The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent is reporting that Jon Huntsman, Sr., father to the Republican presidential-primary candidate, has joined the chorus of conservative voices calling for Mitt Romney to release his tax returns:
“I feel very badly that Mitt won’t release his taxes and won’t be fair with the American people,” Huntsman told me. In a reference to Romney’s father, who pioneered the release of returns as a presidential candidate, Huntsman said: “I loved George. He always said, pay your taxes for at least 10 or 12 years.
“Mr. Romney ought to square with the American people and release his taxes like any other candidate,” Huntsman said. “I’ve supported Mitt all along. I wish him well. But I do think he should release his income taxes.”
Nice scoop! But Sargent’s interpretation is unpersuasive. “This matters,” Sargent writes, “because Huntsman is a longtime backer of Romney—he has long been close to Romney; he supported his early campaigns; he was the national finance chairman of Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign; and he has raised a lot of money for him over the years. (He backed his own son in the latest GOP primary.)”
Sargent might also have pointed out that Huntsman and Romney are distantly related. But there’s never been much love lost between Romney and Huntsman fils. Jon Jr. got beat out by Romney to run the Salt Lake City Olympics; endorsed McCain in 2008; and, of course, ran against Romney this year. In his primary campaign Jon Jr. said Romney was “completely out of touch” and was “unelectable because he lacks a core.” Barack Obama has yet to say anything half so nasty about the Republican nominee.
Jon Sr. is of course his own man, and in the past he has supported Romney where Jon Jr. has not. But it’s not hard to imagine that the bad blood between Huntsman’s son and Mitt colors Huntsman’s own view of the Republican nominee. It’s certainly colored Abby Huntsman’s view; Jon Jr.’s daughter coauthored a Huffington Post piece last month that reported Romney’s been determined not ever to release his tax returns going back at least a decade. Indeed, circumstantial evidence suggests that if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D.-Nev., really did have a source for his allegation that Mitt went a decade without paying taxes, Jon. Sr. would be a logical candidate. Jon Sr. denied this to Sargent, but then he would, wouldn’t he?
Sargent just gave Jon Sr. an opportunity to twist the knife, and he took it. Jon Sr. is certainly right on the merits; Romney should release his taxes. But I don’t buy that Huntsman takes no joy in saying so.