The office of majority leader in the United States Senate was officially established in 1925. Arguably, at least up until this year, the position carried with it an implicit dignity and a modicum of honor. Directing the legislative activities of the powerful 100 member Senate and determining which bills will be voted on and which won’t is an awesome responsibility offering enviable prestige to the one holding the reins.
In comparison, the office of the Vice President of the United States, has had less to do with power and prestige, and more to do with performing hatchet jobs on the President’s perceived enemies.Outside of the VP’s potential appointment to the presidency in the unlikely event of the sitting President’s death, incapacity or deposition, and a few procedural and voting duties – mostly cosmetic, his major role as “opposition spoiler and attack dog” has been designed ad hoc by the particular president under whom he serves. Joe Biden, current Vice President, has fulfilled many of these assignments during the Obama reign, as have, admittedly, his predecessors in reigns past. Although never fully accepted as respectable, the Vice President’s bully-boy role is neither unexpected nor widely decried – most citizens being sleepy creatures vulnerable to repeated political lullabies no matter how discordant.
But what is it we see happening as the 2012 presidential campaign heats up? Certainly Joe breathlessly acts out his “junk yard” antics, but, lo and behold, the majority leader of the Senate now challenges Joe for the top slot in the mud-slinging department. As he abandons for a moment the more or less dignified role of wheeler-dealer in the senate, Harry invites a media feeding-frenzy by alleging that Mitt Romney has failed to pay any taxes over a ten year period. He bases this charge on advice supposedly received from – of all people – an unnamed former investor in Bain Capital! First of all, it’s interesting that the democratic majority leader of the US Senate (if what he says is true) is not only on speaking terms with supporters of Bain Capital, but obviously has great faith in what they suggest, no matter how suspect or far-fetched the information. Secondly, is it really fair of Reid to attempt to unseat and usurp poor Joe Biden from his role as the preeminent democratic attack dog?
Beyond role-playing within the democratic party, there remains the issue itself – Mitt Romney’s income tax returns. Why, you might say, won’t the presumptive Republican nominee just clear the matter up by producing all of his income tax returns – dating back – if the democrats really had their way – to the year that 13 year-old Mitt delivered newspapers to his Michigan neighbors. Clearly, the democrats – suffering from a paucity of material on which to attack Romney – are frantically fishing for new sources. But again, you say, if Mitt has nothing to hide, why doesn’t he just bare all? Let’s put it this way, if you were a candidate for, say, president of your high school class, would you respond to a demand by a piossibly unscrupulous competitor to release ten year’s worth of your personal diary data, with a casual “sure, no problem,” even if you were certain that none of it contained anything harmful? Not likely. You’d know that your opponent would exaggerate, warp and distort the most innocent of your experiences. So it is with Romney’s income tax filings. He has provided data sufficient to satisfy lawful requirements, and has no obligation to the opposition, nor to the American public, to provide more.
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