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MONITOR EDITORIAL

What is Romney trying to hide?

Eager to draw attention away from questions about their candidate's refusal to make more of his tax returns public, Mitt Romney's presidential campaign unleashed Rabid John, otherwise known as former New Hampshire governor John H. Sununu. Sununu is a surrogate spokesman - an attack dog - for the Romney campaign.

Sununu came out snarling on Fox News Tuesday during interviews with callers to the show.

"I wish this president would learn how to be an American," he said. He went on to say that Obama "has absolutely no idea how the American system functions, and we shouldn't be surprised at that, because he spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent the next set of years in Indonesia, and when he came to the U.S. he worked as a community organizer - which is a socialized structure. . . "

Sununu's comments were as vile as they come. They are also part of a calculated and despicable effort on the part of the Romney campaign to portray the president as somehow un-American. Sununu's comments differ only in degree from those of Romney himself, who has often said that he doesn't think Obama "understands America."

Sununu apologized for his McCarthyesque comments once they caused a stir, but he used his apology to further the smear campaign, saying that he meant to say the president doesn't understand "the American formula for creating business," an oblique way of implying that Obama's economic formula came from - where? Moscow?

But enough with Sununu. Lest his diversion succeed too perfectly, let's return to the real issue - Romney's tax returns and why he's refusing to release more than the 2010 return and a preliminary 2011 filing that he made public earlier this year.

Romney's 2010 tax return showed that, after taking advantage of incredibly complicated tax reduction schemes, the Romneys paid just 13.9 percent of their $22 million adjusted gross income in federal taxes, a lower rate than families with household incomes of $40,000 or $50,000. That was embarrassing. So were revelations that Romney managed to have an IRA worth $100 million when the law only allows a maximum contribution of $30,000 per year. So was the news that Romney had a fortune in offshore accounts and recently closed a Swiss bank account. So what could Romney, whose father started the tradition of releasing tax returns in his bid for the presidency a generation ago, be hiding?

Did he take advantage of the amnesty offered tax evaders who repatriated money in their Swiss accounts? Whatever the information is, we suspect, it's certain to be more damaging than paying a working stiff tax rate on tens of millions of dollars in income.

"The cost of not releasing his returns are clear," conservative columnist George Will said on ABC on Sunday. "Therefore, he must have calculated that there are higher costs in releasing them."

Could it be that despite a fortune estimated at some $250 million and an annual income of more than $20 million, Romney paid little or no taxes in some years? Some tax experts think that's a possibility. So do we.

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