I'm a recovering political operative and now happily the Chief of Staff to Sen. John Kerry. Trust me, I'm not eager to be dragged into this year's political campaign season.
But every time I turn on cable television, I feel a little bit like Michael Corleone in The Godfather III: "Every time I think I'm out, they keep pulling me back in."
Back in, it turns out, because as an ever-evolving excuse for not releasing his tax returns, Mitt Romney and his handlers seem determined to falsely invoke Sen. Kerry's example from 2004.
Sen. Moynihan once said, people are entitled to their own opinions, but they're not entitled to their own facts. And, in the case of Team Romney's evasions about tax returns, John Adams' warning rings especially true: "Facts are stubborn things."
What are the facts? They're as simple as Adams warned they could be stubborn: When John Kerry ran for president, he'd released to the media twenty years of his tax returns. And contrary to Mitt Romney's claim this morning on Fox News, Sen. Kerry's wife Teresa also released her own tax return information for public scrutiny on the presidential campaign's website, despite the fact that the couple files taxes separately, and Sen. Kerry is not involved in her family's investments nor is he a beneficiary. In fact, despite Romney's contention this morning, Teresa Heinz Kerry's release of her tax information was the subject of front page news stories across the country.
Months ago during the Republican primaries, the Romney team, including the candidate himself, began conjuring up false and convoluted alibis, invoking John Kerry's 2004 example as Romney's excuse for not releasing his tax returns. The media investigated and reminded Team Romney that Candidate Kerry had released 20 years of tax returns. Still, here we are months later and on national television they're still falling back on disproven excuses and even making up new false ones invoking Sen. Kerry's wife.
Now that we have restated the facts, something else needs to happen: Mitt Romney ought to speak for himself instead of trying to deflect attention by making inaccurate comments about Sen. Kerry's wife Teresa, who has never been a candidate for any office, and who inherited trusts established after the sudden and tragic death of her husband, Sen. John Heinz (R-PA), in a plane crash. Frankly, she deserves better.
I'm not in the business or habit of giving advice to Republican presidential candidates -- but Team Romney would also do well to accept the fact that this isn't about John Kerry or his wife, even though they didn't do what Mitt Romney says they did.
No, this national debate is about Mitt Romney -- and what he's going to do, and what that might reveal to Americans about what kind of President he'd be.
Judging by the alternating silence and obfuscation from the Romney camp and the candidate himself, maybe that's the problem.