Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan and former President Bill Clinton have joined the chorus of Republicans and Democrats that are calling for Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney to make more of his tax returns public.
Romney has already given his 2010 and 2011 returns, saying that is enough for the public to scrutinize his finances
Former Reagan speechwriter Noonan says it’s unclear how revealing more returns would affect Romney politically, but that it’s the right thing to do.
“The reason Mitt Romney isn't releasing more tax returns can be reduced to three words: Bill Clinton's underwear,” she writes on WSJ.com.
“When he first ran for president, Bill Clinton put out his tax returns. Lisa Schiffren, an enterprising young writer for The American Spectator, went through them and found that the Clintons, when they were in Little Rock, had gone to great lengths to limit their tax bills, to the point of itemizing each contribution to local charities, including Mr. Clinton's old underwear. Hilarity ensued. This is the kind of thing everyone in national politics fears.”
But Romney should have been prepared for a “rigorous public examination” of his taxes, Noonan maintains. It’s a bit strange that someone prized for his organizational skills hasn’t done so. “The political answer to the question ‘Should Romney reveal more tax returns?’ is, ‘That depends on what's in them,’" Noonan writes. “But the non-political answer is yes, he should.”
Clinton told CNN’s Erin Burnett that Romney is likely suffering a lot more from not offering the tax information than he would from doing so.
So what explains Romney’s reluctance in Clinton’s eyes? “I have no idea, but whatever it is it couldn't be as bad as not doing it,” he said. “I mean in his first tax return, the one year he did release, all of his income was taxed at a 15 percent capital gain [rate]. But he can honestly say he didn't draw a salary. He was running for president, so all of his income was investment income. That was the law, whether people like it or not. He fully complied with the law.”
The returns also showed Romney to be quite charitable, notes Clinton, who now heads the Clinton Global Initiative, which seeks to solve global problems. “He gave away 16 percent of his income, and presumably most of it to the Mormon Church,” the former president said. “But . . . with everyone else being so much more forthcoming, it raises the question of whether he thinks it should be a different set of rules for him than everybody else.”
That’s the big problem for Romney, Clinton said. The candidate obviously believes the hit he’s taking now for not releasing more tax returns is less than what he’d suffer for revealing them, Clinton said. “But it's hard to imagine that that's true.”
Burnett suggested Romney might face a public relations problem for his heavy donations to the Mormon Church, but Clinton thinks that should be lauded. “They do a lot of good work around the world,” he said. For example, Mormons were instrumental in building Hawaii’s school system.
“So I just can't figure out why he doesn't do it,” Clinton said. “I think it's a mistake, I think he ought to do it. He ought to release a decade's worth of tax returns.”
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