Marc Thiessen, a former White House speechwriter for President George W. Bush, wrote in his column Monday that Mitt Romney is giving the Obama campaign ammunition for their "secrecy" attacks on him by not releasing tax returns prior to 2010.
"Whatever is in his earlier tax returns, Romney is better off releasing them and enduring some more bad press than giving Team Obama more fodder for its 'what is Mitt hiding' campaign," Thiessen wrote in the Washington Post.
"On taxes, it is simply inexplicable why the Romney campaign still cannot get a handle on an issue they should have seen coming years ago. Did they learn nothing from the tax-return debacle he went through during the South Carolina primary? Romney had a double-digit lead until he fumbled the tax issue in not one, but two, Republican debates. His evasive answers, and refusal to commit to releasing his returns, drew boos from the GOP crowd and helped Newt Gingrich win an upset victory."
"Even Republicans are starting to ask: What could possibly be in his old tax returns that is worse than creating the impression he has something to hide?"
Thiessen is right. Romney suffered a lot of political damage in January as he struggled to deal with the tax return issue.
Finally, after coming under duress, Romney released his 2010 returns in January and plans to release his 2011 returns later this year, though his campaign disclosed Friday that he filed for a six-month extension.
Both President Obama's reelection campaign and Democratic interest groups have pressed Romney to release returns for many more years, up to more than two decade's worth. Top White House adviser David Plouffe told Bloomberg News on Friday that Romney submitted 23 years of returns to Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) presidential campaign in 2008 during the vetting process for vice presidential candidates.
"Just release them," Plouffe said.
But Romney adviser and spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said in an e-mail to The Huffington Post that their campaign is holding firm on their decision to release Romney's returns only for 2010 and 2011, pointing out that Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts released only two years' returns in the 2004 presidential elections during his unsuccessful challenge to Bush.
"John McCain released two years of tax return information. John Kerry released two years. We are going to follow their example," Fehrnstrom said.