Norquist: Dems attacked Bush in ’92 ad for taxes he raised with them in ’90
The ad was titled “The George Bush promise.”
The man who founded Americans for Tax Reform in 1985 told Human Events the 1992 attack ad Democrats used against President George H. W. Bush is a warning to Republicans eager break their pledge not to raise taxes.
“Seeing the ad again, I was just reminded that when you break the pledge, you don’t just open yourself to a Republican primary,” said Grover G. Norquist, the ATR founder and president. “You hand your most devastating political weapon to your Democratic opponent on an issue that goes straight at the heart of your credibility and your reliability.”
After you are partners in raising taxes, the Democrat turns around and attacks you for raising taxes, he said. “The Democrat then runs those ads, not for Democrats, but to suppress the Republican support for a candidate by saying: ‘You can’t trust this guy.’”
Not only does raising taxes demoralize the Republican base, it confuses the Independents, who might want to vote for the GOP candidate, but are not looking for someone they cannot rely on to hold the line on taxes, he said.
“Republican-leaning Independents walk away from Republicans who raise taxes,” said Norquist, who started ATR at the personal request of President Ronald W. Reagan, who wanted a grassroots organization to pressure politicians to keep taxes low.
At the 1988 GOP convention, Bush said: “And the Congress will push me to raise taxes and I’ll say no. And they’ll push, and I’ll say no, and they’ll push again, and I’ll say, to them, ‘Read my lips: no new taxes.’”
Norquist said he looks back at the 1990 budget deal and remembers that he was one of the conservatives that pleaded with the Bush White House economists and other staffers not to trust the Democrats, who promised they would cut spending in exchange for his support of tax increases.
The Bay State expatriate said as he sensed that Bush was more and more willing to support a tax increase, he warned the White House that many Republicans in Congress had signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.
“I told them not to accept to expect Republicans to vote with them because they are not going to and they would say: ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, we know all about that,’” he said. “I took that to mean that they knew all about it and were not really planning to raise taxes—ah, what it really meant was that they knew all about it and thought they could still break people—they would thought the president would say: ‘Do this,’ and they would just say; ‘OK.’”
In grainy video, the ad shows Bush making his “Read my lips” pledge followed by the narrator telling the viewer: “Then, he gave us the second biggest tax increase in history.” Next, the voice over a gas pump with its numbers racking up: “Bush raised the gas tax 56 percent.”
Like Bush learned and later regretted, today’s Republicans need to be wary of partnering with Democrats, who fear facing Republicans over taxes and cannot and will not raise taxes on their own, he said.
Nobody should want a repeat of President William J. Clinton, the man who beat Bush in 1992, he said.
After criticizing Bush for raising taxes in the campaign, Clinton passed his own massive tax increase by one vote in each chamber in his first summer in the White House. The bill raised the top tax rate from 36 percent to 39.6, set the corporate income tax at 35 percent among other measures.
Norquist said for all of the talk about balancing the budget before the 1993 Clinton tax increases, there was little effort by Clinton to apply those revenues to paying down the debt or lower the deficit after the tax increases passed Congress.
“We just pulled his budget from 1993-1994, and he projected deficits out $200 million-a-year for the next five years, because he was planning on spending every penny that came in,” he said.
In 1994 the GOP took over the House and Senate and they put the brakes to Clinton’s spending, he said.
“It was only when Republicans came in and said: ‘Ah, no you can’t,’” he said.
“It was just amazing.”