Harry Reid is saying strange things!


How should the press corps react: Should Harry Reid be saying these things about Mitt Romney’s tax payments?

Kevin Drum expressed reservations, and many readers got mad. The GOP has always done this, they said. We should be doing it too!

Meanwhile, on CNN, Howard Kurtz and a trio of guests were trying to figure how the press corps should handle claims of this type.

As a general matter, Bill Press used to play things straight. As you can see in these exchanges, he doesn’t do that any more:
KURTZ (8/5/12): Harry Reid said that he had gotten this from some unnamed person, used to work at Bain. He won't reveal it. He thinks it's true. He told us—he did this original interview with the Huffington Post which reported it straight, except for saying it's impossible to verify because they won't give us the source. Is that the correct way to handle it? Who should be the issue here?

PRESS: There's only one guy who can clear this up. It's not Harry Reid. I'm sorry, it's Mitt Romney.

KURTZ: Wait, wait, wait.

PRESS: No, no, I think reporters–

KURTZ: That's a Democratic talking point. That's a Democratic talking point. What I'm asking is how journalists should handle an unsubstantiated charge.

PRESS: I'm going to tell you. I'm going to tell you. Journalists should handle it by going to Mitt Romney and saying, “Why only two years, why not 23 years? Why? You gave 23 years of it to McCain—”

KURTZ: So it's perfectly OK, it's perfectly OK in your view, for Harry Reid to throw this out, unnamed source, nothing to back it up, and you just think that's fodder for journalists to attack Romney?

PRESS: I just want to point out, Harry Reid is not a journalist. Harry Reid is a Democratic politician who doesn't want Mitt Romney to get elected. What he is doing may be diabolical, but it's brilliant, because what's Mitt Romney been talking about for the last two days, he's been talking about his freaking tax returns. So Harry Reid is playing hardball.
In that last exchange, Press makes no attempt to answer the question. For the most part, our old favorite is a hack now.

The analysts are upset.

How should real journalists handle this matter? We can’t say it’s all that hard. But at the very least, we think journalists ought to include some basic background information when they discuss this topic:

First: If you look through Drum’s hundreds of comments, you will see many readers who seem to think that all recent candidates have released more information than Romney is offering.

In the case of Candidates McCain and Kerry, that isn’t exactly true (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/20/12). Journalists should explain those earlier situations. Wherever the ultimate merits may lie, outrage is being expressed this year which wasn’t expressed before.

Second: There is no requirement that a candidate release his tax returns. There are some mandated financial disclosures, with which Romney has complied.

Third: There actually could be “innocent” reasons for withholding tax returns. If Romney released a batch of returns, the press corps and the Obama campaign would go sifting through those returns, looking for three million silly distractions. And yes, it’s likely the press would seek distractions rather than incriminating stuff.

In this piece at Salon, Joshua Holland presented “ten theories” for Romney’s refusal to release more returns. In all ten, Romney is guilty of some offense. This is how liberals stay dumb.

Should Romney release more tax returns? That would be fine by us! But the press corps already has plenty of information about Romney’s weird financial behavior—and the press corps is making no attempt to report those available topics. For the most part, the press corps doesn’t do such things! Such conduct upsets the swells!

Should Romney release more tax returns? For ourselves, we can’t say we hugely care. But despite the angst on Kurtz’s show, it isn’t that hard to report what’s occurring. It’s just that the press doesn’t care.

An unexplored topic: How did Romney come to have an IRA which may be worth as much as $102 million? In this widely-cited report from Vanity Fair, Nicholas Shaxson discusses one possible answer.

In our view, Shaxson's speculation involves unattractive conduct by Romney. But his possible answer is quite complex, as is the case with all these matters. The press corps could be exploring this puzzle right now. But it isn’t.

Should Romney release more tax returns? That would be OK with us! But it isn’t required; it isn’t the recent norm; and the press corps will surely go for distractions, not for any real stuff which may (or may not) be there.

Should Romney release more returns? Should Reid be making poorly-sourced charges? From a journalistic standpoint, this story just isn't real hard.


  1. It would be so hiliarious if it turns out Mitt is hiding his taxes because he's been stiffing his church.

  2. I have a bad feeling Romney & co. are going to burn the Dems here. Refuse to release anything so it becomes their sole point of attack (like it almost is -- nevermind all of Romney's lunatic proposals) and then release the returns a week or two before the election. Oops, nothing very suspicious in them. Dems just wasted half the campaign attacking a windmill and Romney comes off looking like the good guy...

  3. The Daily Howler's straining shows it what amounts to a straw man: who is suggesting Mitt HAS to turn over his Tax Returns? Nobody as well as no one.

    George W Bush, the Clown Prince of Arrogance, was fond of the old saw "rich people will just find a way to not pay taxes." To which some Americans have learned to say "yes, as long as we are governed by people like George W Bush." And that is the heart of what is going on here. Ann Coulter has picked up The Daily Howler's dodge and Kerry's wife, but all this seems very, very lame. I would disagree with Press only in suggested what Reid is doing is diabolical. Reid admits he's repeating what amounts to a rumor (that he believes) and no one need consider it as any more than that. It is when Romney demands it's source, as if that were the issue, that the heat is return to were it should be: on him.
    I notice those most queasy with this are progressive types who generally hate everything about the Democrats anyway and become revolted every time they get a leg up. Oh, everything is there to PROPERLY wage class warfare against the right, the Dems are just too evil and stupid to it the right (our) way. We may lose every battle, but we do it with a lot of class!
    Is there anything about demanding accountability from the super rich that at this point in time looks like "attacking a windmill?" A corse, stupid, rich and American like much George W Bush is attempting to inhabit the White House, while the memory of Mr. "the rich will always find a way to not pay taxes" is perhaps still fresh in the minds of many. How he got his money and the taxes he's paid on it could not be more relevant, just as the buried stories of W's hopeless record as a businessman were critical in 2000.
    But the Daily Howler is angry. He knows the right and proper rules for this sort of thing. We don't want to appear unfair to Ann Coulter, that could really hurt us. I think he's wrong, and the Obama Campaign is correct, but that's what makes horse races.

    1. No longer buying itAugust 6, 2012 at 9:07 PM

      Bob's a full-on Romney apologist.

    2. and your a full on obama fanboy dumazz

  4. dodge "about" Kerry's wife...

    1. Dude, the grammar is impenetrable throughout your rant.

      Your correction is like an ugly rotten cherry on an otherwise perfect sh!t sundae.

    2. Let me sum it up for you my very, very slow friend.

      No one is claiming Romney is OBLIGATED (legally or otherwise) to
      produce his tax returns. So that is a red haring. They are arguing he should
      release them because they are relevant, and other candidates have.

      This rather minor hardball is no outrage or big deal, but it's effectiveness will be seen in how they election plays out.

      Can you stop your veneration of everything the Howler says long enough to grasp these two points?

    3. Critics of Romney are asserting that he is morally obligated, if not legally obligated, to release more of his returns.

      That's why they appeal to the example of the Romney father.

      past participle, past tense of ob·li·gate (Verb)
      1. Bind or compel (someone), esp. legally or morally.

    4. Critics? Which are the "if nots"? I have heard no one suggest this is a legal matter. It has been suggested that recent history suggests a tradition, and that Romney's policies suggest a moral obligation, not nearly the same thing as insisting he "has to" do it. I know you are rightfully squeamish about using a handle , but you might want to go to some examples. Also, look up "rant."

    5. We're two different Anonymouses. Anonymous of 3:40 bears no responsibility for my views.

      I'm the one from 2:03 (the one who called your incoherent 1:56 rant, a rant. You can't point to anything about that observation that means I "venerate everything the Howler says."

      I know what a rant is. And when you go on at length, a-grammatically, without pausing for paragraph breaks, rambling from one thought at the start of a "sentence" to another thought by the end... well, you show us all what a rant really is.

      I really don't know if you've said anything that contradicts the Howler, so I hardly feel the need to defend Somerby -- you really just come off as a babbling drunk.

    6. That's not what I did, and it
      Is not what a rant is. But, if you are a
      Stickler for clarity, take a few days and try
      and think up a handle.

  5. Mitt Romney's entire campaign is based upon his supposed business and financial acumen. That's why it is particularly important that he is transparent in this area. Also, Reid may just be repeating a rumor, but he certainly claims to have heard from a well placed Bain investor whose opinion he believes. Perhaps that's a complete lie, but that's what he's claiming. And, to disprove it all Mitt Romney has to do is go to Kinkos for an hour.

  6. In 1964 I attended a talk by a prominent Philadelphia pollster named Albert Sindlinger. At that point Nixon had a huge lead in the polls. Sindlinger contended that McGovern still had a chance to win, if would must promise all kind of goodies. I recall his phrase: "The America voter is a selfish pig!"

    Well, Romney's income tax return for 3 years ago doesn't do anything for the voters. For that reason, I think it's a weak attack.

  7. the main stream media *are* a moneyed interest, so it should come as no surprise when they ignore or downplay aspects of stories which would show their fellow moneyed interests and by association themselves in a bad light.

    also the right induces fear in the mainstream media. what reid is doing now is the kind of thing that will catch the attention of the media bosses. the tougher the dems get, the more respect the media will show to them. perhaps not intially, but long term they likely would get tougher on gop false equivalences and lies. as it stands they only fear the one party. they need to fear the dems as well.

    the dems need to play more hardball politics like this.

  8. From NPR's Morning Edition: hosted by Linda Wertheimer:

    DAN ARIELY: And we recently did a study on this. We just asked a few hundred people online to what extent they think that their candidates could be dishonest if it promoted their political agenda.

    SHAPIRO: He found that people were totally comfortable with politicians of their own party being dishonest to get elected.

    ARIELY: And by the way, for Democrats, this was a slightly more endorsed position than for the Republicans. So the Democrats are more willing for their politicians to lie to a higher degree than the Republicans.

    1. Malone: You said you wanted to get Capone. Do you really wanna get him? You see what I'm saying is, what are you prepared to do?

      Ness: Anything within the law.

      Malone: And *then* what are you prepared to do? If you open the can on these worms you must be prepared to go all the way. Because they're not gonna give up the fight, until one of you is dead.

      Ness: I want to get Capone! I don't know how to do it.

      Malone: You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. *That's* the *Chicago* way! And that's how you get Capone. Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that? I'm offering you a deal. Do you want this deal?

    2. "DAN ARIELY: And we recently did a study on this. We just asked a few hundred people online..."

      >>> so their "study" was an *online* poll?

    3. ">>> so their "study" was an *online* poll?"

      Good enough for DavidinCal's purposes!!

      If you want to see how concerned David really is about the potential that, for example, a presidential candidate might be a liar, definitely check out his many defenses of the indefensible Romney tax "plan" from Friday's Howler thread, "ELITE DELUSIONS: Horsies yes, looting no!"

      David ultimately settled, at 9:40 AM today, on the hilarious defense that "Any number of other stimulative assumptions are possible," AKA "Well, Tax Policy Center didn't consider that there might be a scenario where everybody gets a pony, so I'm still with Romney."

    4. Not exactly. What I said was that TPC claimed to have proved that it's impossible for everybody to get a pony. However, they didn't consider possible scenarios where everyone gets a pony. So, they didn't prove as much as they claimed to prove.

    5. TPC, unlike you, apparently refuse to believe in a magical Romney fairy.

      Meanwhile, on planet Earth, Romney's math doesn't work.

    6. If you're interested about Planet Earth, Anon, take a look at income tax collcted a couple of years after Bush's, Reagan's, or Kennedy's tax cuts became effective. In all three cases, the actual economic improvement was more than TPC assumed -- in some cases a great deal more.

      These three examples don't prove that Romney's cuts would necessarily produce the same jump in taxes collected. However, the examples do show that such an improvement is hardly impossible.

    7. Or the Clinton Tax increases, for that matter.

      But really, David, those three "examples" don't prove ANYTHING about Romney's plan.

      What they do prove is that you are willing to grasp at any straw do avoid the obvious: Romney's plan is a reverse-Robin Hood take-from-the-poor-and-give-to-the-rich plan.

      Even though, it should be noted, that leaving out such assumptions is the traditional, accepted way of modeling for the 10 year budget window, you were wrong when you said TPC didn't model economic growth assumptions in their study.

      You are also wrong to suggest that their growth assumptions should be greater. I'll quote the Washington Post:

      "The Tax Policy Center used a “dynamic scoring” model that factors in the impact of economic growth brought on by tax cuts, devised by Romney adviser and Harvard professor Greg Mankiw and Harvard’s Matt Weinzierl."

      "It’s exactly the kind of analysis that Republicans have been clamoring for."

      And it shows that Romney's math doesn't add up.

      You are indeed looking for magical solutions, David.

    8. I've yet to come across a member of the Republican tribe, and I've made a point of asking dozens, who is the least bit bothered that this country was lied into war in Iraq. The usual response I've come across has been a smirk, a shrug and a "so what?". When given a choice between reverence for the truth, or a chance to dress up in store bought camouflage to play boy cheerleader in front of the big screen, they've clearly proven to prefer the later.

  9. From moderately liberal pundit Richard Cohen:
    Harry Reid’s gutter politics

    The White House has been given the chance and explicitly ducked its duty. Other members of the Senate have run for cover....

    Reid has managed to draw both his party and his president into the gutter with him....

    As for Obama, he is tarnished by this episode. The fresh new face that promised us all a different kind of politics is suddenly looking cheesy. The soaring rhetoric that Obama used in his first campaign has come to ground in the mud of Harry Reid’s latter-day McCarthyism.

    1. "moderately liberal pundit Richard Cohen"

      I don't know one liberal that has anything but seething disdain for Richard Cohen.

  10. Richard Cohen biggest beef is, Obama is not bombing Iran!

  11. Ask the Howler how liberal Cohen is. Bob's been railing against him for years!

    1. I'm not sure Somerby ever said Cohen isn't a liberal.

      In general Somerby's critiques don't amount to saying that his targets aren't liberals -- just that they're useless or craven ones.

      And he certainly said that about Cohen, and I agree.

  12. The real story Bob is that top GOP figures are dishonestly saying that Reid is lying. That is self-evidently dishonest. They cannot possibly know that Reid was not told what he said he was told. They also do not know whether the supposed tax avoidance they dispute is or is not correct information. Multiple dishonesty, and they are the only ones actually KNOWN to be speaking dishonestly.

    And just where does it say that Reid must protect a Romney secret that fell in his lap from a source he thought he could trust? Nowhere. Press was correct. Bob is on another mission to trash those actually in the arena against the crazies.

  13. It's amazing how many are missing Bob's point. The tax return issue is at best a sideshow. Romney's tax plan tells us everything we need to know about who he is.

    1. How can the cherry picked one and a half years of returns that Romney has chosen to let us see possibly "tell[] us everything we need to know about who he is?" In view of the lengths Romney has been willing to go to avoid releasing any other years, the clear implication is that contained in the unreleased years is information much more damaging than what we have already seen.

      And all he has to do is spend an hour at Kinkos...

    2. Reading comprehension lesson:

      "Romney's tax plan tells us everything"

      From your reply:

      "How can the [tax] returns possibly "tell[] us everything"

      Another Emily Litella you are, manjeb.

      Possibly necessary shouting:


    3. You're right anon., it seems I replied in haste without re-reading oldman's post - Oldman was talking about Romney's tax plan - the perils of going off half cocked, sigh ...

  14. Booman deals rather well with the likes of Somerby and Richard Cohen: http://www.boomantribune.com/story/2012/8/6/233931/1219

    1. Cohen is awful, but Booman really doesn't deal At All with Somerby there -- Somerby is saying:

      "Shouldn't we be paying more attention to what We Know is awful about Romney's plans, rather than what we Don't Know and is most likely perfectly legal about his personal taxes."

      That some cast Somerby thereby as a Romney apologist is certainly one of the taller peaks of the Insanity range.

  15. 1) What Reid is saying about Romney's taxes is 100% correct, guaranteed. They guy's a major tax cheat. This is something people are arguing about?

    2) The media response of "Reid is irresponsible" is just a bullshit way of spreading the story. It's the same thing the media did with the Republican Swift Boat scheme - pretend it's reprehensible but repeat it endlessly. With any luck the strategy will work, & Romney will be out just like the Swift Boat guy, whatever his name was.

    3) Somerby's notion that we should keep the discussion on some kind of high plane is sweet, but so unrealistic as to be nigh on delusional. You're talking about an electorate that is unfathomably dumb. If the fact that 50% go Republican isn't enough proof of its stupidity, then just watch a little reality TV. Ergo, Bob, the effort to speak to the voters in language they might understand