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Where the oxymoron meets the ham sandwich

Reid, Romney, and Reasonable Doubt

August 11th, 2012 at 14:06

In the court of voter opinion, both parties use reasonable doubt as their ultimate closing argument. The voters don’t need to “believe” something is true, they just need to wonder. To question Obama’s qualifications his opponents asked: is he a Muslim? Is he from Kenya? Does he hang out with terrorists? They didn’t need to prove their allegations, just make people wonder. (“Well, maybe he’s not from Kenya but I heard he won’t show his birth certificate. Reasonable doubt– I”m voting for the other guy”).

 

Or, is Romney a tax evader? Does he pay all his taxes like a true patriot or does he slink around scamming the system? I don’t know, I’ve heard rumors… Why won’t he show us his tax returns?

 

Into this courtroom strides Harry Reid with an outrageous pronouncement. He’s heard from a reliable source that Romney paid zero Federal taxes for ten years. TEN YEARS!!
Romney gets mad. “Put up or shut up!” he insists. “Tell us who the source is, if it’s so reliable.”

 

Reid refuses. “If I’m wrong, you put up or shut up. Just show us your taxes like every other candidate has done.” (Including, contrary to Internet rumblings, John McCain. He disclosed all his taxes every time he ran for Senator. The two years he disclosed in 2008 were only the last two that he hadn’t already shown us.)

 

Both sides are now playing the Reasonable Doubt game. Reid is trying to create doubt about Romney’s tax history. Romney and his supporters insists that Reid is lying. Their case boils down to, “If Reid had a source, he’d reveal who it is. We should all doubt that he has one.”  That is, they want to make the case that Reid is guilty of lying.

 

In order to sway the voters, Democrats need to create reasonable doubt about that charge against Reid. Lawyers do that in court by presenting some plausible alternative theory. We agree on the facts, but your interpretation of those facts is not the only one that works. Maybe the butler did it. Perhaps the defendant’s long lost twin brother did it. Maybe Reid’s telling the truth.

 

In what plausible story does Reid have a credible source that he won’t reveal?  It does not need to be the truth, and it does not need to be the only story that fits all the evidence. It only has to be one other possible explanation that could be true.  We need to think of at least one person with a motive who might have seen Romney’s taxes who also knows Reid and has good reason to want anonymity.

 

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, consider the following:

 

Reid seems oddly sure of his “very reliable source” who claims Romney paid zero taxes for some years. He implied we’d recognize his name. Reid describes him as a “Bain Capital investor.” But a regular old investor would never have access to Romney’s tax returns, any more than regular voters do. So I bet his source has a Bain connection, but I bet that’s a misdirection. Whoever he is, that’s not how we primarily know him.

 

Romney gave John McCain 23 years of tax returns when he was being considered for the VP slot on McCain’s ticket. Those returns were complex and probably required the attention of several people to decipher. But you wouldn’t trust some low level advisor with something that sensitive. I don’t think McCain would sabotage the Republican nominee because he’s no fan of Obama. But I bet someone on McCain’s 2008 Campaign team is the source.

 

I think it was Governor Jon Huntsman.

 

Clue One: Huntsman supported McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign before most other people did. This was unusual because most Utah and Mormon politicians supported Mitt Romney. Huntsman’s father is a long time Romney supporter.

 

Clue Two: Governor Huntsman was listed as one of seven National Co-Chairs of McCain’s 2008 campaign. He was an experienced and trusted businessman who could understand finances. It’s reasonable to imagine McCain asking him to examine Mitt’s returns looking for information potentially damaging to McCain’s campaign. McCain chose Sarah Palin over Romney; we don’t know if Romney’s tax returns played a role in that.

 

Clue Three: The February 24, 2001 issue of Deseret News, said: “Huntsman Corp. Friday announced a deal in which venture capital firm Bain Capital Inc. will invest more than $600 million in Huntsman.” Huntsman is really Jon’s father’s company, but Jr. probably owns some stock. So calling Huntsman a Bain investor is not a lie, although Romney was off running the Olympics at this time.

 

Clue Four: Reid and Huntsman, both Utah Mormons, are friends. In fact, March of 2012, Huntsman met with Harry Reid to discuss the vacant presidency of the World Bank. This was reported at the time in the Washington Post and elsewhere. Subsequent reports said he wanted the job, others said he did not.

 

Clue Five: This will be the first time Jon Huntsman will miss the Republican convention since he served as a delegate for Ronald Reagan in 1984. In a statement in July, 2012 he said:
“I will not be attending this year’s convention, nor any Republican convention in the future, until the party focuses on a bigger, bolder, more confident future for the United States – a future based on problem solving, inclusiveness, and a willingness to address the trust deficit, which is every bit as corrosive as our fiscal and economic deficit. I encourage a return to the party we have been in the past, from Lincoln right on through to Reagan, that was always willing to put our country before politics.”
Notice specifically that he seems concerned with the “trust deficit.” Voters don’t feel that politicians deserve our trust. And Romney doesn’t trust voters with details about his finances. It’s a mutual trust deficit.

 

Clue Six: On Aug 10, 2012, Jon’s father spoke to the Washington Post. They reported: “While he says he is not Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s source on Mitt Romney’s taxes, Jon Huntsman Sr. (father of former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr.) called on the presumptive GOP presidential nominee to release more of his taxes. Huntsman Sr. is a longtime Romney ally.

 

Notice that Governor Huntsman did not deny that he was the source, his father denied being the source. I don’t recall hearing another word from the senior Huntsman, ever. If Romney released more taxes, the anonymous source would be off the hook and that issue would disappear. Any father would prefer that outcome.

 

I think Governor Jon Huntsman is a decent, honorable guy. He was my favorite Republican during the primary season. He didn’t like Romney all that much in 2008, did not become more fond of him over this vicious primary season, and probably would not like a tax evader to become Prez. It had to be eating him alive to know the guy who beat him out for the nomination by using negative ads of questionable veracity hadn’t paid taxes in ten years. There’s his motive. His opportunity was when he chatted with Reid this March. But he was almost certainly bound to secrecy by McCain, so he can’t step forward without being liable for a breach of contract and a lawsuit. Plus it would be the end of his political career. Luckily, Reid doesn’t need to say who his source is; he only needs to create reasonable doubt about Romney’s taxes.

 

Huntsman may not be the source. Even if he mentioned what he knew to his buddy in a moment of accidental candor, perhaps when both Mormons slipped into a chamomile tea-induced rage, he may not have intended the information to go any farther. Perhaps he spoke in his sleep while dozing on the couch and one of his daughters overheard, or left notes unguarded on his desk. Someone in his family or on his staff could be the source. Maybe someone else on McCain’s staff is the source. Maybe Reid is bluffing and has no source.

 

But the alternative story makes sense and explains so much. Can you prove that it isn’t true? If you can’t, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you have to vote that Reid is not lying. You have to agree that we have established reasonable doubt.

 

And, until Romney produces his tax returns, we also have reasonable doubt about what’s in them. Perhaps he really did avoid all federal taxes for a ten years.

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2 Responses to “Reid, Romney, and Reasonable Doubt”

  1. Michael Bartholomew Says:

    Great piece.

  2. Kenn Amdahl Says:

    Thanks.

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