Mitt Romney said Friday's jobs report, which showed unemployment at 8.3 percent and the economy adding 163,000 jobs, was an indictment of President Barack Obama's economic policies.
“I'm not going to look so much at every monthly statistic as much as to say this continues a pattern of American families really struggling, having hard times and the president's policies are to blame for not having gotten the economy back on track and a lot of people are suffering in this country,” Romney told reporters after speaking to supporters at a trucking repair warehouse. “I think it's an extraordinary failure of policies, a failure of leadership, and I think it's a moral failure for a country as successful and prosperous as our own to go now four years in a mode which feels to many people like a recession.”
Romney took questions from the media for 16 minutes, his first news conference since he returned from an overseas trip where he was criticized for avoiding the media.
Romney hit back at Sen. Harry Reid's assertion that a source who the Nevada Democrat declined to name had told him that Romney had not paid taxes for 10 years.
“Harry Reid really has to put up or shut up, all right?” Romney said. “So Harry, who are your sources? Let's have Harry explain who that is. And by the way, Harry, I understand what you're trying to do. You're trying to deflect the fact the jobs numbers are bad, that Americans are out of work, and you're trying to throw everything up on a screen that will grab attention away from the fact the policies of the White House haven't worked to put Americans to work.”
Romney declined to release additional years of tax returns, saying he has made available financial disclosures since 2002 and his 2010 tax return, and would release the 2011 return as soon as it is ready.
“Let me also say categorically, I have paid taxes every year, and a lot of taxes. A lot of taxes,” Romney said. “So Harry is simply wrong, and that's why I'm so anxious for him to give us the names of the people who have put this forward. I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear the names are people from the White House or the Obama campaign or who knows where they're coming from.”
Romney argued that attacks such as Reid's, or the president's campaign saying that he would raise taxes on the middle class, were not only patently false, but took away from what ought to be a substantive discussion about the nation's future.
“When (Obama) called me and I became the presumptive Republican nominee, he said, ‘You know, this is going to be an important campaign on the direction of the country and a debate for the direction of the country.’ I had hoped this would be a debate for the direction of the country,” Romney said. “What we're seeing instead is one attack after the other, misleading, false attacks.”
Romney also declined to weigh in on two controversies that have inflamed passions among members of his party — the owners of Chick-fil-A saying that they supported traditional marriage, and a crusade by Rep. Michele Bachmann and other House members to root out possible infiltration of the federal government by the Muslim Brotherhood, an investigation that has focused on a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and one that has drawn rebukes from top Republicans, including Arizona Sen. John McCain.
Romney declined to discuss either matter.
“I'm not going to tell other people what things to talk about,” he said. “Those are not things that are part of my campaign.”