The Original Sin

In the Lunch Buffet post today, I mocked PARADE’s excited “preview” of an interview with Poppy and Bar Bush. But Dave Weigel found something interesting in it: Bush 41’s still-simmering anger at Grover Norquist and the hay he made with Republicans over the consequences of Bush’s violation of a “no new taxes” pledge.

But Dave leaves a bit of pre-history out of his account of the Bush-Norquist relationship: In 1988, it was Bush that benefitted from a no-tax pledge by attacking Bob Dole in New Hampshire for refusing to sign one. Bush’s campaign was virtually on life support after he finished third behind Dole and Pat Robertson in Iowa. But then Dole turned down the chance to sign a no-tax pledge (traditional in New Hampshire long before Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform were on the scene) when it was presented to him by another candidate, Pete DuPont, and Bush took advantage of it with some savage ads, and regained both his conservative-movement mojo and the lead in the nomination contest.

The denouement is that Dole quietly signed Grover’s pledge at the beginning of his own, successful 1996 campaign for the nomination. But Poppy Bush had a lot to do with making tax pledges mandatory.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.