The day started badly for Mitt Romney, as he saw even his trusted surrogate Chris Christie urge him on national television to release his tax returns. Yet to the rescue has ridden an even more influential voice, making the National Greatness argument for withholding the returns, which comes down to arguing that it is somehow TMI, almost akin to an unwanted-glimpse of a naked limb, for us to learn that Romney pays only 15 percent in federal income taxes. Or perhaps it's just something that should be discussed in quiet rooms.
Some excerpts from Mr. Brooks' side in his new back and forth on the matter with Gail Collins:
David: ... Why do we make candidates release their tax forms? Has there ever been a case where a presidential decision has been influenced by some bit of information that might appear on a tax form? I doubt it. Has information on a tax form ever influenced anybody’s vote? Never heard of such a case.
David: The people calling for Romney to release his taxes say the public has a right to know where his money comes from. I’m not the closest student of the Constitution, but did I miss something? Which amendment is this right mentioned in? Perhaps it’s a natural right. I don’t think it’s in the Old Testament. The Book of Mormon, maybe?
David: My own view is that the desire for full disclosure stems from a few things. First, pure prurience. Second, members of what used to be called the New Class perpetually labor under the delusion that other people dislike the rich as much as they do and if they can only disclose that someone is rich that will end their political chances. Third, there is a misbegotten ideology haunting the land, the ideology of sunshinism. This is the belief that everything should be made public.
David: Sunshinism is a destructive ideology. Forcing people to financially undress in public is just one of those incursions that repels decent people from running for office.
David: It also destroys people’s faith in government. Have you noticed that as democracy has become more open, cynicism has skyrocketed and the effectiveness of government has gone down the toilet? Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution has the best observation on this — that parts of government should be hidden for the same reason middle-aged people should wear clothes.
Indeed, because those millions in Super-PAC bucks are just so open and transparent.