The Cycle | August 17, 2012
>>> i never paid less than 13%.
>> that is mitt romney revealing the most he has yet about his tax returns but that is not good enough for the obama campaign which today challenged romney to prove he has nothing to hide by releasing five years of tax returns . jim mussina promised that in return the campaign wouldn't ask for anything more than the five years but romney 's folks swiftly reasserted their opposition to releasing more than the one year and the estimate romney put out. the reason? romney 's wife ann told nbc's natalie morales they know nothing they could ever do would be enough to silence their critics.
>> we have been very transparent to what's legally required of us. but the more we release the more we get attacked. the more we get questioned. the more we get pushed. and so we have done what is legally required and there is going to be no more tax releases given.
>>> so the tax return fight is back and it's going to lead the spin cycle today. i have to say i was skeptical heading into the olympics. i had the thought that maybe this might be the kind of issue where romney is able to stonewall and the press moves on to something else. the vice presidential nomination, the debates in the fall, the conventions, whatever. they end up letting it go. what i've realized this week is there is no conspiracy here but the press really is in alignment with the obama campaign in terms of its goals on this. the obama campaign wants more stuff out there.
>> the press is just -- and rightly not going to be satisfied when a guy gets up there yesterday and says look. i went back and looked and i never paid more than 13%. it raises two questions.
>> as a reporter the first one is okay. if you looked back and all is clear why are you afraid to put it out there? okay. if we want to parce what you are saying you're not telling us property taxes in massachusetts, sales tax , state income tax in massachusetts. you're saying 13% but where is that coming from? if it's all from the state and local level your federal effective income tax rate might be a lot lower. you're never going to be able to satisfy a reporter on this unless you put the information out and it will take next to nothing for the obama campaign . it could be harry reid saying his stuff a few weeks ago, jim mussina's crazy stunt yesterday. get the media on it and they'll ask the questions and get the dumb answer and this is what we're going to have.
>> to your point the obama campaign isn't the first to raise this issue. this went all the way back to republicans in the primary also pushing mitt romney on his tax returns . we actually have a clip of mitt romney 's response then.
>> i pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more. i don't think you want someone who pays more taxes than he owes. i'll point out that is the case and will there be discussion? sure. will there be an article? yeah. is it entirely legal and fair? absolutely. i am proud of the fact that i pay a lot of taxes and the fact is a lot of people in this country pay a lot of taxes. i'd like to see the tax rate come down and focus on growing the country getting people back to work. that is our problem right now. we have a lot of people out of work. let them start paying taxes because they got jobs again.
>> first of all, small quibble there. i would say 13% for a man of his means is not a lot of taxes even if that is, you know, the most -- it is a lot of money but not a lot of taxes when there are people much lower on the income scale who are not paying 13% but much higher rates. and the other piece of this is he picked paul ryan and i thought also as you did that maybe the choice of paul ryan and all of the energy in the debate around paul ryan as a vp pick would move the debate. immediately you saw questions about paul ryan . how many income tax returns did you give to mitt romney ? how many are you going to release? tim pawlenty , how many did you give in the vetting process? under paul ryan 's budget plan what percentage income tax rate would mitt romney have paid? to your point, this is not going away. unless they feed the beast and answer all the questions which i don't think they're going to do, i think it will linger until election day .
>> you would have thought the ryan pick, big idea guy, part of the point of that was to move aside from what he called the small minded issues and into the big ideas of the campaign. and yet he's answering these questions. he should have said we're not talking about that anymore. but he puts more meat on the bones with a more specific answer which of course makes people want to know more. the only thing i would push back against what you said was that you make it like it's a media issue. it is a media issue. but people are actually interested in this. we see the number of google searches on the bain issue is trending way downward but the number of google searches on the tax return issue is trending way upward. so people still care about this issue and they're still wondering about it.
>> the media still wants them to care and that's why. it's a double edged sword. it feeds each other. i'll just say a couple things. i think romney is right that this is small minded compared to the other big conversations we could be having. i also think he should have come out a year ago and just gotten this out of the way. he couldn't -- he had to have known that this was going to come up. and i can't imagine he wanted this to be an august conversation, august 2012 . i actually thought when harry reid came out and said what he did was really scurrilous and irresponsible, that that might have ended this conversation. it didn't. we're still talking about it.
>> i think you made the most important point there. this really is, take everything else away. this is strategic malpractice on the part of the romney campaign.
>> he has to be doing a cost benefit analysis that this is better than what it would be if i actually put it out.
>> right. hey, we had three more months to hash it