Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Why isn't everyone just ignoring Harry Reid

Sen. Harry Reid (D) of Nevada has claimed that someone told him that Mitt Romney didn't pay taxes for 10 years, but he won't tell us who that person is beyond being a Bain investor. Now why a Bain investor would know how much tax Mitt Romney paid, but almost no one else does, I don't know.

Even if we believe Harry Reid is telling the truth - that someone did in fact tell him this, the credibility of this story falls only a little bit above "In a dream I had, a leprechaun told me that Romney paid no taxes for 10 years." On a 100 point credibility scale, the story is in the low single digits. But the media is running around like a bunch of junior high instigators saying "Mitt, you aren't going to believe what Harry said about you."  in the hopes that they'll fight by the softball field after school.

And Mitt is taking the bait. Here's what he should have said the first time he was asked about it.

"And how credible do you think Harry Reid's claim is?"

Because if they don't think it very credible - and I don't think anyone does, then the response is "Then why are you wasting our time with this?"

Now Reid has oversold his story, saying things like "you do pretty well if you don't pay taxes for 10 years when you're making millions and millions of dollars" and "the word is out that he has not paid any taxes for 10 years. Let him prove he has paid taxes, because he has not." which crosses the line from "Here is what someone told me, and I can't confirm it, so take it at that value" to insisting something is true with the flimsiest of evidence. 

Had he not, he would have had a better position. I don't think there would be anything wrong with reporting something he heard, which he thought was credible, as long as he includes all the caveats - like "I can't tell you who it is" and "That, and that Romney won't release his returns, are the only evidence I can offer." He could even say that he gives it little value, based on the lack of evidence. Then everyone can consider it and discount it appropriately.

So Harry Reid is showing poor judgment (or lying), the media is showing even worse judgement and Romney is mishandling the whole thing. 


  1. I think that this was a very shrewd play by Harry Reid. He gets Romney's taxes another week of play in the news cycle and sets up for the inevitable ads asking what's so devastating in the returns that justifies not releasing them to quiet exactly this kind of chatter. The added bit of irony of throwing Republicans on their heels about releasing personal documents (ahem birth certificate) is too beautiful to pass up.

  2. It's probably good politics, but it's a sad statement about the media that it is.