One of the strangest incidents of the 2012 presidential campaign was when then-Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid accused then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney of having not paid any taxes over the past decade. That Reid made that allegation from the floor of the Senate made it even odder.
The problem with Reid's allegation? It's just not true. We know that, at least in 2011 and 2010, Romney did pay taxes. How do we know that? Because Romney released his tax returns for those years. In 2011, Romney paid $1.9 million in taxes; in 2010, he paid slightly more than $3 million in taxes.
Yet Reid (D-Nev.) not only refuses to retract the allegation but also seems to take great pride in it. When pressed by CNN's Dana Bash last year about continuing to defend a statement that is not true, Reid responded, "Romney didn't win, did he?"
Now, in a new interview with WaPo's Ben Terris, Reid echoes those sentiments. Here's Reid's full response to Ben's question about the Romney attack:
People bring that up, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. Why? Because I knew what he had done was not be transparent and forthright about his taxes and to this day he hasn’t released his tax returns. … Did I want to do that? No. I had the information, I tried to get somebody else to do it. I tried to get somebody in the Obama 'reelect,' I tried to get one of the senators, I tried to get one of the outside groups, but nobody would do it. So I did it. And with that, like everything, I think in life, here’s something I learned from my father, if you’re going to do something, don’t do it half-assed, don’t play around. With the Mitt Romney stuff, I didn’t play around. ...
Again, to be clear, Reid is just wrong. Romney didn't release all 10 years of his tax returns but the returns he did release showed that he paid taxes. If a small part of an allegation is accurate but the main thrust of it isn't, that doesn't make the whole thing true.
Then there's this from Reid via Terris:
Is there a line he wouldn’t cross when it comes to political warfare?
“I don’t know what that line would be,” [Reid] said.
That is the ultimate statement of political cynicism. What Reid is saying — if you consider the comments to Bash last year and those to Terris recently — is that the ends justify the means in all cases. It doesn't really matter if what he said about Romney's taxes is wrong. All that matters is that Romney lost. That Romney lost is justification enough for Reid to have made the false allegation.
I tend to not be a Pollyanna when it comes to politics. These are contests in which winning and losing are the only way success and failure are measured. Both parties like to claim the moral high road while often engaging in tactics that are decidedly low road.
Few politicians, though, are as willing as Reid to speak publicly about their disregard for the truth in pursuit of victory. His view on how to win in politics is both remarkable and remarkably depressing.