Since I’ve been pretty censorious about people throwing around unsubstantiated charges, I need to walk back my charge that Harry Reid was “lying” about his supposed conversation with someone who allegedly knows that Mitt Romney didn’t pay any taxes for 1o years. Politico reports, based on comments by unnamed Reid staffers, that Reid actually believes what he’s saying. And it’s possibly that my original post unduly discounted the possibility that, within the rather narrow world of the Mormon financial elite, Reid and Romney might actually share an extremely close associate. I still regard it as grossly improbable that Romney actually paid zero federal income tax for 10 years, but it’s not impossible that Reid was actually told that, or something very like it, by a credible source.

I agree with all the commenters here that Romney and his cronies have utterly forfeited any standing to object to being lied about. And it seems indisputable that Reid’s tactic will be a net political winner from Obama’s perspective. That still leaves me on the Kevin Drum/Jon Stewart side of the ethical question.

Footnote How stupid do the Republicans have to be to keep on making a fuss about this? I’ve said it before, but it’s still true: any sentence containing the phrase “Mitt Romney’s taxes” is good for Obama. Yes, what Reid did was unfair, but if those guys had any sense they’d just suck it up and go back to telling their own lies, such as the lie that Obama is trying to interfere with military voting when in fact he’s trying to make it easier for everyone to vote.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

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Mark Kleiman

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.