Aug 03, 2012.
It's not quite a slugfest of biblical proportions, but the latest Democrats vs. Republicans smackdown pits what probably are the two highest-profile Mormons in politics in one of the bitterest spitting matches to come out of the presidential contest yet.
Harry Reid, the Dems' Senate Majority Leader, started it, with what may be a completely whackadoodle, baseless allegation that's bound to come back and bite him in the assertion.
He said an anonymous (uh-oh!) former Bain investor told him Mitt Romney paid no taxes for 10 years. (Wow! Really?)
The problem is, people who've seen Romney's returns say that’s not true. (Uh-OH!)
Sen. John McCain, who vetted Romney as a potential vice presidential pick during his unsuccessful 2008 run for the White House, said he reviewed 23 years' worth of Romney's returns and saw nothing damning in them.
"Everything was fine," McCain told a group of gathered reporters on Capitol Hill. "I can personally vouch for the fact that there was nothing in his tax returns that would in any way be disqualifying for him to be a candidate."
A former McCain campaign staffer who said he had seen a summary of Romney's tax info confirmed McCain's statement. Not that that was really needed. If anybody in politics is considered a morally upright straight-shooter, it's McCain.
Naturally, Romney, an upstanding Mormon who, in keeping with his religion's dictates, dutifully donates 10 percent of his income to the church, is outraged.
"Harry's going to have to describe who it is he spoke with, because, of course, that is totally and completely wrong," Romney said on Sean Hannity's radio show. "It's untrue, dishonest and inaccurate. It's wrong.
"So, I'm looking forward to have Harry reveal his sources, and we will probably find out it's the White House."
OK, Harry, rule no.1 in allegations: Know what you're talking about. If you haven't seen the documents yourself, be prepared to look like a bozo.
Still, Reid went to the Senate floor Thursday and said it was up to Romney to show the zero taxes allegation is not true.
"The word's out that he hasn't paid any taxes for 10 years," he said. "Let him prove that he has paid taxes, because he hasn't."
Rule no.2 is: He who makes the allegation must provide the proof.
Now Harry is a consummately respected senator from Nevada who has served, pretty much above reproach, for longer than half the country has been alive. That means two things: he knows how to play politics, and he's not prone to throwing out groundless lies -- at least not ones it's easy to get caught at.
He's also a well-respected and seemingly devout Mormon. Which, if you take devout Mormons at their word, means he doesn't do drugs or drink. Not even coffee.
So you can't blame his latest rant on a hallucinogenic-induced psychotic episode.
But Harry came out this week and flung major doo at Romney’s wall.
He told the Huffington Post he got a call from someone who had invested in Romney's cash-cow company, Bain Capital, about a month ago. Reid refuses to say who it is, the same way Romney refuses to release his tax returns. But, Reid said, this mystery tipster told him Romney didn't pay any taxes for 10 years.
Zero taxes for 10 years! A guy who, in 2010, listed almost $22 million in income!
But then, Harry throws out the fine print.
"He didn't pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that's true? Well, I'm not certain," he told the Huffington Post.
Say what?! You have absolutely no proof but you're going to throw out damning accusations?
Bad play, Mr. Reid. That's a below the belt punch you're going to claim is legal just because the ref didn't see it.
Clearly, Reid is pushing the Democratic agenda of trying to force Romney to release his tax returns. But he blew it.
Mitt's refusal to let the people of the United States see how much he made and how looks bad. Everybody, Democrats and Republicans alike, is wondering what he's hiding. Romney says nothing, but c'mon -- if he had nothing to hide, why wouldn't he just release them?
And, if he had nothing to hide, why would he be willing to take so much damage to his campaign over the returns instead of just releasing them?
But Reid's way of trying to force his hand is just wrong. No matter what we suspect Romney may have hidden in his returns, our nation is built on the philosophy that it's up to the accuser to show the evidence. Or, as Romney put it on Hannity's show, it's up to Reid to "put up, or shut up."
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