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Reid's recklessness.

Byline: The Register-Guard

An unnamed source inside Area 51 says Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spends his weekends playing high-stakes poker with the aliens who have been lodged in the secret Nevada military compound since crashing their spacecraft near Roswell, N.M., in 1947. It's up to Reid to prove otherwise.

That's the sort of verdict first, evidence (maybe) later charge that Reid has made against Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Reid claims an investor in Bain Capital, Romney's former venture capital firm, told him Romney "didn't pay any taxes for 10 years."

Pressed to name his source, Reid declined, adding, "I've had a number of people tell me that." Again, no names, no evidence - just hearsay, and untraceable hearsay at that.

Reid is surprised that his charge has caused a ruckus not around Romney, but around him. "I don't think the burden should be on me," the Nevada senator said. "The burden should be on him. He's the one I've alleged has not paid any taxes. Why didn't he release his tax returns?"

Romney should, of course, make public more than the single year's tax returns he has released so far. As this newspaper and others, along with President Obama's campaign and many Republicans, have argued, the former Massachusetts governor's tax returns have a direct bearing on some of the central issues in the presidential race, particularly tax policy. Romney's refusal to disclose tax information invites damaging speculation about his sources of income and the amount of taxes he paid on them.

It's one thing to wonder what's in those tax documents. It's quite another to say what they show, as Reid has done, without any supporting evidence. As Senate majority leader, Reid speaks for his party and his institution - and a much higher standard should be expected of both.

Reid didn't stop there. "His poor father must be so embarrassed about his son," Reid said. Reid was referring to George Romney, who released 12 years of tax returns when he ran for president in 1968. The contrast between the father's and the son's handling of their tax returns can be drawn fairly, but that's as far as it goes. The elder Romney died in 1995 and can't speak for himself. Unless Reid's alien poker buddies have some way of communicating with the hereafter, the senator is putting his own opinions in the mouth of a dead man.

It may be that Romney's tax returns contain information so embarrassing that the candidate is better off leaving people to think the worst about his financial affairs. Or there could be honorable reasons for nondisclosure having to do with privacy or confidentiality. Or maybe Romney is just being stubborn.

We don't know, and neither does Reid. By making a charge he can't back up and then dragging Romney's father into it, Reid has wronged two generations of Romneys and debased the nation's political discourse.
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Title Annotation:Editorials and Letters
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Aug 3, 2012
Words:485
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