Yes, that Kevin Drum.
When Kevin talks, I always listen, and so should you. But he just completely misses the point about Harry Reid when he says that Reid is “making stuff up in order to put pressure on Romney, and I think we all know it.”
Can I prove this? Of course not. Given the epistemological limits of proof, I can’t prove Barack Obama was born in the United States either. Nevertheless, I feel safe saying that anyone who claims to have an “extremely credible source” that Obama was born elsewhere is either crazy or lying. The same is true for Reid, and Reid isn’t crazy. It’s simply vanishingly unlikely that he’s telling the truth, and no one — not liberal or conservative — would spend even ten seconds on a story so patently far-fetched if it were anybody but Reid and the background were anything but the frenzy of a presidential campaign….
Take a deep breath, folks. This is contemptible stuff and it’s not just business as usual. We’ve spent too many years berating the tea partiers for getting on bandwagons like this to get sucked into it ourselves the first time it’s convenient. It’s time to quit cheering on Reid and get off this particular bus.
Where to start? Well, first, although Kevin thinks that Reid must be making this up, he doesn’t know that. Reid says that he knows someone who says that Romney paid no taxes. “Really?” asks Kevin. “Does anyone really believe this?” Uh, yeah Kevin: I do. That doesn’t mean I think that the source is right, but do I think that there is a source, and the source is making these claims? Yes. Do I think that it is plausible — not definite, but plausible — that, when pitching someone to invest in Bain, Romney privately boasted that not only are the investments great, but they can avoid taxes, “and I know because I haven’t paid taxes in 10 years”? Yes. Do I think that it is plausible — not definite, but plausible — that Bain partners screwed out of a lot of their money by CEO/Not-CEO/Chairman/Not-Chairman Romney might be a little ticked at him, and inclined to make claims that they might have some information about? Sure.
Second, let’s think for a moment: what if Reid actually were making up this source? So what? As I pointed out beforehand, Romney has the evidence that Reid or his supposed source is wrong, and it is totally reasonable to ask Romney to release his taxes as have all candidates for the last 40 years. Kevin’s own analogy — whether Obama was born in the United States — proves the point. What makes the birthers so outrageous are two things. First, they seem to believe that Obama was not born in the United States because, well, people whose middle names are “Hussein” aren’t born in the United States. The racial subtext of this is so obvious that to compare it to Romney’s taxes misses the whole context.
But more to the point, Obama did what everyone is telling Romney to do, and the birthers went right ahead. The state of Hawai’i showed everyone his birth certificate, in 2007, and the “birthering” continued. The appropriate analogy is if Romney released his returns, and critics insisted without a shred of evidence that he had forged them. That would be the birther equivalent, and it would be wrong. And it is not what is happening here.
Drum’s peroration underlines the weakness of the claim. He says that “this” is contemptible stuff and criticizes the Tea Party for jumping on bandwagons like “this.” But what is “this”? What precisely is contemptible? That Reid is using a more specific claim to get Romney to do something that every candidate for the last 40 years has done? That he has made his claim more specific? That instead of saying “I bet Romney paid no taxes” he is saying “someone credible told me that Romney paid no taxes”? When Romney himself could disprove it easily by simply adhering to the same rules of conduct that everyone else does? That is what is so contemptible? In an election being waged over the attempt to create permanent plutocratic/theocratic domination of the country?
The pearl-clutching must stop.
Free Kevin Drum!