Neal rises to the top of the national political discussion

April 8, 2019 | G. Michael Dobbs

Not since Michael Dukakis ran for president has an elected official for Massachusetts been as prominent in the national spotlight as Congressman Richard Neal as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.

My apologies to Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Edward Markey and the late Ted Kennedy – just my opinion.

The prominence is, of course, extremely different. Dukakis was grabbing every headline he could, which was his job – remember the photo of him in a tank – while Neal is running counter to the traditional way most people in House and Senate positions of authority behave.

He doesn’t care to make inflammatory statements. He seems to avoid the Sunday morning talking head shows.

Instead he comes across as a thoughtful academic. His actions and statements make his point without the theatrics that commonly are used in politics at that level.

Naturally supporters of the president will see Neal’s call for six years worth of tax returns as “fake news.” It’s not, though.

It’s actually part of the process for running as president since Watergate as Western New England University Professor John Biack told me.

Candidates want to be seen as willing to either prove there are no skeletons in their closet or explain those skeletons. Transparency, a completely over-used term, is the goal here.

Trump, though, has not adhered to standard political behaviors – something his base clearly sees as positive.

The clarion call among members of his base is the Mueller report failed to directly link Trump with playing footsies with the Russians so now in desparation issues such as his tax returns will surface again.

The problem with this rhetoric is that Trump’s returns have been part of his political narrative for years.  This is not an invention by his opponents, either Republican or Democrat.

Trump is the one who brought it up and then didn’t do it.  

In 2011, Trump promised to release tax returns publicly if President Barak Obama released his birth certificate to prove he is an American citizen.

In 2014 Trump said, “If I decide to run for office, I’ll produce my tax returns, absolutely. And I would love to do that,” to Ireland's TV3.

In 2015, “I would certainly show tax returns if it was necessary,” he said in a February radio interview with Hugh Hewitt.

In 2016, he said that he couldn’t release the documents because of an on-going IRS audit. In one of the presidential debates he said the tax returns would be released as soon as the audit is completed.

In 2017, the president said, according to the New York Daily News, that since he won the election the American public didn’t care to see them.

In 2019, Neal has taken the steps dictated by law to obtain six years worth of tax documents, which he and others will review privately.

I’m sure the president will go on the offensive with his Twitter account, but I doubt anything he threatens would impress Neal.


My staff and I produce a lot of content each week. Sometimes people like it. Sometimes they have issues. That’s life in this business. I’m happy to say most of the time, our readers appreciate what we do.

It didn’t surprise me, though, our donut story inspired some negative remarks on Facebook from a reader who wanted to know why Mrs. Murphy’s Donuts from Southwick was not included in the mix. I’m sure there were others outraged by this decision.

By the way, it was mine as managing editor.

It was simple: the business is not in our circulation area. Yes, I know of their reputation and I’ve had a couple of them myself over the years.

No slight was intended to the business or the donuts, but we wanted to feature bakeries in our areas. I though it would be an interesting exercise to include Dunkin’ as the company is a Massachusetts-born business.

Some people have also complained that we didn’t put in street addresses of the bakeries. I assumed the overwhelming majority of people reading the story would either know the locations or simply look them up.

While I will apologize for the lack of street addresses, I stand by my guns about Mrs. Murphy’s. There are plenty of good donuts closer to home.

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