Top surrogates for President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney squabbled over Romney’s business background and refusal to release more of his tax returns Sunday on ABC’s This Week.
Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., blasted Democratic attacks on Romney as “false and misleading” and said that the president has shown himself to be “just a small politician and running on small-ball politics at a time when our country is facing grave, grave challenges.”
But Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a former White House chief of staff for Obama, bluntly told Romney to “stop whining.” He added, “What are you going to do when the Chinese leader says something to you or (Vladimir) Putin says something to you? Going to whine it away?”
The exchange between Ayotte and Emanuel captured the intensity of the battle over Romney’s business ties that exploded this week with dueling television ads and the disclosure that Romney listed as the head of Bain Capital in SEC filings and state disclosures well after the 1999 date when he took a leave of absence to run the Olympics in Utah.
Both Emanuel on ABC and Obama campaign aide Stephanie Cutter on CBS’s Face the Nation recalled that Romney, during the GOP primaries, told his rivals to “stop whining.” When host Bob Schieffer on CBS asked Cutter if Romney will be getting an apology as demanded by the Republican candidate, Cutter said, “He’s not going to get an apology.” Reviving Romeny’s “stop whining” advice from the primaries, she added, “I think that’s a good message for the Romney campaign.”
Emanuel insisted the Democrats are justified in pushing the questions about Bain Capital. “If you want to claim Bain Capital as your calling card to the White House, then defend what happened to Bain Capital and what happened to those jobs that went overseas, those jobs that were actually cut and eliminated, the companies that went into bankruptcy,” Emanuel said.
But Ayotte contended that Romney has already “addressed these attacks. They’re false and misleading.”
Ayotte had a similar response when pressed on why Romney has only released one year of tax returns, far fewer than any other presidential candidate in recent decades. “He’s disclosed what he has to under federal law, but he’s also gone beyond that,” she said, noting he has released his 2010 returns and plans to release his 2011 returns. “But that’s not what the American people are focusing on. They’re worried about their own tax returns,” she said.
Emanuel was withering in his attack on Romney’s taxes, though, noting his overseas investments and tax shelters and stating, “His tax filing looks more like the Olympic Village than it does like a middle-class family.” Noting that Romney in 2008 gave 23 years of his tax returns to Sen. John McCain when he was being vetted for vice president, he added, “The Romney campaign isn’t stupid. They have decided it is better to get attacked on lack of transparency, lack of accountability to the American people, versus telling you what’s in those taxes.”
On another Sunday show, Fox News Sunday, a leading Republican strategist warned the Romney campaign that the refusal to release more tax returns is a mistake. “He should release the tax returns tomorrow. It’s crazy,” said Bill Kristol. “You gotta release six, eight, 10 years of back tax returns. Take the hit for a day or two.”
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