A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Will Romney face GOP’s ‘October Surprise’?

Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues., or Wed., July 30, 31 or Aug. 1

Ballplayer/philosopher Yogi Berra famously warned, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney might heed that advice.

GOP extremists, who’ve never embraced Massachusetts’ former governor, could sabotage Romney’s nomination because of damaging information in Romney’s still-secret tax returns, which have been an issue since the primaries.

Chicago Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel told ABC News, “He has only released one year. To the McCain campaign he released 23 years. He’s telling the people, ‘I’m not going to give you what I gave John McCain’s people in 2008.’ And when he gave them 23 years, John McCain’s campaign looked at it and went, ‘Let’s go with Sarah Palin.’ So whatever’s in there is far worse than just the first year.”

In downstate Illinois, area Republican Congressmen who support Romney, U.S. Reps. Aaron Schock (Peoria) and Bobby Schilling (Moline) haven’t weighed in. Schock has not been commenting on the tax returns, and Schilling did not reply to a request for a statement.

However, other, well-known conservatives and publications have joined progressives in criticizing Romney’s refusal to disclose his tax returns. It’s possible that right-wing forces could be trying to engineer an “October Surprise.” (That refers to some event that could change the outcome of a November election weeks beforehand, but it’s come to mean last-minute influences on political decisions, like nominations at a convention.)

It’s not that Romney’s rich. After all, Franklin D. Roosevelt was a millionaire (although a pragmatic foe of economic inequality and fascism). It’s that Americans wonder how Romney became rich and whether he paid a fair share of taxes for roads, schools, Social Security, Medicare, defense, etc.

A July 15 poll conducted by the Daily Kos and the Service Employees International Union reports that 56 percent of American adults (and 61 percent of independents) think Romney should disclose 12 years of his tax returns, and USA Today’s more recent poll says that 44 percent believe the hidden tax returns include “damaging information.”

Texas Congressman and former presidential candidate Ron Paul told Politico, “It looks like releasing tax returns is what the people want.”

Indeed, Americans want to know the truth about Romney – and also Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and others in or trying to get into Congress.

Alabama’s Republican Gov. Robert Bentley told the Associated Press, “If you have things to hide, then maybe you’re doing things wrong. I think you ought to be willing to release everything to the American people.”

Conservative columnist George Will on ABC-TV said, “The costs of not releasing the returns are clear. Therefore, he must have calculated that there are higher costs in releasing them.”

Conservative commentator Matthew Dowd wrote, “There is obviously something because if there was nothing there, he would say, ‘Have it.’ The bigger thing is: It’s arrogance.”

Some wonder whether Romney paid little or no taxes in 2009 or other years.

Others ask: Why did he apparently close his Swiss accounts (whose mere existence is unprecedented for presidential candidates) but not his other off-shore tax shelters in the Cayman Islands? Is there a connection to the Internal Revenue Service’s tax-amnesty program for tax cheats from 2009? The IRS from March to Oct. 15, 2009, offered amnesty to tax evaders that let them avoid criminal prosecution. The amnesty program was tied to a $780 million criminal settlement with the federal government after the big Swiss bank UBS AG gave up names of some account holders.

Amnesty for a crime like tax evasion would dramatically hurt a candidacy, obviously.
Romney’s 2010 returns – which he did release – don’t show Swiss-account holdings.

Conservative commentator Bill Kristol told Fox News, “This is crazy… you’ve got to release 6, 8, 10 years of back tax returns.”

Other conservatives who’ve publicly called for Romney to reveal his tax returns include Mississippi’s Republican Gov. Haley Barbour; Republican strategist John Feehery; conservative journalist David Frum; U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican; conservative Fox News commentator Brit Hume; U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican; U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar, an Indiana Republican; New Hampshire’s Republican chair Wayne MacDonald; Republican consultant Mike Murphy; ex-John McCain adviser Ana Navarro; Texas’ Republican Gov. and former Republican Presidential candidate Rick Perry; U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican; former chair of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele; former adviser to Newt Gingrich Rick Tyler; and Republican political strategist John Weaver.

Conservative magazines such as Forbes and National Review have editorialized that Romney should disclose his tax returns. NR said, “He won’t be able to maintain a position that looks secretive and is a departure from campaign conventions.”

Stubborn Romney supporters might reflect on another line by another philosopher – humorist James Thurber, in his “Unicorn in the Garden” short story – “Don’t count your boobies before they’re hatched.”

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