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Jay Carney: 'Responsible' Presidential Candidates Release Their Tax Returns

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White House press secretary Jay Carney took a shot at Mitt Romney on Wednesday over tax returns. | AP

WASHINGTON -- White House press secretary Jay Carney said that it may not be "comfortable" for Mitt Romney to release his tax returns, but if he considers himself presidential material, he'll have to do it.

"When you're the president of the United States, you can't say, 'Well, I know I have the title, but I'm not really responsible for what happens here in the White House or in the federal government. I was doing other things.' You are responsible," Carney said at his Wednesday briefing. "If you're going to run for president, it's not necessarily comfortable, but it's become a tradition and it's an important one: You make your tax returns available because you think the American people deserve that kind of transparency."

Carney emphasized that he was speaking for the president and that reporters should contact the Obama campaign with questions about how the issue is playing out on the campaign trail. Still, he made the case that Romney's reluctance to release more tax returns -- and reveal whether the alleged outsourcing of jobs by Bain Capital took place during his tenure -- is fair game both as a campaign issue and as a policy matter.

"The debate about encouraging insourcing as opposed to outsourcing is fundamental to economic policy and the kinds of choices we need to make going forward. And it's one that I think illustrates a real difference between the president and, unfortunately, the Republicans," Carney said. "When it comes to transparency and accountability, the president believes that comes with the office. I mean he has said, and I will quote him, when you're president of the United States, you are responsible. And you live by the adage that Harry Truman coined, 'The buck stops here.'"

A Romney campaign spokeswoman did not return a request for comment.

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