Romney in a pickle

Republicans are wishing they could retroactively nominate someone else. 

Instead, they’ve picked a guy, in Mitt Romney, who reads like a caricature of every stereotype of an arrogant, out-of-touch Wall Street conservative, someone labeled a “vulture capitalist” by members of his own party. 

Romney never planned to run on his record as governor of Massachusetts. That would mean campaigning on his signature accomplishment, RomneyCare, which (in its ObamaCare guise) he is now sworn to attack. Clearly, his business record would have to serve as his ticket to the White House. Yet Romney appears shocked that the accolades he receives in boardrooms and skyboxes aren’t translating to mass popular appeal. 

Indeed, his business background is turning out to be so toxic that Newt Gingrich nearly derailed Romney’s coronation by winning South Carolina on the strength of an anti-Bain message. 

If attacking Romney’s private equity buccaneering was so effective with a hyper-conservative electorate in the country’s most conservative state, how did Republicans expect it to resonate in the general election? 

Luckily for Romney, Gingrich abandoned the anti-Bain message under pressure from the party establishment. But a competent Romney campaign would’ve noted the vulnerability and prepared. Yet these last couple of weeks, Romney and his people have looked like deer in headlights, unready for the fierce attacks on his Bain record and the repeated calls to release more tax returns. 

His claims that he didn’t run Bain during three years in which he signed legal documents confirming he was, in fact, in charge of Bain, makes him out to be a liar — he either lied when he signed those documents, or he is lying to the American people now. Rather than explain the discrepancies, Romney responded by whining, demanding apologies and claiming that criticism of his business record is off limits. As Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel quipped, “What are you going to do when the Chinese leader says something or Putin says [something] to you? You’re going to whine?”

Meanwhile, Romney refuses to release tax returns that would clear up many Bain questions, while pressure for their release grows — and not just from Democrats. “If you have things to hide, then maybe you are doing things wrong,” said Republican Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley. Conservative columnist George Will stated the obvious: “I do not know why, given that Mitt Romney knew the day that [John] McCain lost in 2008 that he was going to run for president again, that he didn’t get all of this out and tidy up some of his offshore accounts and all the rest.” Bill Kristol declared, “He should release the tax returns tomorrow. It’s crazy. You gotta release six, eight, 10 years of back tax returns. Take the hit for a day or two.”

A day or two? Given the Romney campaign’s reticence, it’s easy to infer that there’s too much damaging information for full disclosure. Even George W. Bush speechwriter Matthew Dowd noted, “There’s obviously something there, because if there was nothing there, he would say, ‘Have at it.’ ” 

Think about it — the single tax return released by Romney included such gems as a Swiss bank account, Cayman Islands tax shelters and a hundred-million-dollar retirement account that seems implausibly large (given that he was only allowed to invest $450,000 into it). How bad must the preceding years look?

It’s quite the catch-22. Not releasing his taxes makes him look guilty, but releasing them will confirm it.

Moulitsas is the publisher and founder of Daily Kos (