E tu, National Review?

Molly Ball looks at the total inability of Republicans to defend Mitt Romney’s no-more-tax-records stance, and suggests that “even as nominee, he commands so little loyalty within his party.”

On cue, Rick Perry – who said just last week that the tax issue didn’t matter.

I think the president ought to release all of his transcripts, yes sir. I think anyone running for office, if they get asked within reason to give people background about what they have been doing, including tax returns, should do that. That’s my deal on it.

On cue, National Review, which gets into the weeds on Romney’s excuses.

The Romney campaign says he has released as many returns as candidate John Kerry did in 2004, and cites Teresa Heinz Kerry’s refusal to release any of her tax returns. Neither is an apt comparison. John Kerry actually released returns from 1999 through 2003, and also released tax returns during his Senate runs. As for Teresa Heinz, Romney isn’t the wealthy spouse of a candidate, but the candidate himself.

I mostly agree with Ball. It’s impossible to imagine Democrats, in summer 2008, agreeing that Barack Obama should release more transcripts or more proof that he was born of a human woman in Hawaii. The difference: Those issues were transparently pretty stupid. (For reasons of historical record, Obama should release his transcripts, but the specific reason behind the ask was a theory that Obama got accepted as a foreign student.) Republicans realize that the Romney tax issue isn’t stupid, and that the Obama campaign will use its demands to further a post-convention attack on Romney’s wealth, his regressive tax plan, etc. There are ways, as NR points out, to reveal that you’re rich and explain how this informs your quest for tax fairness. Obama (and Bill Clinton) love to use that argument, to say that they don’t deserve tax cuts. If Romney ended this debate in a bold way, and revealed that he paid low tax rates, conservatives would like to see him pivot to tax reform.