Appearing this morning on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Gov. Bob McDonnell defended Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for refusing to disclose more of his tax returns, and he again criticized Vice President Joe Biden for a controversial remark in a stump speech last week in Danville.
McDonnell, he chairman of the Republican Governors Association, debated Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, on the tone and substance of the increasingly hostile presidential campaign. Host David Gregory had the two governors respond to a clip of Biden’s Danville speech, in which the vice president said Romney wants to “unchain Wall Street” and added: “They’re going to put y’all back in chains.”
O’Malley called Biden’s remark “an indelicate play on the Republican words of shackling the economy with regulations and shackling small businesses, and so it was– it was certainly an– an indelicate choice of words.”
But, O’Malley added, “There’s not a racist bone in Joe Biden’s body.”
McDonnell was not as charitable, calling Biden’s comment “way over the top” and part of a pattern of negativity from the Democratic ticket.
“Honest debates about issues, I would say, whether it’s welfare reform or other things that are based on policy, that’s fair game,” McDonnell said. “We can disagree on that respectfully. But these character attacks about the other side are just horrific.”
O’Malley argued that the Romney campaign doesn’t have clean hands when it comes to attack politics.
“Governor Romney’s the sort of guy, David, that you’d never want to play pickup basketball with,” O’Malley said. ” He’s always fouling and he’s always crying foul”
O’Malley blasted Romney for accusing President Barack Obama of trying to scrap the work requirement under the federal welfare-to-work program, which O’Malley called a “racially imbued issue.”
When Gregory asked McDonnell whether Romney should disclose more information about his federal income taxes, McDonnell said: “This issue is not about Mitt Romney’s tax returns. That’s not what Americans care about. They care about their own tax returns and the whopping increases in taxes and regulation that this administration has put on the American people and what they’re going to put on. Here’s what we know about those tax returns: He’s paid his taxes. He’s released more documents than he needs to. He’s made a lot of money. He’s been successful and he’s a very generous guy. Now I’d say let’s talk about what the American people are going to vote on and that’s jobs, debt, spending, energy, and the American dream.”
Asked if he thought Romney was lying about his taxes, O’Malley said: “I don’t know. It’s hard to imagine that he would continue to hide and– and make the big secret of the campaign whether or not he paid taxes. The only thing we know for sure is one year of returns. We know that he had Swiss bank accounts, Cayman Island accounts and we know under Paul Ryan’s plan he’d actually pay not 13 percent, but he’d pay less than one percent. So I don’t know why Governor Romney won’t come out with his tax returns. Certainly when he was reviewing the tax returns of vice presidential hopefuls like Governor McDonnell or indeed Paul Ryan he asked for more than one year of tax returns.”
– Michael Sluss