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That rate also helps ordinary older Americans who live off of their capital gains and dividends in their retirement years.

Mr. Romney knows that the only reason Mr. Obama and the Democrats want him to disclose all of his tax returns for the past 10 years is because they know it will show — as his last two filings did — that he paid the lower capital gains tax rate on most of his income.

Then, of course, they will use that information to play their political class-warfare game, which they’re very good at, and thus hope to distract voters from issues that matter: four years of weak economic growth, 42 straight months of high unemployment, and an unbroken line of annual trillion-dollar-plus budget deficits that have plunged our country into unprecedented debt.

Mr. Romney struck back on Sean Hannity’s radio soon after Mr. Reid made his despicable charge. “Well, it’s time for Harry Reid to put up or shut up. Harry’s going to have to describe who it is he spoke with because that’s totally and completely wrong,” Mr. Romney said.

Was Mr. Reid doing the president’s dirty work? That was the line of questioning Washington reporters fired off at White House press secretary Jay Carney this week.

The president’s spokesman chose his words very carefully, not wishing to criticize Mr. Obama’s accomplice on Capitol Hill but not wanting to suggest the White House was endorsing Mr. Reid’s accusations, either.

With his back against the wall, Mr. Carney uncomfortably said Mr. Reid “certainly speaks for himself.”

“I think the idea that people tell Harry Reid what to do is inconsistent with what everyone here understands,” he said before being cut off by a reporter who asked why the White House didn’t ask Mr. Reid to stop making charges he could not prove.

“This dispute is between the Romney campaign and Harry Reid and Sen. Reid doesn’t take direction, [he] speaks for himself,” Mr. Carney replied.

But Mr. Romney’s campaign surrogates rejected Mr. Carney’s weaselly responses. “[Mr. Reid] was encouraged to do stuff like this by [Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod], by the president and by the White House,” former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu told Fox News. “This is the way they operate. It is Chicago-style, gutter politics.”

This is the kind of sordid, blood sport Mr. Reid and the White House are playing — the type of dirty politics that Mr. Obama railed against when he was running for president in 2008.

But Mr. Obama’s spokesman can’t even bring himself to say that the president categorically rejects the dirty attacks Mr. Reid is inserting into his campaign for a second term.

The underlying message now coming out of the White House seems to be that when you are in the fight for your political life, getting down and dirty is fair game.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.