What if one of the two presidential candidates concealed huge amounts of information about himself and his plans for the presidency for the explicitly stated reason that revealing that info would allow it to be debated during the presidential race, to his own political detriment?
In an interview with Time magazine, Mitt Romney was again asked whether he would detail what loopholes and deductions he’d eliminate to make his tax plan — which would cut taxes deeply in ways that disproportionately benefit the rich — pay for itself. Behold his answer:
QUESTION: Is there something you’re willing to say that’s more specific about which deductions you would eliminate?
ROMNEY: I know our Democrat friends would love to have me specify one or two so they could amass the special interest to fight that effort.
Romney will not reveal more details how his tax plan will be paid for, because Democrats would attack those details. And he again confirmed that they will all be worked out with Congress — which is to say, after the election. In other words, if Romney reveals those details now, Democrats would subject his plan to more scrutiny.
The context for this claim was Romney’s confirmation in the Time interview that he’d begin paying for his tax cuts by targetting loopholes that benefit the wealthy. Asked which ones, he wouldn’t say. There are several reasons why he might not want to. One is that so doing would reveal that targeting just loopholes benefitting the rich won’t generate enough revenue to pay for his tax cuts. After all, that is what the Tax Policy Center study found — that even if you eliminate major categories of loopholes helping the top, you’re still left with a choice between exploding the deficit or increasing the middle class’s tax burden. Another reason Romney might not want to go into such detail is that any plan to eliminte specific loopholes might get attacked. A third reason is that he might want to target loopholes that benefit the wealthy, yes, but also benefit other income groups, which could be politically difficult.
At any rate, this is now the third area in which Romney has refused to share specifics on the explicit grounds that so doing would be bad politically for him. Romney has repeatedly said he won’t release his tax returns because Democrats will find things in them to attack. And he has vowed to eliminate whole government agencies, but has confirmed that he won’t specify which ones precisely because his failed Senate bid taught him that getting too specific puts him at risk of losing. As Jonathan Chait has written, this is akin to saying: “One of the things I have found in previous elections is that announcing my plans makes people want to vote against me.”
I’ve been noting here that Romney is running a “just trust me” campaign. Romney’s advisers confirmed recently on background that they will stick with this strategy because getting specific would be suicidal. We now have more confirmation of that today. And it very well may work. I continue to wonder what sort of precedent it will set if it does.