Could Mitt Romney be "stupid"?
That's the question CNN's Erin Burnett posed on her show this past Monday when discussing Romney's refusal to release his past income tax returns. Actually, she hypothesized that there were three possible reasons Mitt refused to release them:
"One, he had a lot more money in tax shelters in prior years than he does now."
"Two, he did something shady."
"Or, three, he's stupid."
Could Mitt's refusal to release these documents -- which are clearly hurting his campaign -- be because of stupidity?
Look, there's no doubt Mitt is very book smart. He earned two graduate degrees from Harvard -- an MBA and Law degree -- which he received after cramming five years of studying into four years. Only about 12 people per year achieve this feat at Harvard.
But in the immortal words of Forrest Gump: "Stupid is as stupid does." Which means that even if you have the best education in the world, and are a multi-millionaire, if you do stupid things, you're stupid. It's that simple.
Maybe the dictionary can help us decide this issue. Merriam-Webster dictionary.com's tells us that the most appropriate definition of the word "stupid" is: "Given to unintelligent decisions or acts."
So, is withholding tax returns an "unintelligent decision" a.k.a. "stupid"? It would seem to be when polls indicate that 61 percent of Independent voters think Romney should release his returns from the last 12 years. (To date, Romney has only released his 2010 returns and an estimate for 2011.)
Add to that, Republican leaders have been increasingly calling for Romney to release these returns, including Congressman Ron Paul, Texas Governor Rick Perry, and Alabama Governor Robert Bentley.
And, add even to that, well-known conservatives in the media such as George Will, Bill Kristol and The National Review have, too, called upon Romney to be more forthcoming and release returns for additional years.
It's true that presidential candidates are not legally mandated to release their tax returns. Yet candidates since FDR have voluntarily released them. These candidates -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- understood that this is about transparency. We, the people, are entitled to know how our possible future president made their income, how much taxes they have paid as well as to know what and where they have invested.
That is why Mitt Romney's own father -- George Romney -- released 12 years of his tax returns when he was seeking the 1968 Republican Presidential nomination. Bob Dole -- the Republican presidential nominee in 1996 -- released 30 years of his past returns, while George W. Bush released nine years and Barack Obama seven.
And when presidential candidates refused to be forthcoming in releasing tax returns, such as the cases of Democratic presidential candidates Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton, the media hammered them until they were released.
Lets state the obvious to make the stakes clear: Mitt Romney is seeking to be the head of the biggest economy and most lethal military in the world. He will in essence be the leader of the free world and one of the most powerful people on this planet. Thus, we deserve to know as much as possible about him and certainly information regarding facts which are solely within his possession -- like his tax returns.
This growing controversy is reminiscent of the one started by the right that President Obama was not born in the United States. These "birthers" kept pressing this issue until it became a distraction to President Obama's agenda. Consequently, President Obama had no other way to put the issue to rest than to finally release his long form birth certificate in April 2011.
Mitt Romney is obviously aware of both the birther issue and the past "taxer" issues. And just as in those instances, this issue is becoming a distraction to his campaign and an ever-expanding albatross around his neck.
This brings us back to the original question: Could Romney be stupid? Very doubtful. But not releasing his tax returns is stupid. It will plague him through the campaign until Election Day. However, despite this obvious downside, Romney still refuses to release the returns.
To quote another iconic line from Forest Gump: "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." Well, only Mitt Romney knows what's in his income tax returns and he's certainly fully aware of what he's "gonna get" in response if he releases them.
Could it be that Romney would prefer to be labeled "stupid" than release his past tax returns because the consequences are far worse?