Is this really happening again?  Is Mitt Romney refusing, even assuming he is the nominee which looks likely, to release any more tax returns?

Romney released his 2010 return and projections for 2011 only after a disastrous couple of weeks of refusing to do so.  I predicted at the start that his position would not stand, and it didn’t.

Romney’s current position came in response to the Obama campaign making it an issue:

President Obama’s re-election campaign is calling on Mitt Romney to release his tax returns dating back to the 1980s, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Following a front-page Wall Street Journal article Thursday reporting that employees at Bain Capital, Romney’s former private-equity firm, were allowed to invest their retirement money in companies the firm acquired through a special share class, the Obama camp is seeking Romney’s old tax returns to see if they contain information about the investment arrangement….

The Romney campaign pushed back Friday with their own request in an e-mail to National Journal: that Obama release the transcripts of all his meetings with world leaders.

“The Obama campaign is playing politics, just as he’s doing in his conduct of foreign policy,” Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul wrote. “Obama should release the notes and transcripts of all his meetings with world leaders so the American people can be satisfied that he’s not promising to sell out the country’s interests after the election is over.”

I don’t think Romney needs to release returns going back to the 1980s, but he should survey what past nominees have done and come up with a reasonable time frame, perhaps going back a decade to when he was Governor of Massachusetts.

For now, Romney can get away with a “no new tax returns” policy because it’s still the primaries.  But once he is the nominee, the media which now is building him up will turn its full attention to taking him down, and the refusal to release tax returns will dominate the news for a few cycles, and then be a persistent talking point.

Romney has made it worse by tying the release of tax returns to Obama’s release of notes and transcripts of meetings with foreign leaders.  The two are apples and oranges.  The public expects candidates to release tax returns without precondition.

The public does not generally expect the President — any President — to reveal private meetings with foreign leaders.  Given Obama’s hot mic comments to the President of Russia, Romney is right to make private promises to foreign leaders an issue, but it has nothing to do with tax returns.  By tying the two together, Romney actually weakens the case for disclosure of Obama’s back room promises.

Just release the returns, and release them early.