Martin Bashir | October 16, 2012
>> let's get right to our panel now. in san francisco , rolling stone 's tim dickinson who has written a guide on how romney dodges his fair share in taxes in the latest issue, and at the site of the debate here with me is michael scherer washington correspondent for "time" magazine. mike, i want to show everyone the website. it's called romneytaxplan.com. it's a joke site set up by democrats, and as you can see when you try to click on the details, button to learn how romney pays for his $5 billion tax plan, it won't let you do it. now, michael , is the president going to make mr. romney 's labyrinthine tax returns an issue tonight?
>> he will and hopefully he will do it for democrats with a little more clarity than he did last time. the denver debate, a lot of it was about this tax plan but you could never really get beyond the sort of policy speak. he's got to come in with one-liners and zingers to make clear what he's saying. the facts are a little more complicated. the president was also for lowering rates in 2011 and eliminating deductions. he also didn't come forward in those negotiations with boehner with exactly how he was going to make the math add up. he was going to lever it to congress. the difference is romney is committing to a huge tax decrease and one that will hit the top as much as --
>> across the board, 20%.
>> it's a tax increase that would be weighted heavily to the wealthiest of americans.
>> tim , money and jobs and taxes are likely to dominate part of tonight's debate. your new article in " rolling stone " talks about the complex ways mitt romney reduces his tax burden via schemes like feeder funds and blocker funds. have we ever had a man run for president whose personal taxes are so labyrinthine.
>> it's not just that they're complicated. it's mitt romney has been in business with a global financial elite, which is trying to reduce their tax burden no matter how they can. so they set up some of these funds in the cayman islands that literally roll out the red carpet for tax cheats. i mean, have we ever had a presidential candidate who had that kind of history of helping tax evasion , helping rob the u.s. treasury ? i mean, this guy's playing by a completely different set of rules than the rest of us have to play by. our labor income gets taxed as labor income. his labor income gets taxed as an investment. it's a rigged system and romney never wants to lead a tax reform that will continue that rigging out into the future.
>> what do you think the reaction would be tonight, mike, if romney decided that the way to win this election would be to literally toss the 20% across the board tax cut out the window and say, actually i'm going to amend that in some way?
>> he would risk a huge backlash. it might help him with the middle.
>> but he'd win the election, wouldn't he?
>> could. it would also raise the flip-flopping issue which he's done pretty well despite the attempts of the obama campaign of putting to bed since he picked paul ryan . the last few months he's not been dealing too much with the expedient charge because he's identified himself with paul ryan . people kind of know where he's coming from. if he dodges it at that point, i mean, he throws it all back into the mix.
>> now, tim -- sorry, michael , you wrote a cover story -- sorry, you wrote a cover story for "time" magazine in which you talk about the fact that there don't appear to be any more consequences in relation in fact checking .
>> that's right.
>> now, the president immediately after the first debate came out on the stump and said he didn't recognize the mitt romney . he talked about romney brushing the 20% tax cut as it were under the carpet, under the rug. but is that going to resonate with voters if he seeks just to correct romney on every single lie that he's told?
>> i think joe biden was actually pretty effective on that point a week ago in the vice presidential debate. i think you will see a lot more of it from obama during the debate. it's one thing to fact check somebody on the stump in front of a friendly crowd. it's a different thing to be standing ten feet away from your opponent and say, sir, that is not true, and have the american people see that. it's much more effective in this setting. debates remain one of the lost places where it's really hard to get away with something if you're opponent is willing to call you on it right there at the moment.
>> right. tim , "the washington post " is out with a damning report that debunks romney 's claim that he can create 12 million jobs in four years using the same studies the romney campaign cites, the post finds that only 7 million of the jobs are actually created over 10 years. also, one study turns out not to evaluate the romney plan at all. i guess it's what the vice president would call malarkey.
>> the entire romney campaign seems to be a lie wrapped inside a fib inside a distortion. the math doesn't add up on just about anything you dig at. if you dig --
>> sorry, tim , i didn't quite get that. what did you say?
>> it's a lie wrapped inside a fib inside a distortion.
>> oh, right. okay. thank you. keep going.
>> if you dig at any of these facts long enough, they sort of fall apart. so romney is just sort of banking on the fact that he can get away with this, and i think the president does need to call him on it, but i think his larger challenge is just to show up and prove to the american people that he's got some spunk and some fight left in him and that he's really eager and has something to do in his second term other than just stay the course.
>> you said just now that you thought joe biden did a good job at calling paul ryan to account. but do you think mitt romney can get away with it, just simple fudge, hide, dodge?
>> over the long term, yeah, i think the electorate is split so deeply right now with 47% willing to forgive anything mitt romney does, a similar percent willing to forgive anything barack obama does. there really isn't much punishment. i think if you have a moment in this debate, really what we're talking about is who will get the sound bites , the moments we can take out of this debate to keep running on your show for the next week. those are the things that will resonate. if you get a moment in this debate where either of them really nails the other person down in a firm way, i think it could resonate, and it could -- there are risks. the more these people deceive, the more risk there is that they get called out in a setting like this.
>> indeed, michael , tim , thank you