Obama says tax return fight 'isn't overly personal'
August 20th, 2012
02:58 PM ET
11 years ago

Obama says tax return fight 'isn't overly personal'

Washington (CNN) – The ongoing battle over Mitt Romney's personal income tax returns isn't personal, President Barack Obama said Monday, saying instead it was essential for voters to understand a presidential candidate's financial background.

Speaking in the White House Briefing Room, Obama pointed to a precedent on releasing tax returns that extended back to Romney's father, George, who ran for the GOP presidential nomination ahead of the 1968 election.

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"When it comes to releasing taxes, that's a precedent that was set decades ago, including by Gov. Romney's father," Obama said. "And for us to say that it makes sense to release your tax returns as I did, as John McCain did, as Bill Clinton did, as the two President Bushes did, I don't think it's anyway out of bounds."

Romney released his 2010 income tax return and an estimate of his 2011 return when he filed for an extension. He has vowed to release his full 2011 information once it's completed by his accountant.

Democrats say two years of income tax information isn't enough for voters to assess a presidential candidate, and have pressured Romney to release more. Last week Obama's campaign manager said if Romney released an additional three years of tax returns – making five years total – the Obama campaign would stop pushing Romney to release more.

Also last week, Romney told reporters at a press conference that he's paid an effective tax rate of 13% for the past decade, calling the interest in his tax returns "very small-minded compared to the broad issues that we face."

On Monday, Obama said voters expected more disclosure from presidential candidates.

"I think people want to know that everybody's been playing by the same rules including those who are seeking the highest office of the land. This is not an entitlement being president of the United States. This a privilege and we've got to put ourselves before the American people to make our case," Obama said.

He later added that the calls for Romney to release more taxes were not making personal attacks on the presumptive GOP nominee.

“This isn’t overly personal, guys," Obama said. "This is pretty standard stuff. We’re not being mean.”

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Filed under: Mitt Romney • President Obama • Taxes
soundoff (83 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    Obama's right again. Let the Teatroll tantrum commence!

    August 20, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  2. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Well it is personal for me Mr. President.
    I'd like to see what loopholes, and tax shelters, and off-shore banking Mr. Romney and his friends have access to and how much they have been accessing it by.
    Nobody buys the blind trust crap or anything else he's selling for that matter.
    You can take the high road on this one sir, but we're dredging the pond.
    Obama 2012. Because even AMERCIA deserves better than Romney.

    August 20, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  3. Mikey

    It's not personal. It's certainly not a personal attack. The voting public has a right to understand the finances of a person they are considering putting in the White House. Romney has extremely complicated financial arrangements. There are concerns about both the lengths he has gone to avoid taxes, the nature of his off-shore tax shelters, and the income and tax issues connected with continuing income streams from Bain. It is a fair question and a legitimate issue. If he chooses to continue hiding his finances, the people can choose not to vote for him.

    August 20, 2012 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  4. cali girl

    Many companies have a background check. It includes things like the last 7 years of residence. Give your driver's license number so they can run DMV records. Also will run a credit check on you.
    Sounds simple enough, show your tax returns. Don't show them, no job then.

    August 20, 2012 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  5. Nix the Food Stamp President

    McCain only released two years of tax returns. But this is all just a distraction from the ruinous record of Obama. For 3.5 years all he has done is talk, pose and let the economic crisis worsen.

    August 20, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  6. BlkPwr817

    He's right this is "standard stuff" The GOP would never let Obama get away with being as secretive as Mitt Romney. A man with too many secrets should not be able to win the White House. Sorry Romney...You dont have to go, but you gott get the hell outta here...

    August 20, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  7. American People

    The American People want to see Mitt's tax returns for the last 20 years. We want to see his REAL tax rate. We also want to know how many jobs Mitt off-shored and how much money he has hidden in off-shore accounts evading taxes. Put up or shut up Mitt!!!!! If you want a tax break, show us your current rate!!!!!

    August 20, 2012 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  8. NC

    I agree; knowing more about a candidate's background is important. I would really like to know more about Obama's college records.

    August 20, 2012 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  9. Pete

    Pres.Obama took questions at the White House today and said its about Romneys taxes are something that was made a standard by Romneys late father years ago,who also ran for president..Hey hypocrites what about you constantly badgering the president on his birth certificate or now his college transcripts,what about Romneys draft notice or his new CEO at Bain hired in 1999,ya like that one ha,didn't have the brains for thinkin that one up did ya!!What about Ryan using his dead fathers survivor benefits in SocialSecurity when his father was a millionaire to go to college,nothing like startin young stealing from the government,the one he now works for and he ain't stopped has he!!!

    August 20, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  10. myviewis

    Well, we don't always follow in our parent's footsteps, do we? Just a gimmick by Obama to distract voters from Medicare, unemployment, high gas prices, etc..... It is a shame Obama didn't spend this much time on important things like helping businesses create jobs or keeping all his promises. Think it is time Obama looks in the mirror and stops looking at others to avoid looking at his own downfalls.

    August 20, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  11. RealityBites

    From the guy who had his school, work record and pre 2006 tax returns sealed.., what a joke!

    August 20, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  12. WiredweirdinSF

    Did you hear about the latest Obama wiggle and of course lie. He said no one on his campaign said Romney was a felon. Do you want the Stephanie Cutter quote? Or does Obama just want to fess up to the lie. Then again will the liberally biased media even report it? Probably not. They have not reported any other Obama lies and if you judge it by CNN, they still haven't and they won't although they are reporting the Obama cover up story (Naturally).

    August 20, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  13. Howard

    Newsweek magazine is targeting its latest controversial cover at the Obama administration. It’s part of a devastating story written by esteemed British historian Niall Ferguson telling President Obama that it’s time to go and that the only team that can possibly turn the country around is the Romney-Ryan ticket.

    “In his inaugural address, Obama promised ‘not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth.’” Ferguson writes in the cover story, “Hit the Road, Barack: Why We Need a New President.”

    “He promised to ‘build the roads and bridges, the electric grids, and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.’ He promised to ‘restore science to its rightful place and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost.’” wrote Ferguson, who made some of the same arguments in a March 2012 Newsmax cover story, "Decision Time." “And he promised to ‘transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.’ Unfortunately the president’s scorecard on every single one of those bold pledges is pitiful.”

    “Welcome to Obama’s America: nearly half the population is not represented on a taxable return—almost exactly the same proportion that lives in a household where at least one member receives some type of government benefit,” Ferguson writes. “We are becoming the 50–50 nation—half of us paying the taxes, the other half receiving the benefits.”

    August 20, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  14. James Bartel

    It's unclear why Mitt Romeny would have valued the Swiss bank account secrecy, and it would not have enabled him legally to avoid U.S. tax," said Daniel Shaviro, a tax professor at New York University School of Law. "This is why there's speculation that Mitt Romeny was part of the amnesty program." to avoid a criminal prosecution.

    August 20, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  15. George Cook

    NOTHING but a "TYPICAL" Diversion from the REAL issues for this country...Try Debt, Unemployment, Fiscal Insanity, etc just to name a few !!

    August 20, 2012 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  16. souptwins

    I like the use of "overly personal". So it IS personal, but not "overly" personal. BTW– McCain release the required 2 yrs. as well so perhaps Romney is choosing to follow that precedent or perhaps he's following what's legally required and sees this as a diversion from the real issues. If you want to talk tax code and debate possible changes, then do so. No one needs to make any individual a poster child to have that discussion. If fact, it would be more meaningful if there wasn't a face to put behind the principles being discussed. Obama is a distract and insinuate master. If he has a plan for fixing the tax code, we've been waiting nearly 4 yrs. to hear it. By all means, discuss that.

    August 20, 2012 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  17. Silence DoGood

    Of course it is not personal – it is business. The flap over Romney's taxes gets votes. Neither Obama nor Romney do ANYTHING unless they think it means votes. This is cold strategy and polling statistics. It is what our country has become – all theater for votes.

    I would have liked our "liberal" president to be discussing problems and liberal solutions (actual ones, not words) of the country but that is not his focus now.

    Vote Green Party.

    August 20, 2012 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  18. Randy, San Francisco

    Americans have a right to see Romney's tax returns to judge his character and honesty. Is Romney hiding something? Is he paying his fair share or hiding his money in off shore accounts?

    August 20, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  19. n

    Romney thinks he is above the law. What Romney is really saying to the American people is screw you!

    August 20, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  20. sayer

    Truth. This has been the standard for all presidential candidates for quite a while. He's obviously hiding something that is legal but not proud of. What a sleazeball. He truly thinks he can win on "trust me". I don't think so, Mitt.

    August 20, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  21. the real ib

    Tax returns are nothing more than a way to keep Obama from having to run on his record of high unemployment and high energy prices. His energy sec. said they wanted gas prices to be what they are in Europe which is $8.00 a gal. Obama said his cap & trade bill will cause the home energy costs to skyrocket ( speech in 2008). You doubt me look it up; his energy sec. is on tape look it up. Time to deal with real issues not tax returns. Obama knew he couldn't get cap and trade passed even when the democrats controlled both houses of congress so he is using the EPA for his war on fossil fuels. Time to vote him out unless you are afraid you might have to work for a living and not get all your freebies.

    August 20, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  22. ST

    I have to add also that Romney and voters understand that the TAX ISSUE is so pressing now that whoever is elected president has to deal with it. When Romney releases more of his Tax Returns, it will enlighten every voter to understand whether he can deal with the issue accordingly or not.

    August 20, 2012 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  23. NOvember 2012

    ok Barry/Barack or who every you are...asking you to unseal ALL your records is not personal either...we do have a right to know who you really are...so put up or shut your big mouth!

    August 20, 2012 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  24. Fair is Fair

    cali girl

    Many companies have a background check. It includes things like the last 7 years of residence. Give your driver's license number so they can run DMV records. Also will run a credit check on you.
    You must be in favor of the voter ID laws then.

    August 20, 2012 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  25. Steve

    BS it isnt mean spirited. The fact is that all the presidents he mentioned above have only, during the campaign, released 2 years of returns. He himself only released 2 years. Bunch of political posturing by liberals who have not one substantive thing to show as improvements over the last four years. They have wrecked our economy, put no one to work, increased the deficit by 30% (3.5 billion a day) and still blame others for their ineffectiveness.

    August 20, 2012 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
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