Harry Reid crossed a heretofore unknown Rubicon yesterday when he repeated his claim that Romney might be withholding his tax returns because “[h]e didn’t pay taxes for ten years.” National Review‘s Jim Geraghty pounds Reid with a series of “How likely” questions, the answer to all of which is “Not very.” Jeff Goldstein condemns Reid for “trying to manufacture a news cycle and gin up innuendo [in a manner that's] so transparently hamfisted.” Ed Morrissey demands an ethics investigation for behavior he deems so “despicable and grossly irresponsible … it should be actionable in court.” Nor is it just the far right that considers Reid’s statement to be bad form: even Jon Stewart’s upset with him. In their own way, each of these folks fails to realize that Reid’s probably laughing at them.
He’s made two statements that demonstrate tactical savvy, because he knows we live in a country where National Review writers and professional charity cases have been not-so-idly discussing evidence of kerning on birth certificates. He’s heard the soft denunciations of birthers by self-styled “serious” thinkers who just want to remind their readers that it’s patriotic to question the validity of state-issued birth certificates. He realizes that saying he has third-hand knowledge of an alleged tax impropriety means that people will be hearing that there are allegations that Romney’s tax returns may not be kosher. Do you know what I think about that?
I like the fact that someone who’s nominally a liberal has finally recognized what conservatives have been doing to Obama for four years now, and I appreciate the fact that he’s choosing to do so about a financial disclosure instead of, for example, whether someone’s really an American or whether they’re a sleeper agent for the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s not Harry Reid’s fault that conservatives have tacitly authorized this particular model of public document-shaming, he’s simply taking advantage of the fact that they have.