It is one of the most basic tests of personal ethics and transparency: the release into the public domain of a candidate's tax returns. Yet the Clintons still have not done it in this campaign - despite loaning themselves $5 million, despite many legitimate questions about the involvement of mogul Ron Burkle in their financial affairs, despite a massive increase in their income in the last few years to make them multi-millionaires.
More disturbingly, they have absolutely no argument as to why. When Senator Clinton says she is "too busy" to release the returns, or says she will not release them until after she has won the Democratic nomination, the correct response for the press is incredulity. These are self-evidently nonsensical explanations. When a candidate with the Clintons' long record of sleaze cannot come up with a halfway reasonable defense of this secrecy, the press should assume that they are hiding something. Their current position - that they will release their returns around April 15 - is also bizarre. Did they file an extension for the past few years? If they didn't, the forms are available now. Throwing strange arbitrary future deadlines around is unacceptable flim flam.
The secrecy and paranoia also remind one of the Clintons' history, especially Senator Clinton's. From Whitewater through the long nightmare of cattle-futures through legal documents mysteriously "discovered" long after they were sought, to the secret healthcare task force that helped kill healthcare reform for over a decade, the Clintons are now following their long pattern. They hide stuff they need to hide and stuff they don't need to hide. What we are learning is that these people have not changed. And their sense of personal privilege, their boundless paranoia, and their constant lies about themselves must be front and center in this campaign. Do we want to go back there again? After Bush and Cheney, do we really want another couple of co-presidents in love with total secrecy and above-the-law personal privilege?
Why do the Clintons believe that they are somehow above the normal rules of other politicians? And why does the press allow them to get away with this? Why aren't there demands for them to fully disclose their financial details now? No excuses. No delays. Now.
(Photo: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty.)