They are among the most notorious words in politics — the soon-to-be-broken promise made by George HW Bush when he spoke at the Republican National Convention in 1988: "Read my lips: no new taxes."
Politicians still make (and sign) no-new-tax pledges. But there can be a reluctance, based on Mr. Bush’s experience.
To wit: In 2002, as the Boston Globe reported, Mitt Romney "broke with his predecessor, Jane Swift, and Republican governors before her by declining to sign a written vow not to raise taxes once in office. The decision disappointed state and national anti tax activists, but Romney wouldn’t be pinned down. ‘I’m against tax increases,’ Romney was quoted as saying at a campaign stop in Springfield that March. ‘But I’m not intending to, at this stage, sign a document which would prevent me from being able to look specifically at the revenue needs of the Commonwealth.’"
A Romney campaign spokesman called the pledge "government by gimmickry."
But … now it’s 2007… and Romney isn’t running for Governor of liberal Massachusetts but pursuing the GOP presidential nomination. So ….
In addition to signing the Americans for Tax Reform "taxpayer protection pledge," promising to oppose "any and all efforts" to increase income taxes, Romney is making an issue of it on the campaign trail.
Yesterday in Manchester, N.H., Romney said "I’m the first candidate, Republican or Democrat, to sign the tax pledge — the no new tax pledge; and at the same time, among the leading contenders in both parties, I’m the only one that signed it at all, and so that’s one difference" he has on taxes with former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
This morning Romney launched a new radio ad about his new-found love of no-new-taxes pledges.
"I’m proud to be the only major candidate for President to sign the Tax Pledge," he says in the ad. "The others have not. I signed the Tax Pledge because I want everyone to know where I stand. We’ve got to get taxes down and grow our economy."
Why the change? Romney spokesman Kevin Madden tells us, "He believed then that he didn’t need to take one. More importantly, he did not raise taxes as governor. Now that he’s running for President, he has learned that a simple straightforward pledge helps set the tone and focus minds on cost-saving reforms and spending cuts. Especially in Washington."
That seems to have been enough for New Hampshire anti-tax activist Tom Thompson, who endorsed Romney yesterday.
Is it enough for you?
What do you think?