A national CNN poll released yesterday asked respondents whether Mitt Romney should release more tax returns. The results weren't close: 63% of respondents said he should disclose more, while only 36% said he shouldn't. (Among independents, it was a two-to-one margin.)
This morning, however, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus described the issue as "ridiculous." Why? Well, he didn't get around to explaining why, exactly. He just doesn't want to spend "any more time talking about this issue."
But as Igor Volsky noted, Priebus did add one related thought on the matter.
For those who can't watch clips online, the CNN host this morning noted that television personality Donald Trump claims he'll have a "major role" at the Republican National Convention, and wondered what that might be. Priebus praised the reality-show host as a "good friend" to the party and the Romney campaign, but he didn't know what role Trump would play in Tampa. It led to this exchange:
CNN: Is this a good message you send for a guy who is still a birther and still calling for the president to release his college transcripts? Is that the kind of guy you want on the podium during the Republican convention?
PRIEBUS: I have been from the very moment that I've been chairman of this party very clear as far as where I stand on that issue. It's just as much of a distraction as it is for people to ask for more and more tax returns and all of these other issues. The fact of the matter is, this election is coming down to one thing, are people better off today than three or four years ago?
Putting aside the fact that the country is in vastly better shape than it was four years ago -- people do remember the fall of 2008, right? -- Reince Priebus thinks questions about Romney's secret tax returns are as legitimate as questions about Obama's college transcripts?
As a purely objective matter, there are important unanswered questions about Romney's offshore finances, controversial investments, unanswered questions about his individual retirement account that somehow ended up with more than $100 million, and claims about his business that contradict SEC filings. Romney himself promised to "go back and look" at these returns to look at the tax rates he paid -- a promise he's apparently already broken.
These are legitimate areas of inquiry in a presidential race. Donald Trump's wild-eyed conspiracy theories are not. That Priebus can't tell the difference is discouraging.