Republicans are learning the hard way that calling Harry Reid a liar is a strategy that is blowing up in their faces.
Our adventure begins with Sen. Lindsey Graham repeating the GOP talking point that Harry Reid is a liar.
Video from CNN:
Transcript from CNN:
CROWLEY: I need a two-word answer from you, and that is what vice presidential pick would best help Mitt Romney?
GRAHAM: You know, I think Pawlenty and Portman are in the hunt. One last thing. You didn’t ask me about Harry Reid. I’ve been around this town for a while. I actually like Harry. But what he did on the floor of the Senate is so out of bounds. I think he’s lying about his statement of knowing something about Romney. So this is what’s wrong with America–
CROWLEY: That’s pretty stiff. You think–
CROWLEY: — the leader of the Senate is lying?
GRAHAM: Yes, I do. I really do. I think he has created an issue here. I think he’s making things up. And at a time when the country is just about to fall apart. Cyber security. There is a bipartisan desire to do this. There’s plenty of blame to go around. But, candy, we’re running out of time as a nation. Let’s start talking about the real issues that matter to real people. And I just can’t let that pass. I just cannot believe that the majority leader of the United States Senate would take the floor twice, make accusations that are absolutely unfounded, in my view, and quite frankly making things up to divert the campaign away from the real issues.
CROWLEY: Senator Lindsey Graham, I wish we had more time. I’ve got to run. Thank you so much.
Sen. Graham and the rest of the Republican Party didn’t know it, but their strategy was about to backfire. After Graham’s segment, the Obama campaign’s Robert Gibbs hit CNN and made the Republicans pay.
Transcript from CNN:
CROWLEY: Let us start out with Harry Reid. You heard Senator Lindsey Graham saying he thinks Reid is lying, that he is making this up, when he gets on the Senate floor and Senator Reid says, I’ve been told that Mitt Romney has not paid taxes for 10 years.
I spoke to a Democrat yesterday who said — who’s in touch with the Obama re-elect in Chicago, who said, if Chicago wanted Reid to stop, he would stop, but Chicago doesn’t want him to. Are you just as happy to have him out here saying these things?
GIBBS: Look, I think it’s important that we know the financial backgrounds of candidates. You saw Lindsey Graham, I think appropriately, talk about the role that tax loopholes play in our tax code and how much it costs average taxpayers. We’re going to have a pretty big debate about tax reform in the next coming months. And we have to know what’s in people’s tax returns and what they are getting the benefit for.
Candy, if Mitt Romney…
CROWLEY: But he — but Mitt Romney didn’t make the loopholes. Let’s make that clear. And no one is saying he did anything wrong.
GIBBS: Well, we don’t — we don’t know that, Candy.
CROWLEY: You don’t know it, but…
GIBBS: No, we know this…
CROWLEY: Let’s go back to the…
GIBBS: No, no, let me…
CROWLEY: … which is, do you think Harry Reid…
GIBBS: We do that every — we do know, in the one tax return that he did put out, we found out he had a Swiss bank account that wasn’t on his financial disclosure, OK?
So we do know that he has used not releasing his tax returns to hide where his money is.
But let’s be honest, Candy.
CROWLEY: But it wasn’t illegal. He wasn’t hiding it. He put it out, right?
GIBBS: Again, after the tax return came out, he updated his financial disclosure to let the world know he had a bank account in Switzerland.
CROWLEY: But you know where I’m going with this, because you all want to couch it as he’s hiding something really terrible; he probably cheated on his taxes; he didn’t pay taxes; you pay too many taxes. But you have the leader of the Democratic Party in the Senate saying that Mitt Romney didn’t pay any taxes, while you have Mitt Romney saying, “Yes, I did.”
GIBBS: It’s a time-honored tradition that presidential candidates release their tax returns, right? And the standard was set by Mitt Romney’s own father, who said don’t put out one or two years because those could end up being an anomaly, and he put out, I think, somewhere around 12 years. Barack Obama has put out something…
CROWLEY: A lot of folks since then haven’t put out 12 years, but…
GIBBS: But Mitt Romney gave John McCain 23 years of tax returns in order to be the tryout for vice president where John McCain picked Sarah Palin. If 23 years is good enough to show John McCain so Mitt Romney can be vice president of the United States? Candy, we could put all this stuff to rest tomorrow. Mitt Romney can go to Kinko’s; he can photocopy his tax returns. There are several hundred pages. He could hand them out to people like CNN; he could hand them out to reporters all over the country. And, you know what, we wouldn’t talk about this tomorrow. We wouldn’t say is he paying taxes; what’s he paying. The whole world would know exactly what loopholes he’s taking advantage of…
CROWLEY: Right, to the propriety — to the propriety of the leader of the Democrats in the Senate accusing, based on a source, the Republican — presumed Republican nominee of not paying any taxes for 10 years — is that something that Chicago has encouraged? Do you want him to stop?
… let’s be clear. I don’t think anybody controls Harry Reid.
CROWLEY: But if you asked him to stop, he would?
GIBBS: You know, again, put the tax returns out. Put this whole thing to rest.
Candy, have you ever — have you ever seen anybody go to such great lengths to not put something out? And when you generally don’t put something out, isn’t it because you’re generally hiding something? Again…
CROWLEY: … he might think it’s private. But in the end…
CROWLEY: The visual of Mitt Romney doing his tax cuts (sic) at Kinko’s is sort of throwing me, but…
GIBBS: I’ll — I’ll send him the nickels, and — I think it’s a nickel a page, and we can — but here’s the thing.
CROWLEY: You will not tell Harry Reid to stop?
GIBBS: I would tell Mitt Romney, if he wants — if he wants all this debate to go away — and let’s be clear. Harry Reid isn’t the one who’s made this debate. Mitt Romney has brought this to the fore. This has been something that has been talked about well back into the Republican primaries.
We did an interview on the foreign trip where ABC said, have you paid — what’s the tax rate? “Have you paid a lower tax rate than what you released?” And do you know what Mitt Romney’s answer was? “I’ll go back and check.”
Candy, he’s not at Kinko’s making photocopies. He’s not — he doesn’t have any intention of checking. He has gone through — I’ve never seen anybody jump through more hoops to say, A, that somebody is lying but also not put out a document that would prove what the real truth is.
CROWLEY: OK. So Chicago is not going to tell Harry Reid to stop. Let me move you on.
Lindsey Graham spent 60 seconds calling Harry Reid a liar. Robert Gibbs spent 4:20 answering Candy Crowley’s questions about Harry Reid by talking about Mitt Romney’s foreign bank accounts and his tax returns.
Every time that Republicans call Harry Reid a liar, they are keeping Mitt Romney’s refusal to release his tax returns in the news. The size of the transcripts for Graham and Gibbs tell the story.
Republicans are actually making things worse for Mitt Romney by calling Harry Reid a liar. When Republicans talk about Harry Reid, they are also talking about Romney’s tax returns, and Mitt Romney has put his party in a no win position.
There are a dozen different ways that Republicans could address Reid’s accusations, and they have chosen the worst option. The liar, liar pants on fire strategy is only effective if it can be proven that Reid is lying. Since Romney won’t provide the proof, Republicans have given the Democrats the gift of an endless loop of conversation about Romney’s tax returns.
After Lindsey Graham’s attack backfired so badly, you would think maybe the Republican Party would learn that calling Harry Reid a liar is a really, really bad idea.