The Romney refusal to release returns has become an issue beyond their actual content, evoking an attitude that did not work out well for a real estate mogul who ran the Palace Hotel, let alone someone trying to take over the White House.
A whiff of noblesse oblige is in the air, a sense that the very rich play by different rules than the rest of us, never a vote-getter in national elections (see John Kerry wind-surfing on his wife’s fortune in 2004).
We are tantalized by Romney’s release of a 2010 return showing he paid 13.9 percent on $21.7 million in income but put off by the annoyance he and his wife express over questions about their estimated quarter of a billion dollar fortune.
“The more we get attacked, the more we get questioned, the more we get pushed,” Ann Romney tells an interviewer this week. “Mitt is honest. His integrity is just golden.”
Such umbrage is not attractive in the couple known for a car elevator in one of their many homes and breeding show horses to compete in the Olympics with a running mate who looks like a miniature version of themselves. Do they find it unthinkable that honesty is not the point but a lifestyle that keeps a potential President from understanding the plight of less privileged people?
The very rich are different, F. Scott Fitzgerald told Ernest Hemingway in the 1920s. Yes, they have more money, Hemingway replied. But Fitzgerald spent a brilliant career writing about the unusual state of mind of people who feel they have a right to eat the world and everyone in it.
He would have been fascinated by the Romneys. As are we.
They see no irony in a campaign that hides their own wealth while pushing voter suppression in Ohio, Pennsylvania and elsewhere to keep poor people from voting against their candidacy.
Class warfare, anyone?