Just a Private Family Matter

We have no way of knowing just yet whether Ann Romney’s explanation in an interview of her husband’s refusal to release tax returns was just her own effort to get past a difficult question, or represents the Final Word from the campaign. If it’s the latter, you gotta admit it’s pretty damn bold, suggesting that Mitt’s finances–not just his tax returns, but his wealth generally–are a private family matter on which the news media and the American people are strictly on a need-to-know basis. And all they need to know is that the Romneys tithe (and no tither has ever, ever been dishonest about money, right?) and that Mitt turned down a governor’s salary in Massachusetts that probably represented a rounding error in his investment income.

This talking-point would barely pass the smell-test even if Mitt had always resolutely treated his “success” (as measured by his fabulous wealth) as irrelevant to the presidential campaign, instead of being the primary reason Americans should entrust him with the presidency, even if he won’t much talk about what he would do in that office beyond killing ObamaCare and inspiring confidence in every direction.

You have to wonder if in future Mitt is going to “outsource” all questions about his finances to his wife, and then object that anyone who complains about it is engaging in personal attacks on his family. That tactic would certainly be consistent with his general habit of expressing outrage when critics look at his biography or his tax-and-budget plans and suggest things just don’t add up.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.