Just on a meta-discussion level, I find it stunning that the presumptive Republican candidate basically personifies the exact opposite of the national zeitgeist right now: trust fund baby, plastic, insincere, Wall Street, mansion-dwelling, privileged and so out of touch with the rest of the country that he can say straight-faced that $374,000 is "not much money." Really, wasn't there anyone in line who would have been less of a caricature?
Mitten is very, very nervous about releasing his tax returns, for obvious reasons. It can't possibly help him with his popularity for everyone to realize just how much money Mitt is making and then tucking away off shore in his Cayman Island tax haven.
The issue of his tax returns came up again during the CNN debate, and Mitt wasn't too happy about it. It didn't help that Newt pre-emptively released his tax returns right before the debate began. When it came to his returns, Mitt could only hedge and babble.
Transcript below the fold.
KING: Governor Romney, when will we see yours?
ROMNEY: When my taxes are complete for this year, and I know that if I'm the nominee, the president's going to want to insist that I show what my income was this last year and so forth. When they're completed this year in April, I'll release my returns in April and probably for other years as well.
I know that's what's going to come. Every time the Democrats are out there trying their very best to -- to try and attack people because they've been successful. And -- and I have been successful. But let me tell you, the -- the challenge in America is not people who've been successful. The challenge in America, and President Obama doesn't want to talk about this, is you've got a president who's played 90 rounds of golf while there are 25 million Americans out of work, and -- and you've got...
... and while the price of gasoline has doubled, he said "no" to the Keystone pipeline. And while we've got $15 trillion of debt, he -- he said, "Look, I'm going to put another $1 trillion of debt for Obamacare." That's the problem in America, not the attacks they make on people who've been successful.
KING: But some of the questions about when you release your taxes have not come -- the president has raised them; his campaign has raised them -- you're right on that -- but so have some of your rivals up here. Speaker Gingrich has said you owe them to the people of South Carolina before they vote. Governor Perry made that point as well before he left the race.
Why not should the people of South Carolina before this election see last year's return?
ROMNEY: Because I want to make sure that I beat President Obama. And every time we release things drip by drip, the Democrats go out with another array of attacks. As has been done in the past, if I'm the nominee, I'll put these out at one time so we have one discussion of all of this. I -- I obviously pay all full taxes. I'm honest in my dealings with people. People understand that. My taxes are carefully managed and I pay a lot of taxes. I've been very successful and when I have our -- our taxes ready for this year, I'll release them.
KING: Speaker Gingrich, is that good enough?
GINGRICH: Look, he's got to decide and the people of South Carolina have to decide. But if there's anything in there that is going to help us lose the election, we should know it before the nomination. And if there's nothing in there -- if there's nothing in there, why not release it?
I mean, it's a very simple model, but he's got to decide. It's his decision and everybody's got to run their own campaign based on what they think is a reasonable risk. I have filed -- I released mine this evening. We also released the little small charitable foundation we have so people can see what we do and how we did it and what our values are.
KING: Senator Santorum, when will we see yours?
SANTORUM: Well, I do my own taxes and they're on my computer and I'm not home. So...
... and there's nobody at home right now. Until I get home, I won't get them. When I get home, you'll get my taxes.
KING: But you -- you did call on the governor to release his.
SANTORUM: No, someone asked me, "would it be OK for the governor," and I said "yes." I didn't think -- I don't think it's a big deal. I mean, if Governor Romney's told what his tax rate is. Mine's higher than that, I can assure you, but I can't tell you what it was. All I know it was very painful writing the check last April. That's all I can tell you.
KING: I want to -- Governor Romney, you mentioned the Democratic attacks. I want to ask you to go back in history a little bit. Back in 1967, your father set a groundbreaking -- what was then a groundbreaking standard in American politics. He released his tax return. He released them for not one year, but for 12 years. And when he did that, he said this: "One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show." When you release yours, will you follow your father's example?
You know, I don't know how many years I'll release. I'll take a look at what the -- what our documents are and I'll release multiple years. I don't know how many years, and -- but I'll be happy to do that.
Let me tell you, I know there are some who are very anxious to see if they can't make it more difficult for a campaign to be successful. I know the Democrats want to go after the fact that I've been successful. I -- I'm not going to apologize for being successful.
And I'm not -- I'm not suggesting -- I'm not suggesting these people are -- are doing that, but I know the Democrats will go after me on that basis and that's why I want to release these things all at the same time. And -- and I -- you know, my -- my dad, as you know, born in Mexico, poor, didn't get a college degree, became head of a car company. I could have stayed in Detroit like him and gotten pulled up in a car company.
I went off on my own. I didn't inherit money from my parents. What I have I earned. I worked hard, the American way, and...
... I'm going to be able -- I'm going to be able to talk to President Obama in a way no one else can that's in this race right now, about how the free economy works, what it takes to put Americans back to work, and make sure he understands that this divisiveness, of dividing Americans between 99 and one is dangerous. We are one nation under God.