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Other than tax returns, 'there's nothing we're hiding'

As a rule, family members of candidates shouldn't be considered political players, but once those family members become campaign surrogates and enter the political sphere making partisan arguments, there's nothing inappropriate about scrutinizing their comments.

Take Ann Romney's latest defense of her husband's secrecy, for example.

Ann Romney sat down with NBC's Natalie Morales and when the subject turned to the still-hidden tax returns, the Republican became quite agitated. Romney insisted that her husband's campaign has done "what's legally required of us," which is true, but fails to meet accepted norms, standards, and expectations.

She added, "There's going to be no more tax releases given." I assume that means outside of the 2011 returns Mitt Romney has promised to release, but has not yet disclosed, though Ann Romney didn't elaborate.

She went on to say, "There's nothing we're hiding." Except the tax returns, the tax rates paid, and the explanation for the Swiss bank account, the shell corporation in Bermuda, and the cash in the Cayman Islands. Other than hiding all of that, they're not hiding anything.

And why will the Romneys refuse all additional calls for disclosure, even from Republicans? According to Ann Romney, it's because Democrats might use the materials to make Mitt Romney look bad.

I continue to marvel at this deeply odd argument. As Dahlia Lithwick and Raymond Vasvari recently explained, "[Romney] isn't actually claiming that his opponents will lie. He's claiming he's entitled to hide the truth because it could be used against him.... These are tax returns. Factual documents. No different than, say, a birth certificate. But the GOP's argument that inconvenient facts can be withheld from public scrutiny simply because they can be used for mean purposes is a radical idea in a democracy."

And yet, this radical idea is now the Romneys' only talking point on the issue.