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How Romney's VP vetting process might box him in on taxes

Mitt Romney hasn't yet buckled to calls for him to release more of his tax returns.

Mitt Romney hasn't yet buckled to calls for him to release more of his tax returns. But if Frank Rich and Rachel Maddow are right, then problems in his vice presidential vetting process may soon make it even harder to keep his taxes secret.

"When he appoints a vice president, people are going to ask about the other half of the ticket's tax returns, and how many tax returns of that person we're going to see," Rich said on Thursday's The Rachel Maddow Show. That possible dilemma got host Rachel Maddow thinking, and for the next couple of minutes, she and Rich discussed different ways in which it could play out.

"You have just made me think about something that I had never thought about before: the vice president thing," Maddow said. "Because Romney gave 23 years of his tax returns to John McCain when he wanted to be vice president; he's only released one year and an estimate for wanting to be president." The double standard, she suggested, could force both Romney and his running mate into a very difficult position.

The conversation went on:

MADDOW: So if Mitt Romney is pressured by that, which you're anticipating, and so he only asks his vice presidential possibilities who he's vetting for a year of their tax returns—a year and an estimate, say—so he can't be held to a problematic double standard there, we might get a vice presidential nominee where nobody has seen more than one year of their tax returns?RICH: I think there's another scenario. The scenario is, the did ask for eight, or 10, or 23, and they're going to say, "What's in those?" People are going to say, "Why can't we see those? And also, why can't we see yours?"MADDOW: I don't think they can bear that double standard. I think they're going to have to say, "No, we didn't bother seeing the tax returns, it's private."RICH: And if they do that, they're fools, because it means they haven't vetted the candidate properly.

"Oh, wow," Maddow said. "That just got way more interesting in my head."