Sunday, August 05, 2012

Did Jon Huntsman tell Harry Reid about Mitt's taxes?

(Update: The theory given here has been slightly revised. After you read this post, read my latest.)

Not long ago, Harry Reid said that a "Bain investor" told him that Mitt Romney won't release his tax returns because he (Romney) went ten years without paying any taxes. This claim, if taken literally, does not seem very credible. Perhaps when the source said that Romney didn't pay any taxes, he meant that the former governor paid an infuriatingly tiny amount. That scenario strikes me as more plausible.

Jon Stewart trashed Reid for making this "unsubstantiated" claim. Stewart then went on to make the very relevant point that the right, which has castigated Reid without mercy, frequently traffics in single-source claims, half-truths and conjectures. Remember Whitewater? Ever tune into Fox News?

Right now, The Hill avers that Reid relishes his role as "attack dog." Really? An attack dog? I never noticed any fangs. The guy looks more like a Basset Hound.

CNN's Dana Bash spoke to someone in Reid's office who confirms that Reid did have a conversation with a "credible" source. Alas, Bash's informant won't reveal the name. But the wording of Bash's report implies that the name is a familiar one.

Bottom line: I think Reid did indeed speak to a source in a position to know. Whether the source told the truth is a different question. 

The narrative most observers prefer -- even in some nooks and crannies of the left -- is that Reid made it up. I don't buy that scenario. When was the last time Harry Reid showed any imagination? When was the last time he did anything bold or risky?

Even if we look at this matter from a strictly Machiavellian standpoint, he had no reason to fib about a fictitious conversation with a fictitious source. Obama is running ahead in the presidential race; there was never any need for a wild maneuver. Nothing Reid has said about Romney has helped the cause of this president or his party. Frankly, I think that the predictable backlash against Reid has hurt the Democrats. If you've alienated Jon Stewart, what good have you done?

So I think that the source is real.

But who is he? Time to whip out the magnifying glass and examine the room for clues.

So far, we've been told only that the source is a "Bain investor" in a position to know something that everyone else in America would dearly love to learn: What's on those hidden tax forms? The number of individuals in that universe must be quite small. 

As we try to come up with a name, the following factors strike me as relevant:

1. I think that our source is a Mormon. Why? Because the guy knows about Romney's taxes. It seems likely that Romney might trust only a co-religionist with that kind of information. As we shall see, it is also possible that Reid's source got his info from yet another Mormon -- someone in a position to know all sorts of deep-dish stuff about the Mittster.

2. Reid is a Mormon as well. If the source is a Mormon, he is likely to "go blabby" only when speaking to a fellow Latter-Day Saint. The Mormon community can be insular. In all likelihood, the source would have a history of being on friendly terms with Harry Reid.

3. Why would the source speak to Reid at all? He must have a motive -- an angle. I suspect that we're dealing with someone who was once close to Romney, or at least close to an "insider" at Bain. Later, the source had a falling out with Romney.

As I mull over those three factors, one name comes to my mind:

Jon Huntsman. A Mormon. He fits all of our criteria. He's more liberal than Romney. He's willing to work with the other side of the aisle. His name is very familiar -- a factor which, arguably, ties in with the Bash report on CNN.

And one can definitely call him a Bain investor.

The chemical company founded by Huntsman's father (and formerly run by junior) made a $600 million deal with Bain Capital. That deal took place in 2001, the beginning of the "ten year" time period.

Huntsman's father was also a business partner of Robert C. Gay, the Bain managing director whom we have discussed in a previous post. (It may be relevant to note that Gay hails from a prominent Mormon family.)

Bain is now angling to buy Huntsman's company outright. As New York magazine puts it:
A Bain buyout would help Huntsman Corp., whose stock price has fallen nearly 30 percent in the past year. It would also be an incredibly useful bit of deal news for political metaphor lovers, since, with enough stretching, it could be said that Mitt Romney was literally buying one of his Republican rivals.
Is this buyout a bridge with bad blood running beneath it? I don't know -- but I would be grateful to hear from anyone who does.

At any rate, I strongly suspect that Robert Gay knows a lot -- and by "a lot," I mean A LOT -- about the creative methods that Romney uses to keep hold of his money. Gay is the guy you would go to if you wanted advice on how to do that sort of thing. Remember, his dad once controlled the Howard Hughes fortune. (William Gay put together the "Mormon mafia" that functioned as Hughes' inner circle.) 

One thing is certain: You don't have to Google very strenuously to discover that a Huntsman/Romney feud developed during primary season. From the Salt Lake Tribune, on January 8 of this year:
Huntsman's campaign has sniped at the former Massachusetts governor for flip-flopping, and a pro-Huntsman political action group is airing ads calling him a "chameleon."

Romney, during a debate this weekend, called out Huntsman for serving as U.S. ambassador to China under President Barack Obama. Going tit-for-tat, Huntsman slammed Romney on Sunday for not putting country ahead of politics.

To be fair, the two are distant cousins.

"Probably more distant now than ever," quipped Huntsman's chief strategist, John Weaver.
When Romney slammed Huntsman on the China assignment, Huntsman got steamed. See here:
"I put my country first. Apparently Mitt Romney doesn't," he [Huntsman] responded. "He's got this bumper sticker that says ... 'Believe in America.' How can you believe in America when you're not willing to serve America? That's just phony nonsense."
(As opposed to echt nonsense...?)

Fire up your search engine. You'll find many more articles indicating that these two Mormons learned to dislike each other on the campaign trail.

Not only that.

Jon Huntsman and Harry Reid are surprisingly close. The Huntsman family donated $25,000 to Reid's campaign. (True, Huntsman the younger has said that he never would donate personally to Reid.) Reid has said some very nice things about Huntsman.

Moreover, Jon Huntsman wants something from Harry Reid...
Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and discussed the possibility of his being named the head of the World Bank, according to multiple sources familiar with the conversation.
Whether Huntsman urged Reid to push for his appointment or dismissed the idea is a matter of considerable disagreement, however. One Huntsman family friend said that the former governor “fought hard to be named by Obama as head of the World Bank.”
There you have it: A possible motive for Huntsman to backstab Romney. Huntsman probably understands that he has no future in a GOP that has fallen into the clutches of mad tea partiers. (Too bad. If Huntsman were the nominee, he'd be at least ten points ahead of Obama right now.) A prestigious gig at the World Bank would make for a fine consolation prize. Of course, Huntsman can't admit that he wants the job: Look at the political price he paid as a result of the China appointment.

I can guess what some of you are saying right now: "You're speculating again, Cannon!" Okay, sure. A fair cop. But let's face it: Everyone is speculating right now. The many smirky harrumphers telling you "Reid made it all up" are giving you nothing but blue-sky conjecture. It's not as if they know.

If you're a detective, you can't compile a list of suspects unless you're willing to engage in reasonable speculation. Right now, I am convinced that a source does exist, and that Jon Huntsman is our likeliest prospect. (Although now that I think about it, Robert Gay may be another possibility.) Huntsman fits our criteria: He's a Mormon, he's a Bain investor, he likes Reid, and his dad was close to Gay -- who would be in an excellent position to know about the Romney tax situation. And we have motive: Huntsman (probably) would like Reid and Obama to make him the head of the World Bank.

If you have a better answer to the Great Reid Mystery, please share with the rest of the class.

If future World Bank President Jon Huntsman was Reid's source, can we presume that he -- Huntsman -- told the truth? Not necessarily.

This could all be a trick designed to embarrass the Democrats -- an exploding cigar, if you will. It's an old gambit: First you feed false (but seemingly credible) information to an opponent, who goes public with what he thinks he knows. Then you demonstrate, in a very public forum, that what your mark thinks he knows just ain't so. Hilarity ensues. In the parlance of intelligence, such a ploy is called a "double bubble."


Dwight said...

Just such a gambit was used to bury Dubya's Texas Air National Guard absences. In that case, it took a cowardly and complicit media to run the false evidence of something true without proper vetting, then drop the story at first opportunity. The public has no long term memory so the trick can work again.

Mr. Mike said...

In order to make Harry Reid sound tougher on the issues than he is the Democrats refer to him as a former boxer. Thing is it's probably the supermarket check out lane as opposed to the in the ring.

This isn't the first time he's done this.

Caro said...

How many times did Karl Rove pull the double bubble technique, especially in regard to the wrongdoings of George W.?

At least one person committed suicide over being duped by Rove.

Carolyn Kay

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised you haven't entered the fray over Eastwood's endorsement of Twitt. I know you have some dirt on Clint. Give it up!

Republicans always whine, along with their counter-parts the so-called 'liberal' media, when Dems use Republican campaign smear tactics. I have a line from Unforgiven from the films metaphor for Muny, Mitt RMuny;

Little Bill; " You just shot an unarmed man"

Muny; "Well, he shoulda armed himself"

Ben Franklin

Bob Harrison said...

Reid is forcing a GOP error at best and at worst forcing a waste of energy and resources-- a win-win of the "Senator,when did you stop beating your wife?" variety. The source is interesting but mox nix to the effect.

I like the Hunstman theory, and if he were the nominee, I'd most likely be voting GOP instead vainly searching for an Oternative.

LandOLincoln said...

I like the Hunstman theory, and if he were the nominee, I'd most likely be voting GOP instead vainly searching for an Oternative.

You and me both. To me it's just further proof that there's only one political party these days, and that's the Corporatists.

What I've never been able to understand is why Clint (and Sarah, for that matter) are still Republicans instead of Independents. Clint may simply not be paying that much attention, but Sarah surely is.

And aren't Todd and No. 1 son Track both Independents?

BTW, cannot wait for 8/13 and the debut of my man Wes's new reality show-all proceeds of which go to military charities-and his first guest, the former First Dude of Alaska. The eye candy quotient alone will be off the charts for us wimmins (and gay men) at least.

LandOLincoln said...

Oh and bye the bye, the Anonymous coward said

I know you have some dirt on Clint. Give it up!

Listen up, infant: Clint himself acknowledged the so-called "dirt"--all of which (his womanizing) was common knowledge to us geezers back in the day--when he'd served his term as mayor of Carmel and was being encouraged to go for higher office.

Joseph Cannon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LandOLincoln said...

Oh come on Joe, NO FAIR--have the stones at least to email me your (now deleted) comment!

LandOLincoln said...

Sorry--in my slightly drunken Sunday afternoon state I assumed the deleted comment was your own. My bad--unless of course it was. ;-)

Lenny said...

Huntsman is a good pick, but could it not be Huntsman Sr.? Assuming it is someone people would know, as Bash reported, there are very few possibilities. Another one might be former Bainite, Celtics owner, & failed dem Senate candidate Steve Pagliuca.

Trojan Joe said...

The ultimate "exploding cigar" plot was when a GOP operative named Roger Stone fed Dan Rather some mostly-true documents about draft-dodger Dubya, documents that had been retyped on a new computer and contaminated with a few falsehoods. When Rather went public with the news, Stone's minions in the blogosphere already had a retort handy, with suspiciously quick analysis of the documents' typeface. (As Joe knows from John Newman's "Oswald and the CIA," similarly poison pills were planted in the paperwork about the JFK assassination. These guys don't miss a trick.)

Anonymous said...

"Listen up, infant: Clint himself acknowledged the so-called "dirt"--all of which (his womanizing) was common knowledge to us geezers back in the day-"

Giving you a pass on the inebriated Sunday Mash.

Joe has insider knowledge of Hollywood, and I hoped he could flesh out Clint's History.

Ben Franklin

Joseph Cannon said...

All I can say is that I visited Carmel when they had that stupid law against ice cream cones in place, and I visited again when Mayor Eastwood got rid of the law. I liked the place better with ice cream.

Then again, pretty much every place goes better with ice cream.

Incidentally, the best ice cream I ever had was in nearby Monterey, not too far from the Aquarium. Ghirardelli. Outdoor seating if you have a pooch.

Anonymous said...

'Clint likes ice cream'? And he restored the American Treat to the People.


Ben Franklin

Anonymous said...

Republicans can dish it out but they can't take it. They have called President Obama every name but the child of God. They have falsely accused him of apologizing for American around the world; they have called him a Marxist. His notice of live birth wasn't good enough for them, but Romney produced the identical type of document; they have lied over and over and over. They have accused Democrats in Congress of being communists and at least on Congressperson as belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. Republicans can put a sock in it. I'll believe Harry Reid over any Republican - any day of the week.

LandOLincoln said...

I'll believe Harry Reid over any Republican - any day of the week.

Then you're a sucker because there's not a dimes' worth of difference between the two parties these days--well, maybe there's a leeetle difference now because The One wants to get re-elected and knows he can't get by with stealing another election (you do of course remember May 31, 2008?)

But once he's safely returned to the office he stole (or that was stolen for him since he's too damned stupid to do it himself)--WATCH OUT.

Only Nixon could go to China, and only Obama can "reform" Social Security (you know, that "handout" that something north of 60% of us geezers depend on as our sole source of income?)

Fuck Obama and fuck you dim bulb "Millennials" who still think he's any kind of Democrat.

Can we please have Bill back now? Pretty please?

Anonymous said...

Great work. I think Harry Reid will accepting a few apologies. First and foremost, I hope, from Rance Priebus (or whatever his name is).

jhspoljunkie said...

I am just gonna say, as a proud liberal living in the ultra conservative state of Utah, nothing would do my cold, cold heart more good than to have this little trinket be truth. Huntsman is well respected in the state, for many reasons. To have him put a tarnish on the mitsters halo, well that would just about do my cold, cold heart good!

Anonymous said...

This logic also works if Huntsman wants to run in 2016, because the nomination will be open, not occupied by an incumbent Rmoney.

Adrian Bunk said...

And we have motive: Huntsman (probably) would like Reid and Obama to make him the head of the World Bank.

Please do some basic research on all facts you use.

The article "Jon Huntsman discussed World Bank post with Harry Reid" is from March 23.

The election for head of the World Bank was on April 16.

Jim Yong Kim took office as new head of the World Bank on July 1.

Anonymous said...

Just picked up link in "Daily Kos" today (2012 08 10) to your well-reasoned post. We're racing to bring up a new anti-Mitt satire series in YouTube, so I am paying more attention than normal to the truly quotable sources -- your Cannonball is definitely one! Great work.

As to your speculation, may I suggest we not overlook Abby Huntsman as the possible Reid source? Many of your (and Kos' derivative points) would fit her profile, I think. She could possibly (technically) even be a Bain investor if she was a beneficiary of a Bain-created trust.


"there's no fool like an old fool, unless it is an even older old fool"

Joseph Cannon said...

Thanks, Adrian. The main reason I allow comments at all on this site is that I love to be corrected as you have corrected me.

In my defense: Reid never specified WHEN he spoke to his source, did he?

At any rate, it is indisputable that the Huntsman clan thinks that Reid might be in a position to do Jon Jr. some service.