Commentary: Romney to Release Data, But It’s Not About the Taxes

Mitt Romney’s decision to release his tax information is a reflection more of political expediency than about any convictions.

Posted: 01/23/2012 01:09 PM EST
Mitt Romney

So, now Mitt Romney has made it official: He has decided to release his tax returns this week.

The former Massachusetts governor’s decision comes after a highly awkward, tortured process of squirming through incessant questions centering on when — and whether — he would ever release the data.

It has been fascinating to see Romney, the weakened Republican front runner, wriggling publicly when asked about providing information that is a standard requirement for any apartment seeker in Harlem with the slightest hope of getting a new residence.

Nonetheless, Romney’s equivocation over the last month is finally over, only after it served as a contributing factor to his stinging and embarrassing loss in last weekend’s South Carolina Republican primary. A month ago, Romney was unclear that he would release them at all, later amending his position to say that he would release the 2011 returns after April. Finally, he told Fox News over the weekend that he would make public his return from 2010 as well as an estimate of his 2011 results.

In the end, however, it’s not about tax returns.

The real issue is Romney himself and his inability to portray himself as something other than a politician who will say and do anything in order to get elected, no matter how many shifts it may entail in his positions on issues.

Taking a position on whether it is appropriate for a candidate for president of the United States to release tax information is nothing more than a matter of one’s core political philosophy. If you feel it’s the right thing to do, then you simply do it. It’s not that complicated.

It was not a matter of vagueness or uncertainty for another presidential candidate who in 1968 released a dozen years of tax data. That was Romney’s father, George Romney.

But if one has little to no core philosophy, as is the case with Mitt Romney, that decision becomes an arduous, vacillating process whose central aim is to determine what will play best for one’s own political prospects. For Romney, it’s not a matter of what’s right or principled. It’s centered on what’s politically advantageous.

He has done it time and time again, so much so that it has defined his candidacy. Romney has shifted his position on nearly every issue that is considered part of a candidate’s core belief system, from abortion and health care reform to global warming.

What comfort can the nation take, particularly its African-American citizens, in a president whose core beliefs are so supple and flexible? What confidence can people of color possibly place in a leader whose dedication is less on eradicating Black unemployment or making health care available to all instead of looking to what plays best in the polls?

It’s not a prospect, or a candidacy, that can evoke much in the way of confidence.


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