OBAMA IN BEDLAM: Many more years!

FRIDAY, JULY 20, 2012

Epilogue—Recalling McCain and Kerry: Why isn’t Candidate Romney releasing more tax returns?

We have no idea.

Is he hiding some fact which would be a disaster? It’s possible—everything is!

But then, Romney is said to have provided 23 years of tax returns to Saint John McCain in 2008—and the two men weren’t best friends. That would have been a risky move if something in there was appalling.

Did Romney pay no federal tax in 2009? That’s possible too!

For what it’s worth, we don’t hugely care about Romney’s tax returns. We agree with one thing the hopeful has said: We already have enough information about his money to demonstrate the disgraceful role he plays in our growing plutocracy.

We already have a lot of info about Romney’s gruesome business behavior. The problem is, we also have a mainstream press corps which largely refuses to tell you those stories. (Our “liberal” news orgs aren’t much better.)

The New York Times and the Washington Post aren’t going to discuss the (legal) tax vehicles through which masters like Romney vastly increase their smothering wealth. And not only that:

People like Collins and Dowd—and Robinson and Blow—aren’t going to soil their delicate hands telling you about the ways Romney and his company, Bain Capital, “underfunded” (looted) the lives of various workers who got in their way as they hunted down Mammon.

Upper-class “journalists” of this type simply don’t care about people like that. In every single word they type, they show you their lack of interest.

For ourselves, we can’t say we hugely care about getting many more years. But this has become a cause celebre in both the mainstream press corps and the liberal world.

The line has been stated again and again. This morning, in an otherwise excellent column, Paul Krugman joins the band:
KRUGMAN (7/20/12): Like everyone else following the news, I’ve been awe-struck by the way questions about Mr. Romney’s career at Bain Capital, the private-equity firm he founded, and his refusal to release tax returns have so obviously caught the Romney campaign off guard. Shouldn’t a very wealthy man running for president— and running specifically on the premise that his business success makes him qualified for office—have expected the nature of that success to become an issue? Shouldn’t it have been obvious that refusing to release tax returns from before 2010 would raise all kinds of suspicions?

By the way, while we don’t know what Mr. Romney is hiding in earlier returns, the fact that he is still stonewalling despite calls by Republicans as well as Democrats to come clean suggests that it could be something seriously damaging.
In the first half of this column, Krugman writes like the expert he is concerning a topic he understands well.

But in the passage we have posted, he sounds like Ed Schultz. In our view, that’s a serious loss for the liberal world.

Voters tend to get under-informed when tribals repeat the same scripted tales. And as Krugman becomes heavily partisanized, the liberal world is slowly losing one of its most potent weapons.

Note the way Krugman starts that passage. As tribal players will always do, he assumes that “everyone else following the news” sees this situation as he does.

What a bizarre assertion! He seems to assume that “everyone else” is “awestruck” by Romney’s reactions to these topics. From there, he proceeds to the same speculations everyone else has already offered by now.

Is Romney “hiding” something in his returns? Rather plainly, there’s no way to know. But Krugman explicitly says that he is.

How can he possibly know that?

Might Romney be hiding something that's “seriously damaging?” Like everything else, that’s possible! But like tribal players through the annals of time, Krugman is able to imagine nothing else.

Krugman has become Big Ed! Whatever one thinks of Schultz’s work, that’s a loss for progressive interests.

Is Romney hiding something that’s “seriously damaging?” It’s possible, although there’s a great deal in the one tax return we have which will go undescribed due to a lack of real interest.

That said, what explains the recent demand that Romney provide us with many more years? In part, we’re observing one of our quadrennial candidate hunts, in which elite journalists select a candidate and a theme, then drive their theme into the ground.

If they have to misinform you to drive their theme, they will. They’ll do so as a group.

They engage in this process every four years. In the case of those tax returns, we’d say you are being under-informed about some of the recent precedents. Beyond that, we’d say the pack is showing a genuine lack of imagination about the reasons why wealthy candidates may want to withhold their returns.

Is Romney behaving in a strange way? Let’s start with the recent precedents, about which you have been under-informed:

The story starts in 1984 with Geraldine Ferraro. Ferraro was the first nominee who filed separate tax returns from her spouse.

On August 12 of that year, Ferraro announced that her husband, John Zaccaro, would not release his returns. This produced a storm of protest from major newspapers.

One week later, Ferraro relented. Sam Roberts reported the score in the New York Times:
ROBERTS (8/22/84): But while the couple voluntarily released six years of personal income tax returns and revealed their net worth Monday, Mr. Zaccaro declined to disclose other returns he has filed with the Internal Revenue Service, including returns for partnership and for his real estate ventures, which, according to tax experts, would have provided a more accurate picture of his total income. Candidates are not required by law to release either business or personal tax returns.

''Our reaction is we've given so much information now that there is no need to keep going on and on,'' said Anthony Essaye, a lawyer and adviser to the Mondale-Ferraro campaign.
Zaccaro’s net worth was only $3 million; by modern-day standards, that makes him a pauper. But it seemed a precedent had been set: The spouse of a nominee should release tax returns too.

From there, we jump to the recent precedents, involving Candidates Kerry and McCain. Each of these nominees filed separate tax returns from his spouse. And uh-oh! In each case, the vast bulk of the family’s massive wealth was described in the spouse’s returns.

According to estimates, Teresa Heinz Kerry was worth around $1 billion. Cindy McCain was worth perhaps $100 million.

Here at THE HOWLER, we didn’t much care about those returns, but others said they did. In 2004, Heinz Kerry announced she wouldn’t release her returns. The New York Times and the Washington Post said this wouldn’t do:
WASHINGTON POST EDITORAL (5/5/04): "IT WON'T DO." That was our bottom line in 1984 when Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New York, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, balked at releasing her husband's income tax returns. "Though Rep. Ferraro says she will release her own tax return, she cannot treat her spouse as a separate entity for this purpose and still claim to be providing complete data," we wrote. Ms. Ferraro eventually relented, providing five years' worth of tax returns from her husband, John Zaccaro.

Twenty years later, in the midst of a similar controversy, we feel much the same way. Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of the putative Democratic presidential nominee, should make her tax returns public. Ms. Heinz Kerry has been reluctant to do so; campaign spokesman Michael Meehan now says she is preparing to make summary information available, though not necessarily her return itself. That's an improvement over no disclosure, but it is short of what ought to be done.

Presidential candidates aren't legally required to release their tax returns, but such disclosure has become an expected part of seeking the office, and rightly so.


There may well be nothing of great note in Ms. Heinz Kerry's tax returns other than the scope of her wealth. But with her husband seeking the presidency, her financial dealings, as well as his, ought to be as open as possible.
Two weeks earlier, the New York Times had voiced the same view. “We hope the senator realizes that there cannot be too much disclosure by a candidate seeking the trust of the public for the nation's highest office,” the editors wrote. “With this high standard in mind, we urge that the candidate's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, release her tax returns.”

Then, as now, these major newspapers demanded release of returns. But in that instance, the papers got stiffed. Heinz Kerry released no actual tax returns; instead, she released two-page summaries of her returns for 2002 and 2003, waiting until October 2004 to release the second year. David Cay Johnston reported the news in the Times at that point: “Ms. Heinz Kerry on Friday released a small part of her 2003 income tax return, unlike her husband, Senator John Kerry, and President Bush and his wife, Laura, who have made their full tax returns available for public inspection.”

Should spouses release their tax returns? For ourselves, we don’t hugely care—but Heinz Kerry was worth roughly $1 billion, and she basically stiffed the good-government types calling for full disclosure. Despite this, her behavior occasioned few complaints—and sure enough! Four years later, Cindy McCain adopted an identical posture. She was worth roughly $100 million—and no, she wouldn’t release her returns, she declared in the spring.

The Post complained again, cutting and pasting from the advice they’d offered Heinz Kerry. They even fudged the facts a bit, displaying a favorite skill:
WASHINGTON POST EDITORAL (5/14/08): "IT WON'T DO." That was our bottom line in 1984 when Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New York, Democratic vice presidential candidate, balked at releasing her husband's income tax returns. Ms. Ferraro ultimately relented. It was our bottom line four years ago, when Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of the Democratic nominee, refused to release her returns; Ms. Kerry relented as well. And it is just as apt now with regard to Cindy McCain's tax returns.

For a candidate who puts a premium on transparency and ethics, John McCain has been slow and grudging in releasing tax information. He did not commit to doing so until after he had secured the nomination, and then he disclosed only two years of taxes, far less than his Democratic rivals. Mr. McCain's wife, the heir to a liquor and beer distributorship, declined to release her returns, citing—as Ms. Heinz Kerry did—her children's privacy.

Releasing tax information entails intrusion, but, as we wrote four years ago, presidential candidates and their spouses "relinquish a significant measure of privacy. Meanwhile, tax returns provide information not contained in financial disclosure forms, such as charitable contributions and the use of tax shelters." For Mrs. McCain to say, as she did on NBC's "Today" show this week, that she would never release her tax returns, not even if she were to become first lady, is unacceptable.
“Ms. Kerry relented?” The editors fudged the truth a bit in service to their great cause!

At any rate, the Times expressed the same view on May 19. “There is no question that Mr. McCain—the candidate—has reaped considerable benefits from his wife's wealth,” the editors wrote. “Voters also deserve to know whether any of Senator McCain's official actions have benefited his wife, family members, or their business associates, as they did in the case of Charles Keating, the Arizona developer and savings and loan operator at the center of the Keating Five scandal.”

Sure enough! Five days later, Cindy McCain adopted the amended Heinz Kerry position. She released a two-page summary of her 2006 return, saying she would do the same when her return for 2007 was completed.

She released that summary on October 17. No full returns were ever released. McCain himself released only two years of his own tax returns—though the massive bulk of the family’s wealth was detailed in his spouse’s returns.

Romney’s situation is different, of course. This year, we’re discussing the tax returns of the nominee, not those of his spouse.

But there have been three nominees in the past three cycles who were extremely wealthy. And in truth, we’re going to get more disclosure about Romney’s wealth than we got about the wealth of those earlier hopefuls.

Should Romney have known that the press would screech, as Krugman says this morning? Possibly, but the fury was slight in those earleir instances.

Kerry and McCain did release their own returns—though McCain did so for only two years, a fact which occasioned few complaints. But in each case, the vast bulk of their family wealth was found in their spouses’ returns.

Those returns were never released.

Is it possible that these precedents have guided Romney’s thinking? We have no idea, but we can imagine such a thing, along with quite a few others. In truth, there was little protest or pushback when the wealth of these past nominees went undisclosed. The Post was even willing to say that Heinz Kerry had “relented.”

Might Romney have thought that he’d get the same deal? If so, he thought wrong—but we can imagine he might have. By way of contrast, tribalized minds can imagine few things. That’s why they’re quite frequently wrong.

Beyond that, we note a fact about the very wealthy—they don’t seem to like releasing returns! Heinz Kerry and Cindy McCain each insisted they wouldn’t disclose, citing their children’s need for privacy. Romney sounds much like them—but he is being targeted in a way they (and their husbands) were not.

Do you see any actual precedent in these earlier cases? Your lizard brain will tell you that spouses don’t count. (Your lizard brain will maintain that stance until the spouse of some hopeful you hate is withholding his tax returns. At that point, your lizard will change.)

For ourselves, we will only say this: We have been struck, in the past week, by the way voters have been under-informed about these earlier nominees. In our view, the Kerry office was way out of line when it complained about Romney’s citation of Heinz Kerry’s semi-precedent.

At the Washington Monthly, Ed Kilgore excerpted what Kerry’s chief of staff said. Do you think you were fully informed? Go ahead—just click here.

We think that chief of staff was really stretching. And we think Kilgore should have said.

We will offer one final thought about Romney’s possible motives. This involves some facts about the way our campaigns work.

Yesterday, Michael Shear reported a statement by Romney in the New York Times:
SHEAR (7/19/12): [W]ith each answer he gives, Mr. Romney seems more determined than ever that voters will not see any of his tax history before 2010.

“In the political environment that exists today, the opposition research of the Obama campaign is looking for anything they can use to distract from the failure of the president to reignite our economy,” Mr. Romney told National Review on Tuesday, explaining his opposition to a broader release of his tax data. “And I’m simply not enthusiastic about giving them hundreds or thousands of more pages to pick through, distort and lie about.”
However you may judge this matter, one thing is clear. If Romney does release many more years, his prediction will be accurate.

Forget the Obama campaign, though they will behave as Romney described. Various entities would “pick through” those records—and in many cases, they would be looking for various things they could lie about and/or distort.

That’s the way our elites handle White House campaigns! Who doesn’t know this by now?

Of course they’ll pick their way through the pile looking for stuff they can run with. And no, they won’t be looking for things which actually matter.

They will be looking for easy columns. They will be looking for pleasing jokes. If they wanted real columns about Mitt Romney’s deeply disgraceful behavior at Bain, they could have written those columns by now.

Look all around you. They haven’t.

That is not what they would look for. They would look for shit about Romney’s dogs or about Ann Romney’s stallions. That is all these wastrels do. Your “press corps” just wants to have fun!

Your press corps doesn’t report campaigns; they pick their favorite and they start spinning. One example: As we’ve reported all week, you have been widely misled as various hacks in the so-called press pretend to be confused about Romney’s role at Bain after 1999. Your press corps has had some good fun!

Romney is a horrendous candidate. His financial history offers a rank display of the horrible morals of the Masters of the Universe.

But the simpering children of your “press corps” won’t be soiling their hand with all that. They want to sift through mountains of data looking for easy stories and columns. They won’t dirty their hands talking about the average people whom Romney has looted and destroyed.

They don’t care about those people! Correctly, they assume we won’t notice, that we don't care much ourselves.

Much of what Romney said in that statement is accurate. If he releases many more years, your “journalists” will be fed by Obama's oppo research—just as they were happily fed by the RNC all through Campaign 2000.

In part, this explains why candidates in both major parties now insist on “quote approval.” (For Kevin Drum’s treatment, click here.) They know the corps is a group of clowns. They know the corps searches for clumsy remarks, hoping for weeks of good fun.

In large part, that’s also the way they would sift through those many more years.

Romney’s career is an open disgrace. We need no more returns to know that. But your press corps isn’t trying to tell you that story! That includes our top “liberal” stars.

They simply type the stories they like, trying to avoid rocking the boat. This is the actual shape of your “discourse.”

Yo Krugman! Imagine that! Try naming real names as you do!


  1. Well, nuts, I can't take Somerby anymore. My final post of his. If it's a choice between Krugman's reasoned opinion and Somerby's delusional rants, I'll go with Krugman.

    Have fun living in 1999 when they come to haul you away.

    1. Bob should follow Mitt's example and retroactively retire in 1999.

    2. What was the delusion today?

      I thought I learned a thing or two reading this column.

      I'll be sticking with reading Somerby. Michael Janeval's complaints, I won't miss.

      "If they wanted real columns about Mitt Romney’s deeply disgraceful behavior at Bain, they could have written those columns by now."

      That -- is far from delusional.

    3. Of course you'll stick with reading Somerby. How would you ever know what to think if Bob doesn't tell you?

      You're such a good loyal Bobette.

    4. Don't let the door hit you in the butt!

    5. By all means, let's get this blog down to only the True Believers in Somerby!

      Then we'll learn how tribal all those "other" bad people are, and we won't be bother with all that thinking that doesn't exactly match that of our Great Leader.

    6. buh bye ....

      this column was again directly on the money, funny how the obama fanboys cant handle the truth about their media allies and their shared idiocies...

  2. Bob: "Is Romney “hiding” something in his returns? Rather plainly, there’s no way to know. But Krugman explicitly says that he is."

    The quote given by Krugman does not say what Bob says it said. Krugman merely remarks that it is obvious that suspicions would be raised by Romney's refusal. Is that not true? Krugman goes on to explain that the stonewalling would suggest that there might be something "damaging". Not illegal, just damaging to the campaign. What's wrong with saying these things? OK, it's all a matter of opinion. But as we've learned, there's only one opinion that matters here.

    1. Honestly, I don't care much about Mitt's returns either. But the fact that he's so adamant about not releasing them attracts perhaps-unnecessary suspicion that there might be something politically damaging. And it opens the door for people in the media to continue to talk about it. That strikes me as common sense. Not sure what Bob's quibble is here.

    2. I'm kind of curious to see how onerous those Clinton tax rates were on Mitt, since he now claims a return to those rates on the wealthy would cripple the ability of people like him to create jobs.

      Bet he found plenty of tax shelters in the '90s.

    3. Exactly, Mitch. Here is how Krugman allegedly "explicitly" states that Romney is definitely hiding something, emphasis added:

      "By the way, while WE DON'T KNOW what Mr. Romney is hiding in earlier returns, the fact that he is still stonewalling despite calls by Republicans as well as Democrats to come clean SUGGESTS that it COULD BE something seriously damaging."

      Personally, I kinda like the idea that every day Romney doesn't release his returns is another day he's on the defensive. Even from members of his own party.

    4. Anonymous @2:43PM thinks by putting "we don't know" in capital letters that we'll now read Paul Krugman's statement, "we don't know what Mr. Romney is hiding in his earlier returns," as meaning "we don't know if Mr. Romney is hiding anything in his earlier returns."

      Nice try. You too, Mitch4949.

    5. No, "We don't know" means "We don't know." It doesn't mean "explicitly states Romney is hiding something."

    6. No, "We don't know WHAT Mr. Romney is hiding" clearly implies he is hiding something. Thanks for pointing that out CMike - I missed that at first. That said, while I am always grateful for Somerby's perspective, I think it's ridiculous to compare the media's treatment of the finances of Mr./Mrs. McCain and Mr./Mrs. Kerry to its treatment of Romney's finances, given the following differences between those earlier situations and the current one:

      1) the massive recent and current global economic troubles caused by the financial services industry
      2) the fact that Romney amassed hundreds of millions working in that industry
      3) it is a core argument of Romney's campaign that such "success" is in large part why voters should choose him
      4) it is the candidate himself, not his spouse, we are talking about

      But beyond that, I have a question for Somerby: if Romney is really the worst presidential candidate in recent history (which includes George W. Bush, by the way) as you have claimed more than once, and he can possibly be defeated via a perhaps hypocritical insistence that he disclose more financial information than other candidates, who the fuck cares? Are you really so myopic as to suggest that absolute consistency in the press corps' treatment of candidates' finances is more important than things like preventing the possible dismantling of Social Security and Medicare, preventing further deregulation of financial and other corporations (Romney has vowed to get rid of Sarbanes-Oxley!...the law meant to prevent more Enrons), preventing the appointment of more extreme conservatives to the Supreme Court, possibly preventing more unnecessary military aggression, etc., etc., etc.?

  3. Something tells me the point of this Unabomber-manifesto-length screed could've been made in a couple of paragraphs. But who needs editors when you're smarter than everybody else!

    1. 2,992 words to say that we already know that Romney is a very rich guy who ducks paying taxes, so quit hounding him for his tax returns.

    2. uh, bob IS smarter than you hoss...

  4. Bob, wouldn't it help the discussion of how and to what extent Romney shelters his income from taxes if we actually had his tax returns?

    1. Oh, and don't forget that one of the key planks of the Romney platform is that rich guys like him are already paying too much in taxes and need another cut to get the economy going again.

  5. "Is Romney 'hiding' something in his returns? Rather plainly, there’s no way to know."

    Rather plainly, if Romney refuses to release them, he is concealing EVERYTHING IN THEM.

  6. I'm still puzzling over the mid-screed tangent into the tax returns of spouses.

    Is anybody demanding that Ann Romney release her returns?

    1. Your problem lies in the fact that you think the purpose of this blog should be to advance liberal perspectives and liberal candidates, and less.

      If Somerby is to engage in media criticism it should be solely with that goal in mind, as well.

      Therefore, the point about the media engaging in such show trials in the past, only to settle for a 'report' about the rich wives' taxes ( filings that contained the true scope of the candidates wealth and financial focus), is lost on you. As is the point that this is likely another media hobbyhorse that won't be seriously analyzed if they did get the info.

      Because your sole ficus here is partisan politics and not ideology with media criticism, this sounds like treason to you.

      Honestly, there are a million polemical blogs that approach aspect of our national life from one political perspective (not that these blogs aren't worthwhile), I'm not sure why you don't just frequent them.

    2. First sentence should read ' no more, no less.'

    3. "Your problem lies in the fact that you think the purpose of this blog should be to advance liberal perspectives and liberal candidates, and less."

      How did you arrive at that conclusion from the post to which you're responding? Why, your mindreading skills must be as awesome as Bob's.

    4. I arrived at that conclusion by the fact that the writer referred to an example used to illustrate the main theme, as being a "tangent".

      Obviously, the writer is unable to see the point of ANY theme beyond his personal priorities (let alone his tolerating such "tangents"...)

    5. Cecelia, Bob's main point, as best as I can figure it out, is that Romney is justified in withholding his tax returns because the press will only make up mean things to say about them. Besides, we already know what a horrible person Romney is without seeing those returns.

      Now carefully explain to me, since you are so much smarter than I, what John Zaccaro, Teresa Heinz Kerry and Cindy McCain have to do with that thesis.

    6. Annon 9:40

      Your first paragraph is an odd reading of the post.
      The main point of the post is the media loves a witch hunt. Every 4 years they set a theme and then go ape making shit up to fit the narrative.
      You're last paragraph only needs explaining if the first paragraph makes sense.
      Does it need to be explained more carefully or are you catching up?
      Let me know

    7. That would make sense, except that Bob wants HIS narrative driven hard that Romney is a shameless plutocrat out to plunder the pensions of middle class working folks with no regard for the people who live from paycheck to paycheck.

      Seems to me that the guy's might be kind of useful to look at in that regard, but they are "hands off" for Bob since all his hated pundits are screaming for them.

      As far as "making shit up to fit the narrative," sorry, but asking for Romney to provide his tax returns isn't quite the same as "making shit up" about Kerry wind-surfing or Gore spending his childhood in a "luxury" hotel, no matter how badly Bob wants to spin it that way.

  7. It seems to me that the point of this post is not actually about Romney's refusal to release his returns, but about how the media are focusing so much attention on that fact, while ignoring the many facts that are available about Romney's financial & business history and what those facts say about the likely shape of his policies:

    "For what it’s worth, we don’t hugely care about Romney’s tax returns. We agree with one thing the hopeful has said: We already have enough information about his money to demonstrate the disgraceful role he plays in our growing plutocracy.

    "We already have a lot of info about Romney’s gruesome business behavior. The problem is, we also have a mainstream press corps which largely refuses to tell you those stories. (Our “liberal” news orgs aren’t much better.)"

    1. Oh puh-leeze! While Bob keeps his sheep happy by calling Mitt a "horrible" candidate and person, once again he steadfastly defends him against the latest allegations, as he has done consistently for months now.

      And I strongly suspect his call to focus on Bain is a smoke screen for his sheep. If the press were doing that, Bob would find some way to criticize all the empahsis on that at the expense of something else Bob would deem more important.

    2. Bob's new thing is to harp on how nobody in the media cares about the little guy in quite the precise Bob-approved way. But, yeah, we've seen over and over that he'll latch onto one particular thing like a dog with a bone -- NAEP scores, per capita health expenditures, pension funds, Gore's suit jackets, Rachel Maddow using the word "thingie" -- and berate everyone else in the world for not talking about it, and then, if someone DOES happen to talk about it, Bob berates them for not doing it sooner because of being such a featherbedding careerist.

    3. "his sheep"

      Ah! The Somerby-hater(s) is still in full effect!

      Always so quick to say that if you agree with Somerby, it's because you can't think for yourself.

      Is Somerby wrong about this?: "If they wanted real columns about Mitt Romney’s deeply disgraceful behavior at Bain, they could have written those columns by now."

      That, as the man might say, is "rather plainly" true.

      Today's Somerby column is an accurate screed against the press -- interpreted, no, spun, by the soi-disant free-thinking Anonymous Idiots as a "defense" of Romney.

      "deeply disgraceful"
      "horrendous candidate"
      "the horrible morals of the Masters of the Universe"
      "the average people whom Romney has looted and destroyed"
      "Romney’s career is an open disgrace"

      But hey, that's just a smoke screen.

      Go sell it somewhere else, idiot.
      (See we can impugn your intellect too!)

    4. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Bob really despises Mitt Romney to the point that he will argue AGAINST Romney releasing his tax returns -- like every other presidential candidate in long memory has done.

      Oh, how can Romney possibly stand up to such a brutal onslaught from the brilliant Somerby and his ever shrinking band of merry followers?

      And of course, since Bob says so, his merry follower above believes that defending Romney for not releasing his tax returns is of course not defending Romney not releasing his tax returns.

      Orwell was a prophet.

    5. WOW! Your post is sureal. What are you responding to?
      What sustains you to type this nonsense (especially your third paragraph)?
      Yes, orwell was a prophet.

    6. its amazing how dim the obama fanboys are...i blame it on hius campaigns mindmeld with russert/matthews/dowd in 2007...

  8. So if Romney didn't play an "active" role in Bain after 1999, and was just nominally in charge, as he basically says, what proof is there that Romney was ever "active" before that? He had all the same leadership positions and signed the same kinds of documents. If Romney gets to say, "no, I had nothing to do with that, because even though I was CEO, chair, owner, etc., I didn't make the decisions to outsource or layoff or whatnot," why can't he pull that same routine to cover his ass in 1985 or 1994? In other words, given Bob's fondness for the "looting" argument, what makes Romney any more personally responsible for "looting" before 1999 than after 1999?

    (How is he any more personally responsible for profitable business decisions before or after, for that matter? He's not a fund manager, he's the chief executive.)

    At a certain point, when you are the officially designated leader of an enterprise, you are ultimately responsible for what that enterprise does, whether or not you made the fateful decision yourself, whether or not you never even knew about it before it happened. You get the credit, and you get the flak. If Obama is on the hook for Solyndra, Fast and Furious, and GSA, Romney gets to be on the hook for GST Steel and the "outsourcing pioneers." He can _say_ he's not the one responsible, but the point of being the leader is, you know, to take goddamn responsibility.

    1. Uh, presumably he received a paycheck, and not just dividends.

    2. Don't the SEC filings show that he was receiving a salary of at least $100,000 between '99 and '02? Or do we only know that it was some form of compensation, not necessarily a salary? If it was a salary, then he was salaried both before and after the line of demarcation. I'm curious about what it is that the paper trail shows about the difference in his role at the company.

  9. Bob, don't be so quick to discount the MSM.

    Last night on MSNBC, David Corn said he had a very significant story coming the next day about Romney's business dealings.

    On NPR today, it was commented that 47% of voters will vote Republican, 47% will vote for Obama, and campaigners will spend over $2Billion trying to sway the other 6% to vote for (or against) one or the other.

    This has been a consistent ratio. There has been no game changer from either side

    Corn's article may change the game.

    Here it is:

    Also there is this great new video, "You're so Bain"


    1. Wow. That Mother Jones piece is damning!

      So much for Mitt, the Job Creator.

      Can't wait for Somerby to rush to Mitt's defense on that one.

    2. Excuse me, but did anybody here who join their Fearless Leader in clamoring for more Bain coverage bother to click onto the link to Corn's article?

      Or is Corn on the Somberby Tribe's Forbidden Reading List because he appears so often on MSNBC?

  10. The media is somehow ignoring all the bad things that Romney and Bain have done, choosing to focus exclusively on trivia like getting Romney's tax returns released. And yet, from Bob:

    "deeply disgraceful"
    "horrendous candidate"
    "the horrible morals of the Masters of the Universe"
    "the average people whom Romney has looted and destroyed"
    "Romney’s career is an open disgrace"

    How does Bob know these things? Where does he get his evidence? Why does Bob feel that the tax returns MAY not reveal anything important, therefore they should not be released? And why does the fact that Bob does not care to know mean that no one else should care?

  11. This post is an orgy of illogic and a master class in weak analogy. It is highly ironic when Bob laments Krugman's fall: clearly it is poor work like this that has kept Bob from being taken as seriously as he should be in the areas where his work is excellent.

    Has anyone ever argued so lamely for the principle of non-transparency? Although
    He admits there is every reason to be suspicious of Romney judgement of all things economic, we needed make a stink about his tax returns because....he just not interested! So you should be either! O.K., O.K, lets look at the usual standards candidates are asked to meet, well, that's really a little boring, lets look at the standards their SPOUSES have been asked to meet, and then decide that Romney doesn't have to meet them!
    When Mo and Gayle bring on the crazy, you can at least say that part of their problem is they are trying to be cute, to function as entertainers. Today, what is the Daily Howler's excuse?

    1. Quite frankly, I had no idea what Somerby was getting at by throwing John Zaccaro, Teresa Heinz Kerry and Cindy McCain into the mix, but I suppose it's possible you're right: Because candidate's spouses shouldn't have been asked for their tax returns, neither should Mitt Romney.

      I guess. Can't figure out what else it could be. But that makes absolutely no sense at all.

      Does Bob have a drinking issue?

    2. heres a more likely scenario.

      bob's smart, youre not.

    3. Of course! To a cult follower, the cult leader is the smartest person in the world!

      Thank you for straightening me out.

  12. "It seems to me that the point of this post is not actually about Romney's refusal to release his returns, but about how the media are focusing so much attention on that fact, while ignoring the many facts that are available about Romney's financial & business history and what those facts say about the likely shape of his policies"

    Don't try to talk to these Freepers. This is just what they do everywhere the're allowed to get away with it.

    1. Right. Freepers have invaded The Daily Howler to demand Romney's tax returns.

  13. "Beyond that, we’d say the pack is showing a genuine lack of imagination about the reasons why wealthy candidates may want to withhold their returns."

    News flash for you, Robert. EVERY serious candidate for president is pretty well off financially. And they all release their tax returns.

    So why does the completely horrible, awful, disgraceful plutocrat get a pass from you? Because he has more money than the other guys who did release their returns?

  14. I fear Bob is right. I don't think we'll ever get a discussion about the ways and the means of our Masters of the Universe that isn't mere ideological sparing from the far side polar punditry.

    I think he's right in that the media may be too invested in their 'products' now and far too removed from the regular people who they purportedly are concerned.

    We certainly know that they are going to go for the most simplistic and hackneyed narrative, rather than risk ratings with more complex two-sided discussions.

    Meanwhile, I see the changes that globalism has wrought on my own community, and the aftermath of a fallen market where the investments of myself and my friends were never in anything having to do with my neighbors and my town in the first place. I see a foreign ethos that can't solely be moderated by govt control.

    I wish these things could be covered from a middle ground perspective, rather than merely as some 15 minute wrestling match between the rhetoric of Ed Schultz and Sean Hannity.

    I wish the lauded masters in the media would deign to do this, and could find it in their dodgy little hearts to do it thoughtfully , straight-forwardly, and informed by all perspectives manner.

    I wish we were that sort of people, I fear that we are now and irrevocably not.

    1. Cecelia, why do you need the masters in the media when you've got Bob to do your thinking for you?

      And you can't imagine how a good look at tax returns might say something and add to a good discussion about "the ways and the means of our Masters of the Universe"?

      Of course, you don't. Bob has already told you that you shouldn't have the least bit of interest in Mitt's returns, and you will obey!

    2. Actually, Bob has just expresses his own opinion on his own blog.

      The person making assumptions about how I think, and who is putting words in my mouth is YOU.

      When coming here to harp on the groupthink narrow-mindedness ofpeople with the temerity to not see things as you do, you'd do well to examine your own white-knuckled ad homonym laden insistence that they stop.

    3. Cecelia? The term your struggling with is "ad hominem," A "homonym" is a word that sounds like another word. Like "hominem" and "homonym." But of course, such a well-educated, deep thinker as yourself already knows that.

      But I would like to know, if "ad hominem" bothers you so much, then why are you so devoted to Somerby and his blog? That's just about all he does.

    4. I blame my shallow thinking spell-checker...

      Ad hominem doesn't bother me that much, even when it's personal (as contrasted to blanket criticism about the media in general, or the perils of tribalism...)

      I simply made the point that despite your claims about Somerby telling me what to think, the only person making assumptions and projections about my opinions and even my very words, is YOU.

      However, since the irony escapes you in your telling a blog owner how he should be purposing his blog, while calling HIM the equivalent of a control-freak, I doubt you'll have any insight into how your ventriloquism with me reflects on you.

    5. Silly little bitter person.
      Grammar corrections are truly the last refuge of scoundrels.
      As far as "ad hominem" which of the several usages were you considering when you accuse Somersby.
      His logic is clear and simple.
      Let me know if I need to school you.

    6. Cecelia, do you actually read this blog? Have you been following what he's said about Maddow, O'Donnell, and especially Maureen Dowd?

      That wasn't personal?

      Well, maybe not on Planet Somerby where you and Bob reside.

      And 7:13, that wasn't a "grammar correction." Any graduate of grammar school should know that. Perhaps you yourself might consider returning for a refresher course so you won't look so foolish again.

    7. 7:13 here.

      Hey anonymous, Who again is the one who looks foolish?

      What's with all the mind control fantasy.

      What drives you on? Are you one of those trolls?

  15. I don't think it's just Freepers...but I've read enough of these comments. I'm just amazed that so many people don't understand Bob's main point, which is pretty much the same no matter what he's writing about on a given day. The point is not about the candidates themselves. It's about the media. And his point is this:

    The press corp, as a whole, is fickle and shallow. They focus on BS, make up stories, don't report facts, and under inform the public all in service of supporting whatever candidate they've decided they like. Right now they like Obama, so they spin a bunch of BS, trivia, and horse dressage stories about Romney. But they killed Gore, and they buried Kerry, with the same crap. The point is that if you embrace this behavior now when it's in service of your guy, you will get killed when the tides turn and they decide your guy wears too many earth tones.

    The option Bob, perhaps naively, favors is a press corp and a discourse built around solid reporting of facts and the logical analysis and discussion of said facts. This, he believes, in the long term would benefit progressives. As Bob says over and over, Romney should be killed by the facts of his policy and his business practices.

    This is Bob's main thesis and where most of his analysis comes from. Agree with him or don't.

    1. Well, I don't agree that wanting to examine Mitt Romney's tax returns, along with those of every other serious candidate for president, is BS, fickle or shallow.

      Especially after Romney is talking about how onerous raising taxes on the wealthy would be on the so-called "job creators."

      By the way, it isn't "either demand tax returns OR go after his business practices." Why not do both?

    2. But that's the point of the post. Tax returns weren't such a big deal for other candidates. It's something special to Romney. You can, of course, disagree with that but that's what Bob is arguing.

      So, for Bob, focusing on seeing more tax returns is fickle and shallow. Romney's business practices are established fact and can be logically analyzed and discussed. And, as Bob says, it's not speculation. He really did some bad stuff at Bain that would blow people's minds if they knew about it.

    3. "I'm just amazed that so many people don't understand Bob's main point,"

      I'm not. Many of Bob's posts are so muddled and disorganized, I'd be amazed if anyone did grasp their main point.

    4. "I'd be amazed if anyone did grasp their main point.

      Yoooo Hooooo!

      The several comments before yours spell out in a very simple and clear manner what this blog is about. It is consistently well written and well sourced.
      Have you considered that the reason you see his posts as "muddled and disorganized" has more to do with your mind that the material offered.

      Open your mind and things may make more sense.

    5. To a degree that is simply silly, in this post Bob is straining to fit his usual thesis into a situation that doesn't have anything to do with it; and it has the strong smell of liberal guilt. To follow his logic, such as it is, would be to embrace the idea that we need less background on the people running for President. It's foolish, and even the contention that the press is missing the boat on Bain seems pretty labored at this point.
      What Bob is, finally, is a goody two shoes, a killjoy, a prissy nation of one. The sort of person who really does not value progress but just likes handing out civility tickets. Therefore, his valid points and posts must be extracted carefully for ever increasing percentage of crappola.

    6. Oh, no, it's not silly, stuffy, or superfluous to hold the opinion that the media is reckless, dedicated to nothing but itself, and would likely trivialize any information it did gain from Romney tax records.

      It's not any of the above, to also venture that while it is possible there's damaging info in the records, there is damaging info at hand NOW, that is of more important to everyday joes, if the media bothered with (rather than disdaining) that particular story.

      One can converse and venture upon all this and also be reasonable and pragmatic and LIBERAL.

      What one can't do is to view any focus other than WINNING an election to be the whim of silly-billy moralists, AND then tolerate the sort of discussion found on this blog.

      It's not Bob who is the doctrinaire, obsessed, moralistic hardliner.

      It's you.

    7. Greg, to take Somerby's argument to its conclusion, the wealthier a candidate is, the less we should demand of him and the more understanding we should be when he refuses to disclose his tax returns.

      After all, the same mean, spiteful press who went after his buddy Al will certainly make up mean, spiteful things to say about Romney, whom we already know is a no-good, rotten, horrendous, horrible scoundrel.

      Have I missed anything there?

    8. The Wise Cecelia: "It's not Bob who is the doctrinaire, obsessed, moralistic hardliner. It's you."

      There you go, Greg. The classic "rubber/glue" retort. You have got no recourse but the dread "triple dog dare."

      But not to over psychoanalyze Somerby, what I am catching is the whiff of jealousy. He just can't stand it that "dummies" and "frauds" like Hayes and Maddow are pulling down seven-figure salaries and writing books while he's still sitting at home blogging, and trying to finish his book about a 12-year-old election that no publisher wants because its such a convoluted mess of bad high school writing.

    9. Annon 9:25

      Not only are you missing something, you're making stuff up. Please explain how the logical conclusion ends with "the wealthier a candidate is, the less we should demand of him and the more understanding we should be when he refuses to disclose his tax returns."

      That is willfully illogical.

      You come across as an obtuse prig!

    10. CM, I note in your silly response candidates exposing there income tax does not come up. So your usually name calling has no teeth. Somersby was indefensible today, so you just avoid the whole topic of the foolish post.

    11. and now that most of those media scoundrels that elected bush now support the obamacrats - the obama fanboys just cant STAND IT that bob is still attacking the media for their ignorance, and incompetence.

      guess this is because the fanboys themselves represent ignorance as well as obama really is an incompetent amateur.

    12. Well, speaking just for me, I will be lodging a third party (safe state) vote for whoever this year. Obama's continuation of the worst of the Military polices and wars makes it impossible to endorse. But that has to do with Defense issues, and TDH doesn't do Defense.
      It also has nothing to do with the terrible flub job Bob has done on the Income Tax issue, and I would expect Obama or any other Dem to fork over that information as well.

    13. So to sum up and clarify, Bob isn't taking a stance on whether Obama, Romney or anyone *should* fork over tax returns. He's just arguing the media hasn't made as a big a stink about other candidates tax returns, or about sussing out the finances of other extremely wealthy candidates.

      He's taking a stance on the media and it's reporting. Not transparency, tax returns, or anything else.

    14. And it's an amazingly weak case, as it always is when Bob tries to dismiss his own flagrant sophistry with the preemptive lizard bit. But of course, if his argument is that all calls for Tax records are partisan, then it's a case against against transparency. And he IS taking a stance: he doesn't care. His case is that Romney is being picked on is based on other candidates wives being pressured into disclosure!

    15. No, not partisan but rather somewhat selective. Our high end media it appears is a bit arbitrary when it comes to setting a standard for "transparency". Perhaps we shouldn't notice?

  16. "They engage in this process every four years."

    So if you know there would be a stink about tax returns, why didn't he dispose of it last year or even four years ago?

  17. Apparently Romney's only strength with GOP voters is he's white and not Obama. But for a party that couldn't wait to see a long form birth certificate, they sure are being hypocritical now. Tax returns should be the easiest thing anyone would show.

    1. I think it's kooky to doubt Obama's citizenship. However, I don't see a parallel here. Being a natural born citizen is a President's Constitutional requirement. Releasing more than two years of tax returns is merely a tradition.

    2. Lordy, won't this GOP convention be dull! I bet they won't even bother with the balloon drop.

  18. Can anyone explain the odd anonymous writing on this blog? Is this a troll on the loose.

    What drives these people on?

  19. In sum: Romney is to be attacked, but only in the precisely calibrated way of which Bob approves. No deviations permitted.

  20. Confused, that is a forced reading of the post.
    It seems Somersby is claiming that the press has all the financial information it needs to "attack" or clearly paint Romney as a plundering Plutocrat already but is barely doing that.
    The additional tax returns are unnecessary and actual a distraction and will only feed the frenzy not clarify the issue.
    Your summary is misguided and it seems petty and willful.

    1. "Barely doing that."

      If that's Bob's position, then that's where if falls apart.

    2. Um... I would start with "All the financial information it needs." So here it is TDH who is judging the returns sight unseen, though I guess he tries to cover this with the blanket "I don't care." Bob's post represents a willful tit for tatism that is at least half insane.
      It's mostly forgotten that part of the presses misbehavior in 2000 was ignoring some of Bush's very, very dubious background in business. They very nearly let it slide that he was not disclosing a criminal record as well! It is part of the presses obligation to provide information to voters about the candidates, and Romney's dodge her is outlandish enough to be decried on the right! We should not care that Bob does not care.

  21. This was an excellent post. Unfortunately, Bob, I think your allegiance to Krugman is going to crumble if you start looking at him critically. Most sober economists view Krugman's economic journalism the same way you view e.g. Diane Ravitch's education journalism. He's made a career as a public intellectual on on his faded reputation, which he never could have had as a real economist. He is as dishonest, hyperpartisan, and deluded as anyone on either end of the spectrum. You eat him up the way many non-educators (including most of my economist colleagues) eat up the drivel of people like Ravitch and Michelle Rhee. It seems like everybody agrees with the mainstream upper-class consensus on everything except what they know best. I just wish more people would make the connection, i.e. Gee, if they're so incredibly wrong on education maybe they're incredibly wrong on everything else too?

    1. Just to clear things up, how about your own list Mike of those whom you would consider to be today's "sober... real economists," those economists with vibrant reputations who are among us in these times spreading the good news from the one true grail. (By the way, Krugman has written about and discussed his reasons for becoming "a public intellectual." See page 2, here, for instance.)

    2. I've got a feeling that list is going to come down to Thomas Sowell, who will get extra points for not playing the race card!

    3. I think it'll be a list of MMTers with Jamie Galbraith thrown in for good measure.

  22. Bob's 3 step election plan:

    1. Run a high minded, informed campaign that meets the Howler's exacting standards. No deviations.

    2. Lose

    3. Spend your remaining time on Planet Earth blaming Maureen Dowd for your defeat.

    1. Bob seems to be questioning whether the current campaign approach will work. The Dems say that Romney once strapped a dog's cage to the roof of a car, that he's very rich, and that he only released two years of income tax returns. Meanwhile, the Reps tell voters that Obama's policies ruined the economy and destroyed millions of jobs.

      Bob seems to think that the Dem message is weaker than the Rep message.

  23. Hey Bob

    1) You're not as good a writer as you think you are - could you make you sentences any more convoluted - I doubt it?
    2) There is a problem with the press corp - but it's not the one you keep going on about.
    3) If you have something concrete to say about the state of the world - say it - commenting on the commenters is so David Brooks and just as tedious.

  24. Again I ask, what have you got against MSNBC commentators. No matter what the subject you manage to sneak in some sort of cheap shot. You're churlish and childish and I stop reading at that point.

    That said I did managed to get your point by the 2nd paragraph. The rest of the column is just bloviating repetition.

    The concern is not Romney's tax returns, or his disgraceful business practices, it's the fact that 47% of the people blindly support this noxious turd.

    And how about focusing on Mormonism, it's not Christianity, it's a weird 19th Century cult, that would impact that 47%.

    Oh yeah, MIKE, economists are like the high priests of any religion, only their God is the True God. Economic theories are as Scientific as Creationism.

    1. "And how about focusing on Mormonism, it's not Christianity, it's a weird 19th Century cult, that would impact that 47%."

      We saw no such impacts in the way Romney governed Massachusetts, saved the Salt Lake City Olympics, or in his business work.

      I don't think candidates should be judged based on their religious practices. However, if you do so, the church Obama attended in Chicago for 20 years is nothing to write home about.

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