own 50-point plan (or whatever it is) would address this situation. It could have been a tremendous teaching tool and would have actually given some credibility to his claims to know how to fix the economy. It would have demonstrated how his experience in the private sector might serve his ability to shepherd the economy. But that ship has sailed.
He’s left with two options: release them now and try to spin it as proof that the left and the media have been making a lot of noise out of very little and practicing class warfare instead of pursuing solutions, or stonewall all the way. Both seem pretty bad at this point. Of course, perhaps I’m wrong and he’s either guilty of a felony or simply looks like a scoundrel who is particularly adept at gaming the system. He might set himself up as a proud resistor of the insatiable federal government, but he’s already got the folks who think that way.
As it stands, the GOP is nominating someone who is allergic to basic transparency. He shouldn’t have to release his returns because his opponents will interpret them harshly? He shouldn’t have to answer reporters’ questions because his opponents will interpret his answers harshly? He won’t bend to the bullies? Well, the world is full of bullies and we need a president who can respond to them, confront them, disarm them. Pouting in the corner because people are mean does not create a presidential image. Asking for votes without supplying voters with the information they want comes off as a particularly spoiled form of entitlement.