There continues to be a lively debate about whether Mitt Romney’s decision to release decades of information on his tax returns—which definitively proved false Harry Reid’s dishonest accusations from the Senate floor—will be strategically beneficial to the campaign. But it cannot be said that we didn’t know exactly how the Obama campaign would respond. Romney surely must have been aware that the shamelessness of the Obama campaign and its allies would persist—and in fact has reached new lows by attacking Romney for paying more in taxes than he had to.
Earlier in the campaign, the Obama camp taunted Romney with a public letter asking for five years of tax returns and promising they would not ask for more. I wrote at the time:
What the Obama campaign letter meant, of course, is that they will criticize Romney for whatever they find in those five years of tax returns relentlessly, while their allies “outside” the campaign, like Harry Reid, continue to attack the Romney campaign—uncoordinated, they swear!—for not releasing more.
Within 24 hours, the Obama campaign fulfilled what I must admit was among the easiest predictions to make. First, the campaign, according to Politico:
Why were more than 65% of pages related to overseas investments? Why did he have investments in a Chinese oil company? Why did he have dozens of foreign accounts and million stashed away in tax havens like the Caymans? [Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen] Psaki asked, according to a pool report.
But how do you criticize as secretive or dishonest a man who gave millions to charity and more to the government than he legally had to? Ladies and gentlemen, the majority leader of the United States Senate:
The information released today reveals that Mitt Romney manipulated one of the only two years of tax returns he’s seen fit to show the American people – and then only to ‘conform’ with his public statements. That raises the question: what else in those returns has Romney manipulated?
You almost can’t blame Reid for behaving this way. His fellow Democrats refuse to rein him in, and the media—which would be losing its mind if it were a Republican behaving this way—prefers to ignore it. He’s been given no reason to drop his inappropriate behavior.
This has been the general tone of the weekend. On ABC’s This Week, George Stephanopoulos asked David Axelrod if the Obama campaign would now turn from the tax returns to more serious topics, and Axelrod practically laughed at the question. No, there would be no Obama pivot to the issues.
Ironically, Stephanopoulos introduced a segment later in the show with a clip from the television show “The West Wing” in which the Democratic incumbent president’s staff decides their side is going to “raise the level of public debate in this country, and let that be our legacy”—though Stephanopoulos said that this must be Romney’s, not Obama’s, strategy going forward. On that, he appears to be correct. If the level of public discourse is going to be raised in this election, it will be on Romney to do so; the Obama campaign has politely—and sometimes not so politely—declined to participate in such a debate.