Jack Ryan. John Edwards. Mitt Romney?

****UPDATED BELOW****

Mitt Romney is getting politically bludgeoned over not releasing his tax records. There’s no rational reason for him to let the Obama campaign continue to destroy him over his taxes, so whatever he’s concealing must be terribly damaging, maybe even existentially damaging to his candidacy. Matt Yglesias has an intriguing guess–that Romney took advantage of the 2009 amnesty that allowed Americans hiding funds in Swiss accounts to declare with the IRS and avoid prosecution:

Romney might well have thought in 2007 and 2008 that there was nothing to fear about a non-disclosed offshore account he’d set up years earlier precisely because it wasn’t disclosed. But then came the settlement and the rush of non-disclosers to apply for the amnesty. Failing to apply for the amnesty and then getting charged by the IRS would have been both financially and politically disastrous. So amnesty it was. But even though the amnesty would eliminate any legal or financial liability for past acts, it would hardly eliminate political liability.

A typical response to that might be “but how could he think he could run for office and not have that destroy his candidacy?” That’s what someone would do if he were a rational actor honestly engaged in a realistic assessment of the likely consequences of his actions. But that’s not how things always work. There are a couple recent and staggering examples of candidates deluding themselves that their secrets wouldn’t be exposed.

In 2004 the Republicans thought they had a terrific candidate for the open Senate seat being vacated by Illinois Republican Peter Fitzgerald. Jack Ryan was a handsome, articulate native of suburban Chicago. After Dartmouth–and like Romney–he earned a law degree and an MBA from Harvard, and then went in to finance. After amassing wealth in the hundreds of millions, he quit his position at Goldman Sachs and taught at a Catholic high school in Chicago. He was articulate, handsome, and the Republicans thought he was a strong candidate.

Ryan’s problem was the damaging information he believed wouldn’t become public. The records of Ryan’s divorce from the actress Jeri Ryan were sealed. Ryan assured Republican leaders that there was nothing damaging in the file, but he nevertheless fought to keep them sealed. The Chicago Tribune and a local TV station went to court to get them released, and once the judge granted their request Ryan’s candidacy was done:

In her 2000 filing, Jeri Ryan alleged that after she and Jack Ryan left the first sex club they entered in New York, he asked her to go to another. She said he told her that he had gone out to dinner with her that night even though he didn’t want to and “the least I could do in return was go to the club he wanted me to go.”

She described the second place as “a bizarre club with cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling.”

“Respondent wanted me to have sex with him there with another couple watching. I refused,” Jeri Ryan continued. “Respondent asked me to perform a sexual activity upon him and he specifically asked other people to watch. I was very upset.

“We left the club and respondent apologized, said that I was right and he would never insist that I go to a club again. He promised it was out of his system.”

But later, Jeri Ryan said, Jack Ryan took her to Paris where he again took her to a sex club without first telling her where they were going.

“I told him I thought it was out of his system. I told him he had promised me we would never go. People were having sex everywhere. I cried. I was physically ill. Respondent became very upset with me and said it was not a `turn-on’ for me to cry.

Jack Ryan was a Phi Beta Kappa Ivy grad w a JD and MBA from Harvard who made hundreds of millions of dollars and considered a formidable candidate for US Senate. He was far from stupid. But he was delusional enough to think stories of his sex club escapades couldn’t sink his political career.

The other recent case of someone believing he could conceal instantly disqualifying details about his personal affairs is, of course, John Edwards. It was delusional of Edwards to think he could run for president hide that he was a cad to his wife and went to absurd and allegedly illegal lengths to keep the affair hidden from the public.

Whatever Mitt Romney is concealing is almost certainly not sexually tawdry like the revelations that ended the candidacies and political careers of Ryan and Edwards. But he could have financial or legal problems that are just as politically disastrous. If he’s not concealing something catastrophic, one has to wonder why the heck Romney won’t just release his taxes and put an end to Obama’s relentless pummeling. But as the examples of Ryan and Edwards demonstrate, it’s not far-fetched that Romney believes he can be elected yet is concealing information that will eventually become public, and which will end his candidacy. And if that happens, man, a whole lot of Republicans will wish Romney had retired from politics retroactive to before this presidential campaign.

****UPDATED JULY 18****

From the Huffington Post:

Mitt Romney has been determined to resist releasing his tax returns at least since his bid for Massachusetts governor in 2002 and has been confident that he will never be forced to do so, several current and former Bain executives tell The Huffington Post. Had he thought otherwise, say the sources based on their longtime understanding of Romney, he never would have gone forward with his run for president.

Romney may believe that what his tax returns will expose will make him unelectable. But it is hard to imagine Romney can avoid a landslide loss if he refuses to release them. If this report is accurate, it’s strong evidence that Romney is as delusional as were Ryan and Edwards. And it would make a trifecta of deluded candidates whose last campaign was against Barack Obama.

 

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6 Responses to Jack Ryan. John Edwards. Mitt Romney?

  1. If you are going to say that the current President hasn’t been transparent enough in his presidency, then you need to show how transparent you will be. By not showing his tax returns he is adding fuel to the fire about what is there. There have been many theories lobbed around as to why he is hiding them. But the only thing I need to know is this: John McCain saw all of Romney’s tax returns for the last 20 or so years and still picked Sarah Palin as his running mate. I think that about sums it up.

    • Dana Houle says:

      Some folks have dinged Democrats for using the “McCain saw the returns and they must have been bad because he picked Palin” slam on Romney, and they have a bit of a point–Romney would have delivered less to the ticket than they thought the would get from Palin. But its possible that Romney’s later returns–2008 and 2009–have the worst stuff, and that was never seen by the McCain vetters. This is interesting on the possibilities of what Romney might be trying to conceal http://ataxingmatter.blogs.com/tax/2012/07/whats-romney-got-to-hide-part-ii.html

  2. I’m also intrigued with the possibility that Mr. Romney made the legal decision to take the tax amnesty and is now making the political calculation that he can hide this fact until after the election. I appreciate you putting all three opponents of President Obama in one post. It makes me wonder if the President is the luckiest man in the world or if there is a more esoteric explanation.

    • Dana Houle says:

      I don’t think there’s anything esoteric behind the coincidence. After all, Edwards’ problems weren’t revealed until after the campaign, and don’t appear to have any significant effect on the race. But they’re relevant because had he won the nomination he would have been vulnerable to the same catastrophic political fallout that we’re speculating Romney may be trying to prevent. As for Ryan, it was by no means certain he would be the Republican nominee, and until late the contest Obama wasn’t considered to have much of a chance of winning. Ryan’s full records came out after the primary, because of the Tribune and the TV station, but the pressure to release them had begun in the primary, from his Republican opponents. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illinois_United_States_Senate_election,_2004#Republican_primary

      And even if Romney’s tax stuff proves lethal, god only knows who the Republican nominee would be. But heck, we shouldn’t discount the possibility that if Romney were to withdraw from the race–which I still have a hard time comprehending–that the Republicans would end up in better shape by having a different candidate. I doubt that would happen, but stranger things have happened, especially if the GOP delegates were able to quickly unify behind a strong candidate who has few or none of Romney’s big liabilities and would be a good general election candidate but might not otherwise get through Republican primaries and caucuses (and about 73 other “ifs”). I’m not sure such a figure exists–only one that pops to mind is Jeb Bush, but he’d have familial liabilities and I doubt he’d want it–but it’s sortakinda how Schwarzenegger bypassed the GOP base, which would have never elected him, to become governor of California.

  3. Mr. Craig says:

    Reblogged this on A TRUE Republican Speaks and commented:
    Mitt Romney is getting politically bludgeoned over not releasing his tax records. There’s no rational reason for him to let the Obama campaign continue to destroy him over his taxes, so whatever he’s concealing must be terribly damaging, maybe even existentially damaging to his candidacy. Matt Yglesias has an intriguing guess–that Romney took advantage of the 2009 amnesty that allowed Americans hiding funds in Swiss accounts to declare with the IRS and avoid prosecution:

  4. By contrast, Obama released 7 years of tax returns in 2008.

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