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Shields and Brooks on the Presidential Campaign

By The NewsHour, The NewsHour - September 21, 2012

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JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks -- that's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Gentlemen, welcome.

MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Mark, the Romney tax release -- tax return information, what do we learn from that?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, first of all, I thought it was either Onion, the satirical magazine, or Stephen Colbert.

I have no idea why the Romney campaign would revisit and revive the tax issue, without resolving it. I mean, all they did was put out a 20-year summary.

And so what you have done is you have -- what had been somewhat quiescent, had been an issue that bothered -- pollsters said it bothered some people that he hadn't revealed them, the fact that he had required everybody who was considered for vice president to provide 10 years of personal tax returns even to get an interview for that job, and he hadn't himself.

And now they kind of bring out this summary today that doesn't answer questions. And so you have raised the issue again, Judy. You haven't resolved it. You revived it. Why? I mean, what -- to what end?

JUDY WOODRUFF: But hadn't they promised to put out the 2011...

MARK SHIELDS: They had promised to put out 2011, as I understood it, by Oct. 15. And, you know, that was -- you know, that was fine.

And -- but why the rest of this sort of summary that -- without specifics?

JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you think?

DAVID BROOKS: A brilliant move to distract people from the 47 percent. So it's like...

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: OK.

DAVID BROOKS: So, it's like, you have diabetes to distract from your cancer.

So, no, I think it was mostly the promise. They did this. The accountants did their work. They came up with results. They might as well get it out on a Friday afternoon. So, I think that was fine.

I never thought the -- the issue that cut was the, he's hiding something. And that is the leitmotif of the Romney campaign: He is hiding something, whether it is his plans, which he is not really making a case for, or his personality, which is hiding behind a faux persona. And so that cut.

I don't think the actual details of did he pay this or that tax -- to me, the mystery -- the essential mystery of Romney was sort of embedded in them, which is the guy gives $4 million to charity. He is a genuinely good person around the people he knows.

Yet, they don't talk about that. You -- I saw Glenn Beck's show -- I'm not a big fan of Glenn Beck, but I saw a Glenn Beck show this week where he's interviewing people after -- person after person, alcoholics, people Romney has personally ministered to, all this -- incredibly uplifting stories.

We saw a hint of it at the conventions. And yet it either doesn't come -- he's not talking about that in public, and it doesn't translate into a compassionate conservatism, which it could, which is the logical outgrowth of his personal life.

MARK SHIELDS: The personal ethic -- I think David put his finger on it.

The personal ethic, which is commendable, and the record is replete with instances of his personal...

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we heard it at the convention.

MARK SHIELDS: We heard it at the convention, but even beyond that, you hear it from people.

But does it translate into public policy, that where he isn't there personally, where his -- even his considerable fortune can't make a difference, where there is a public policy that provides the same kind of encouragement, support? And that is what is missing. The compassionate conservatism is absent.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But I hear you both saying you don't think this puts an end the clamor for the rest of the tax returns, or does it?

DAVID BROOKS: I think it does. I don't think he's going release anything more. And I think, to the extent the issue has hurt him, it is done with, and I don't think it is going to be a big issue for him now.

MARK SHIELDS: If there is a tape of him saying something about it, you know, at another fund-raiser, it will raise the issue again.

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