Monday, August 27, 2012

The Politics of Baseless Charges

A couple of months ago opponents of Mitt Romney were taking him apart, both mockingly and with great seriousness, for “taking a $77,000 tax deduction” for his wife’s dressage horse. There was only one problem with that claim; he had not actually done what they claimed. He had listed the expense on his tax form, but had not deducted that expense from his current income. The listing was for the purpose of deducting those expenses from future income earned by the horse in competition.

That might explain why he is reluctant to release more of his returns; he doesn’t want the vultures picking through them to find more tidbits which they can misrepresent and use to attack him with. And so, of course, the vultures claim instead that “he must be hiding something terrible or he would release his returns, like everybody else has done in presidential elections for twenty years.”

John McCain, just four years ago, released only two years of tax returns and his wife, who controls the vast majority of their wealth, released none at all, and no accusations were made about McCain cheating on taxes, illegally hiding wealth, etc. Even to the extent that any comments were raised about McCain’s refusal to release returns, Obama declined to enter that fray, eschewing the negativity that such accusations involved.

So Mitt Romney is cheating on his income taxes, he is not paying any taxes, he is hiding wealth illegally and/or he is reneging on his commitment to his church. He can prove us wrong, we say, by releasing his tax returns. By saying that we acknowledge that we have no knowledge of what is in those returns, no evidence for our accusation that he is “hiding something” and that our charge is baseless.

The left claims that the charge that he’s hiding something is not baseless because, even though there is no evidence, there is impeccable logic; the only possible reason for him not to release his returns is that he’s hiding something which would be personally or politically damaging. Nonsense; I just offered another reason above, and yet another would be that he simply thinks that the details of his income are nobody’s business.

The left engages in “we get to make up stuff which discredits our opponent and he has to prove us wrong because we’re the good guys and he’s the one who’s a liar.” I can’t engage in that kind of practice because I am unable to resolve the “we get to make up stuff which discredits” part with the “he’s the one who’s a liar” part.

Whether or not the target of a baseless charge has the means to disprove the charge is irrelevant because the act of making a baseless accusation is, in and of itself, a fundamentally dishonest act.

From Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and it is us.”

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