Columnist: A call for Romney to disclose • Celia Murray
When Mitt Romney’s father sought the Republican nomination for president in 1968, he took what was then the very unusual, candid, and transparent step of releasing 12 years of his income tax returns. According to wire service accounts at the time, no presidential candidate had ever done so much to disclose their finances. Since that time the American public has come to expect, even demand, that presidential candidates release multiple years of income tax returns.
For most of us, income tax returns are a private matter with that privacy being protected by federal law. For those who seek the highest office in the country, a different standard applies with good reason. The presidency demands that one person continuously make decisions of immense complexity, consequence and difficulty, and so the candidates’ characters must be thoroughly examined.
As one commentator wrote, “The exploratory process is often unpleasant for candidates, especially when it is stimulated or exploited by their opponents. But it is essential for voters. The probing and investigating is a chance to examine all the ups and downs of a career, the critical moments and life experiences that might foretell how a president will make decisions.”
At all levels of government, Americans have long argued that openness and transparency are critical in building public confidence in our institutions and in the functioning of our democracy. The presidency is no different. Every president is faced with decisions regarding how much to disclose about events or decisions that are not particularly pleasant. If Mr. Romney is not willing to open up his tax returns, what does that say about his instinct for leveling with the American people from the Oval Office?
The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson summed it up well, saying, “Mitt Romney has every right to cloak his personal and professional finances in secrecy – and voters have every right to assume he has something embarrassing to hide. If this seems unfair, Romney has only himself to blame. Clearly he knew the subject would come up. The only reasonable conclusion to draw is that Romney believes that while stonewalling on his taxes may cost him some support, releasing them would cost him more.”
Even conservative commentators such as The Washington Post’s George Will and the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol are calling upon the GOP presidential candidate to release several years of tax returns, even though he will likely receive criticism over the contents. They are right – it is past time for George Romney’s son to follow his father’s example.
Celia Murray is a member of the Morgan County Democratic Committee.
Printed in the August 9, 2012