In the final analysis, and I can’t prove this with data (at the moment), but I’ll bet I am right: The independent voters who will decide this election (still about 10 percent-15 percent in every poll) will not be persuaded to ignore the economy as the main issue and vote against Gov. Romney because he did not voluntarily donate more money to the federal government than he was legally required to pay.
Is President Obama really going to make that argument?
I don’t think so.
But by continuing to resist disclosing at least the past 12 years of tax returns, as his dad did in 1968 — 44 years ago — Mitt Romney forgets the inevitable consequence of violating the fundamental rule of crisis management mentioned above: It’s not the bad news, but the cover-up (and the inevitable drip-drip-drip of the story continuing day by day) that does you in.
One can’t count how many times we have seen that mistake made in business, politics and life — from Nixon’s “modified limited hangout” in Watergate to the disingenuous Susan G. Komen announcement about cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood to the recent chairman of the board of the University of Virginia deciding she could replace the president of the school behind closed doors, literally in the dark of night, and get away with it.
When will they ever learn?
Lanny Davis, the principal in the Washington law firm of Lanny J. Davis & Associates, which also specializes in legal crisis management, served as President Clinton’s special counsel from 1996-98 and as a member of President George W. Bush’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (2006-07). He currently serves as Special Counsel to Dilworth Paxson and is a partner with Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele in Purple Nation Solutions, a public affairs-strategic communications company. He is the author of the forthcoming book, “Crisis Tales – Five Rules for Handling Scandal in Business, Politics and Life,” to be published by Simon & Schuster. He can be followed on Twitter at @LannyDavis