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Published: Saturday, 4/19/2003

A taxing decision

President George W. Bush did not make all of his wife's and his own income tax returns available to the public. No law says the President has to, but all of his immediate predecessors did, starting with President Jimmy Carter. That includes the first President Bush.

In the interests of making it clear to the American public that the President wasn't making money on the side from being president, and to set an example of good citizenship in his approach to taxes, Mr. Carter instituted the practice 26 years ago of making his federal income tax return available to the public.

All of his successors followed suit. Until George W. Bush, who made only part of his return available. That doesn't mean necessarily that he has anything to hide. But the fact that he didn't automatically do it suggests that there is some information in that return that is sufficiently worth keeping private to cause him to take the political hit for not revealing it.

And what might that be? Until he reveals it, the public has no idea and is free to assume fairly the best or the worst. It is reminiscent of Vice President Cheney's refusal to reveal whom he consulted with in seeking to develop the nation's energy policy. Was he legitimately preserving confidentiality, or was he covering up some unsavory secret?

Sunshine is the only way to dispel the doubt. Let's see the returns, Mr. Bush.

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