Rush Limbaugh defended Mitt Romney from criticism today for refusing to release his tax returns by challenging President Obama to release his college transcripts. This attack by Limbaugh is dishonest in two ways: There is no precedent for presidents or presidential candidates to release their academic records, whereas presidential candidates are expected to release several years' worth of tax returns.
On his show, Limbaugh claimed that he received a phone call from a Harvard Law classmate of Obama's who told him that Obama “got the lowest grades that any Harvard graduate ever got and that a bunch of professors gave him Bs and Cs when he didn't even show up to class.” Limbaugh then added: “It's up to Obama to prove it. The allegation's out there.” Limbaugh had earlier advised Mitt Romney to not release his tax returns.
Obama's college transcripts have long been an obsession for the right-wing media, which have maintained that the transcripts would unmask Obama as "a foreign student" or as not intelligent enough to have gotten into either Occidental, Columbia, or Harvard.
In fact, most presidential candidates do not release their academic records. As the IvyGate blog reported:
Most presidential nominees (at least of late) do not release their grades from college. Romney hasn't. John McCain disclosed his class rank in 2007, but not his grades. John Kerry made his Yale transcript public only after he lost the 2004 election. Sarah Palin didn't talk about her grades until after the 2008 election. One exception is Joe Biden, who released his undergraduate transcript in 1987 as a form of damage control.
Contrary to Romney's refusal to publicize his tax returns, FactCheck.org noted that “with the lone exception of McCain, all candidates over the last 30 years each have released more than two years of tax returns” :
Mitt Romney says he is following the “precedent” set by John McCain in releasing just two years of tax returns. That's accurate. But McCain, the 2008 GOP nominee, bucked the trend of other recent presidential candidates.
In more than three decades, no other nominees for either party have released fewer than five years' worth of returns. Romney's own father released a dozen years' worth when he ran for the GOP nomination in 1968.
Over those three decades, the number of years of released tax returns went from a high of 30 by Republican Bob Dole in 1996 to a low of five by Democrat Michael Dukakis in 1988.
In 1968, when Romney's father, George Romney, released 12 years of tax returns -- saying, “one year could be a fluke” -- his Republican primary opponent Richard Nixon didn't release any tax returns. Nor did Democrat Hubert Humphrey.
In 2008, candidate Obama released seven years of tax returns, as FactCheck.org also pointed out.