It's Time to Stop Celebrating Harry Reid
—By Kevin Drum | Tue Aug. 7, 2012 7:31 AM PDT
Here is Harry Reid on Mitt Romney's taxes: "I was told by an extremely credible source that Romney has not paid taxes for 10 years." PolitiFact rates this a Pants on Fire lie.
An awful lot of liberals disagree. Typical reasons include sophistry ("PolitiFact doesn't know that Romney paid any taxes"); revenge ("Romney's been telling lots of lies, so why shouldn't we?"); disingenuousness ("All Romney has to do is release his tax returns to clear this up"); or lying as a virtue ("Politics ain't beanbag").
Come on, folks. Reid didn't say I'll bet Romney didn't pay any taxes. He didn't say he talked to someone familiar with high earners who told him Maybe Romney won't release his returns because he didn't pay any taxes. He made a flat statement of fact. He said he has an "extremely credible source," which in this context means someone with direct knowledge of Romney's taxes who decided to pick up the phone and dish about it to Harry Reid. Does anyone really believe this? Really? Then, as if that weren't enough, Reid made his little bluff even less plausible by deciding that Romney didn't just avoid all taxes for one year, he avoided them for ten years. Yeah, baby, that's the ticket! Put these two things together with the fact that Reid hasn't even tried to make his fairy tale sound believable (it's just some guy he talked to) and this is not a story that a five-year-old would credit. It's just Reid making stuff up in order to put pressure on Romney, and I think we all know it.
Can I prove this? Of course not. Given the epistemological limits of proof, I can't prove Barack Obama was born in the United States either. Nevertheless, I feel safe saying that anyone who claims to have an "extremely credible source" that Obama was born elsewhere is either crazy or lying. The same is true for Reid, and Reid isn't crazy. It's simply vanishingly unlikely that he's telling the truth, and no one — not liberal or conservative — would spend even ten seconds on a story so patently far-fetched if it were anybody but Reid and the background were anything but the frenzy of a presidential campaign.
Politically, of course, Reid's ploy has worked like a charm. Romney's taxes are back in the news and Romney's ham-handed handling of the whole affair has kept it there. And that gives everyone a fifth reason to cheer on Reid: the end justifies the means.
Take a deep breath, folks. This is contemptible stuff and it's not just business as usual. We've spent too many years berating the tea partiers for getting on bandwagons like this to get sucked into it ourselves the first time it's convenient. It's time to quit cheering on Reid and get off this particular bus.
Couple this with Bob Schieffer comparing the obsession with Mitt Romney's tax returns to the McCarthy hunt for Commies and it starts to look like the left is growing weary of this smear too.
This was quite a bold step for Schieffer and good for him for at least trying to make the point that this is a witch hunt. But Ann Coulter clarifies that McCarthy was at least correct in his assertions as compared with Reid's baseless accusation.
But even with this history lesson by Coulter, the bigger point is still standing unnoticed in the middle of the room, as pachydermic ideas tend to do. This 'when did you stop beating your wife' style accusation (Lawyers refer to this method as "ringing the bell," because you can't un-ring a bell.) is about as un-American a concept as ever existed. It makes a mockery of the presumption of innocence.
The presumption of innocence, sometimes referred to by the Latin expression Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat (the burden of proof lies with who declares, not who denies), is the principle that one is considered innocent until proven guilty. Application of this principle is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, recognised in many nations. The burden of proof is thus on the prosecution,...That Reid and many others on the left are not disturbed by unsubstantiated accusations and asking the accused to prove the negative is depressing. The burden of proof is with Reid, not Romney. Furthermore, he understands that the IRS would have already referred Romney to the Department of Justice if anything illegal had occurred.
Reid is not stupid. But that he so recklessly tosses aside basic rule of law for political gain demonstrates that political victory is a higher value for him than truth.