In a last ditch attempt to make his unreleased tax returns go away, the Romney campaign jumped on the right wing blame Obama meme, which the White House turned into another Romney disaster.
Here is the video from Mediaite:
The first answer from Press Secretary Jay Carney was bad enough for the Romney campaign.
Q On another front, Leader Reid-Governor Romney story continues to percolate. Does the President think that it’s appropriate for Leader Reid to be making these, some would say, unsubstantiated charges on the Senate floor? And has the White House spoken to him about it?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not aware of the White House speaking to Senator Reid about this issue. I would simply say that you all probably know Senator Reid well, and he speaks for himself, and he has addressed this issue.
I think that the broader question, as it relates to the President’s view, is that he thinks the tradition that has been in place since 1968 of candidates for President releasing multiple years of their tax returns is an important one. It’s not always every candidate’s favorite part of the process, but it’s a tradition that’s important. It’s valuable to the American people as they decide who should be President. So that’s why the President has put forward his financial information, his tax returns when he was a candidate, and believes that that’s an important tradition.
Q I don’t recall him pushing John McCain to release more than two years of his tax returns four years ago.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think the issue of Senator McCain — but I would refer you to, obviously, his office for prior runs where he had released information — the question here is not — again, this is a question for the — and I would refer you to our campaign — but it’s a question for Governor Romney, right? He, as recently as last week, I think on ABC, said that he would be happy to check if he paid a lower effective tax rate in previous years than the 13.9 percent that he paid in the year related to the tax return that he did release.
And I think the only — the reason why this is an issue at a policy level is the President believes very strongly — and this is central to the debate we’re having in this country — that we need to have greater tax fairness and that we need to make sure that we’re passing laws that protect the middle class, that specifically give the middle class a tax cut extension, and that we’re not passing laws that give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires who have already enjoyed substantial tax breaks in the past, and who enjoy legal loopholes like the carried interest law that allow a Warren Buffett or a hedge fund manager or other very affluent Americans to pay taxes at a much lower rate than a factory worker at a plant — a GM plant in Michigan or Ohio, or a hardworking member of the White House press corps.
It’s just about making our tax code more fair and making our tax code more helpful to the middle class, which is the backbone of our country and backbone of economic security and economic growth in our country.
Then Fox News’ Ed Henry went his daily moment of glory by trying to challenge the White House. The result was a White House tour de force that tied Romney to the Republican refusal to raise taxes on the wealthy among other things.
Transcript (It’s a long one.):
Q I just want to follow on taxes because the charge is not just that maybe Mitt Romney paid less than a factory worker or whoever, but it’s a bit more vicious than that from Harry Reid. He’s saying that he didn’t pay — he has an anonymous source telling him that he paid no taxes for something like 10 years. So the President has talked a lot about changing the tone in this town. Why hasn’t he picked up the phone and asked Harry Reid to stop making a charge like that?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I think the idea that people tell Harry Reid what to do is inconsistent with what everyone here understands to be —
Q But you can express your opinion that maybe that’s below the belt.
MR. CARNEY: Look, I think that the President — you hear the President going out and talking about the important issues facing the American people every day. And he talks about those issues in terms that reflect the importance of economic matters like our tax code and how our tax code, for example, currently benefits companies that ship jobs overseas. He would change that so that it ceases encouraging investment overseas and outsourcing of jobs, and encourages insourcing of investment and jobs.
He talks about that in terms of, as I was saying earlier, a tax code that allows in totally legal fashion hedge fund managers to pay an effective tax rate that’s significantly lower than most Americans — or many Americans — and that that is not reflective of a system that we need to have in place that helps the American middle class grow, helps enhance its security.
Q Right, but that’s not the charge. The charge is that Mitt Romney didn’t pay taxes for 10 years. Does the White House believe that allegation?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I would refer you to Senator Reid for — I can’t — only Senator Reid knows his source, which he has discussed, and I would refer you to that.
I think it is a fair point to make that this is an issue that was not originated during the general election campaign, did not start with the President’s campaign or with Senator Reid, it started in the Republican primary when Governor Romney’s opponents brought up this issue and the fact that Governor Romney’s father began a tradition in 1968 of major candidates for President releasing multiple years of their tax returns, and that that is a tradition that has been adhered to by major candidates for President ever since.
Q Nancy Pelosi today said, “Harry Reid made a statement that is true. Somebody told him. It is a fact.” Do you agree with that rationale?
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t seen that statement. But again, I would refer you to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid —
Q But if someone just made an allegation that he didn’t pay taxes for 10 years, that’s just a fact?
MR. CARNEY: I think the President is focused on — and you hear him talk about this every day — issues that matter to the American people that have to do with both tax fairness, but also actions that we need to be taking to grow the economy, that we need to be taking to increase job creation here in the United States, that we need to take in order to bring jobs back from overseas and have companies invest here in the United States. Those are the issues the President is talking about. And you’ll continue to hear him talk about those issues tonight and every day when he’s out there, making the case to the American people about his agenda.
Go ahead, John.
Q And one more on Harry Reid. It’s a simple question: Does the President think that this allegation coming from Harry Reid, without any evidence, made on the Senate floor, is that below the belt? Does that cross the line?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I have not — the President has not expressed an opinion to me on this. I can tell you that the President is focused on the issues that I’ve just talked about. And again, he believes in the tradition of releasing tax returns. I mean, this is an issue that was raised by contenders for President in a Republican primary. And just on your air a number of days ago, former Governor Romney said that he would go back and look at the effective tax rate he paid in previous years, and then his campaign said, oh, no, no, we won’t do that.
And this is — the issue here is one of transparency and again, as the President sees it with regards to his candidacy, one that is an important tradition, that allows the American people to get a sense of a candidate’s background.
Again, I don’t have a — you can talk to Senator Reid. He, I’m sure, will address this issue if you ask him. He certainly speaks for himself. The President is focused on the issues that matter most to the American people. And we now have a situation where Congress has left town for a number of weeks, where instead of passing legislation that would extend a tax cut for 98 percent of the American people, the House left town refusing to do that.
Look at the overlap between the measure the Senate passed and the measure the House passed. There’s only 2 percent disagreement with — and some of the other tax issues that the President put on the table and are part of the Senate version. Why can’t we — if Washington were to function effectively, if Republicans were to simply accept the principle that we should act on behalf of 98 percent of the American people, we could have taken care of the matter of a middle-class tax cut before they went on recess, and that security would be in place for 98 percent of the American people — 114 million Americans, taxpaying Americans — before the fall campaign even began.
Instead, we didn’t get action on that. And that’s the kind of craziness we have in Washington now, where even where we agree completely on an issue, there’s a refusal to say, okay, let’s get it done.
That is over 1,000 words of transcript from the White House where they got to talk about tax cuts for the middle class, Mitt Romney’s unpopular position on taxing the rich, and Romney’s tax returns.
On top of all of those goodies, the White House crushed Romney’s conspiracy theory that blames Obama for Harry Reid’s allegations about his tax returns.
It is like Santa Harry Reid is allowing Democrats and the Obama campaign to celebrate Christmas in August with this bounty of gifts. All Republicans can do is stomp their feet, scream Harry Reid is a liar, and hope beyond hope that their candidate someday puts his man pants on and releases his tax returns.
The media has gotten a hold of this now, and Romney won’t stop the bleeding by releasing his tax returns. And if Romney won’t release his returns, Republicans might find this election over before it even officially gets started.