Martin Bashir | September 21, 2012
>> how do you know it's been a bad week for the republican presidential nominee? that's when willard mitt romney wants to change the subject to his tax returns . yes, you heard me right. that's how bad things have become for mr. romney . the meeting went something like this. someone on the campaign suggested bringing out a whiteboard on an airplane tarmac. that got shot down. they've already done the veep rollout. too late, i guess, to do that again. a foreign trip? i don't think that's such a good idea. the entire foreign front has proved a complete and utter disaster. but then came the eureka moment. one hour ago, 3:00 p.m . on a friday afternoon to be exact, the campaign decided it would finally release the romneys' full 2011 tax returns . mitt and ann paid $1.95 million in taxes on his 2011 investment income of $13.7 million. an effective rate of just over 14%. the release showing just how fraught the romney campaign must be with seven days to go before early voting begins in iowa , seven weeks until the election, and that terribly unlucky 47% secret video which left mr. romney more naked than prince harry playing strip snooker in las vegas . while mr. romney has tried to restart and reset multiple times this week, the president has more faith in voters' short-term memories. taking the stage in battleground virginia this afternoon, armed with an hour-long video with which all of america is now very familiar.
>> i don't believe we can get very far with leaders who write off half the nation as a bunch of victims. who think that they're not interested in taking responsibility for their own lives. i don't see a lot of victims in this crowd today. i see hard-working virginians.
>> or, as mr. romney likes to call them, feckless freeloaders. now, of course, as romney faces an intense backlash for insulting half the nation, the romney camp also finds itself with a war chest less impressive than originally thought, and now a widening gap in key swing state polls in both colorado and wisconsin. a new nbc/" wall street journal " poll puts the president up five points among likely voters, 40% to 45%. in iowa the president's edge over romney is eight points, 50% to 42%. that number enough to take iowa out of the swing state category, now defined as leaning toward the president on msnbc's battleground map putting romney at an even deeper electoral deficit. the new polls taken after romney 's blundered response to u.s. attacks in north africa and during the release of that 47% video showed the toll the last week has taken on his candidacy. and if he was hoping for a little consolation from some conservative friends , well, i hope he didn't read peggy noonan today. quote, the romney campaign has to get turned around. this week i called it incompetent, but only because i was being polite. i really meant rolling calamity.
>> stop it.
>> i'm sorry.
>> this is hard. you want to try it.
>> i'm hearing that ann romney has something to say. mrs. romney , what was that?
>> stop it. this is hard. you want to try it? get in the ring. this is hard, and, you know, it's an important thing that we're doing right now, and it's around important election, and it is time for all americans to realize how significant this election is and how lucky we are to have someone with mitt's qualifications and experience and know-how.
>> with all due respect, mrs. romney , i'm afraid lucky is not a word anyone has used to describe your husband in quite some time. let's get straight to our panel. msnbc political analyst karin finney and here in new york, republican strategist ron christy and msnbc contributor ari. karen , can you believe it? the romney campaign suddenly wants to release his tax returns ? what a coincidence that it's this particular friday afternoon. i can't imagine how it seemed to coincide with that week.
>> i have to say as a person who has been doing politics for 20 years, the idea of releasing tax -- one year of tax returns as a way to try to change the story, that is unprecedented. and you forgot one other little blunder this week. don't forget that paul ryan was booed quite heavily today at the aarp --
>> we're coming to that later in the broadcast. you're becoming premature like mitt romney . stay on the point you're making.
>> my only point being, i mean, clearly when they were having that meeting trying to decide what they needed to do, they also knew they didn't want to have to have a conversation all weekend about the fact that seniors are not buying the snake oil that they are trying to sell to them. i have never seen a campaign that is this infective at being able to both respond and then trying to shift gears, and the problem that romney will have going forward, remember, something like 20 battleground state newspapers editorialized against romney on that 47% comment. now, that's not just -- we're not talking about inside the beltway. we're talking about outside. that's what the polls i think are reflecting. but how romney turns it around is anybody's guess because he's got to have more than just a good day or a good two days. he's got to be on par, solid every single day between now and the election to even try to change the story.
>> right. ari, in london we used to talk about the friday night coffin drop when someone wanted to drop something quietly. he's not done that for this reason. the romneys gave $4 million in charity in 2011 . but only claimed a deduction of $2.25 million to keep their effective rate around the 13% mark. a move that according to mitt romney would disqualify for the presidency. take a listen.
>> i have paid all the taxes required by law. i don't pay more than are legally due, and, frankly, if i had paid more than are legally due, i don't think i'd be qualified to become president. i think people would want me to follow the law and pay only what the tax code requires.
>> doesn't the 2011 disqualify him according to his own words, his 2011 tax returns .
>> he did pay several more points in taxes than he needed to. i don't think that should be a qualification for the presidency.
>> but that's what he said.
>> he said it, and he said it in rhetorical flourish and he would seem to count himself out. part of what's going on here --
>> just before you get to that, i want to make the point, if he hadn't reduced the opportunity to take those deductions, his effective rate would have been 9%.
>> and he says if you pay less than you should, it disqualifies you for the presidency.
>> if you pay more --
>> more than you should.
>> and more.
>> well, look, i think that's the problem for him, right? he's got a record, and he's constantly running from it. it's not just his massachusetts record of governance, it's his personal record, how he manages his books, the commitments he's made. and this is the point i was going to tell you is i think we're in a different political era now. i think facts are the new spin. i think numbers are the new rhetoric, and what you have seen is as the country has gotten a load of the mitt romney / paul ryan plan, as they have watched the convention, seen the 47% comments, they can see what this plan amounts to. they can see the numbers. they can do the arithmetic, and they don't like it.
>> your thoughts.
>> you guys crack me up. you honestly crack me up.
>> first it's --
>> we're using the words of mr. romney . please accept that he's cracking you up as well. he said it.
>> first you said that romney , we need to see his tax returns , we need to have these tax returns released.
>> we'd like 12 years like his father.
>> he gave us a summary for 20 years.
>> two years.
>> he gave us a summary for 20 years.
>> details for two years.
>> executive --
>> i can give you a summary --
>> let me finish a sentence.
>> please do.
>> what was his effective rate over 20 years? it was 20.20%. so, again, the lib raleralliberals, it's never enough. first you want him to release his records and then you say he's not paying enough on taxes. my second point is you're being disingenuous. he's paying taxes on wages and salary. then he's paying taxes on investment income. so to suggest he's not paying his taxes or not paying his fair share a ludicrous.
>> it's a distraction.
>> you and i will agree with this.
>> you agree?
>> this is absolutely a distraction.
>> so you agree he's released these in order to distract attention from his magnificent performance in florida where he's captured on tape dismissing and deriding 50% of the population.
>> i think what the distraction is here, martin, is we are looking at mitt romney 's taxes as opposed to looking at the president yes dismal record and you're going to fixate on this.
>> karen , please.
>> two. number one, we know mitt romney was willing to hing around with the numbers, if you will, to make sure that the numbers released today match what he said back in may, right.
>> he's engineered the numbers.
>> he's eveningineered the numbers. that to me raises even more questions about what is in that last ten years of taxes because we know he has no problem engineering the numbers to make it say what he wants it to say. more importantly, ron , and this is the problem that your guy has right now, his rationale is he ways to the letter of the law what he is supposed to pay. so do the 47% of people that he writes off. they pay to the letter of the law every bit of tax they're supposed to pay and somehow they're lazy victims?
>> come on.
>> this is just so absurd, this whole notion he's written off 47% of the country. the fact --
>> it's what he said.
>> the new gallup poll that came out today said that president obama has 47%, mitt romney has 47%. i know very well actually what governor romney said, martin, and the fact of the matter is he said there's no way these 47% of these people are going to vote for him.
>> ron is cherry picking now.
>> what he actually said is he characterized those people. he gave them certain conditions and he described them as entitled, dependent.
>> and victims.
>> all of that is what's proved offensive.
>> he made a value judgment about those people, ron . that's the problem. he made a value judgment about how much people pay, and he also doubled down on that by saying, you know, that's why to those people, those people, the idea of -- my plan for lowering their tax rates is not so interesting. i mean, that totally disrespects the work that the people --
>> absolutely, entirely not true.
>> it disrespects how they live their lives.
>> i'm sorry, the fact of the matter is that 49% of this country does, in fact, receive a check from the government. and it is true. i'm sorry. you guys minight not like the fact.
>> lazy victims?
>> we know that -- i'm sorry to tell you this, but a number of them are actually serving this nation overseas.
>> that's right.
>> i don't dispute that.
>> many of them are elderly. and these are benefits they've paid into. let's be careful about discussing them.
>> there's a problem here. it's a problem you have and a problem mitt romney has. you sound cold. you don't sound like you care about what government does. that's your biggest problem. the numbers bear that out so people can see why, but that's the fundamental thing that's going on. when you talk about the stimulus, when you talk about health care , when you talk about putting this nation back to work and when you talk about our veterans, some of whom don't pay taxes but serve us with the ultimate sacrifice, everything you're talking about here, the heart of it is that we have one idea here about government working for people and getting this country back to work, and you have another idea -- and i waited a while -- exemplified by mitt romney in a private moment of candor where he sounded even more cold than you, although i think you both sound cold, where the attitude is screw these people, we don't care about them politically. they're moochers, they're takers. that's the attitude. i think it sounds cold. i'm glad to see that it's being rejected by the public because sometimes this tough talk works. it doesn't seem to be working right now.
>> i'm afraid we have to call it a day , but ari, i want to you let your parents know that they brought you up exceptionally well because you have been polite and waited for your opportunity. so thank you so much.
>> karen finney, ron christie, ari,