Bush the elder, the ultimate empty suit

Perhaps the most definitive and dramatic pledge ever made by a U.S. presidential candidate was George H.W. Bush’s promise, “Read my lips—no new taxes.” Here is the complete pledge, spoken by Bush with great conviction in his acceptance speech at the 1988 Republican convention:

And I’m the one who will not raise taxes. My opponent now says he’ll raise them as a last resort, or a third resort. But when a politician talks like that, you know that’s one resort he’ll be checking into. My opponent, my opponent won’t rule out raising taxes. But I will. 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.’

When Bush in 1990, just a year and half into his presidency, not only violated his pledge by announcing that he supported tax increases, but did so with contempt, jogging past reporters who asked him about his tax-raising statement and replying “Read my hips,” he marked himself down as a contemptible figure for all time.

Now we learn, from Bush’s 1988 Democratic opponent, Michael Dukakis, that Bush didn’t even believe his pledge when he made it in 1988. As reported at Salon:

“He really didn’t believe it,” [Dukakis] recalls. “He and I met in early December (after the election), at the vice president’s house. He was nice enough to invite me down.” During their campaign, Dukakis had brought up a contentious issue—more vigorous enforcement by the IRS—and in their post-election meeting pointed out to Bush that the proposal could raise $110 million immediately.

“He said, ‘I really have to talk to Jim—meaning Baker—about this, because if I raise taxes my first year, they’ll kill me.’

“So, I’m sitting there,” an amused Dukakis continues, “still somewhat bruised, and I’m listening to this guy who’s been going all over the United States telling people to read his lips, and I’m thinking, ‘This guy thinks his commitment is for 12 months!

“Well, I didn’t say anything—the election was over. Well, by God, he raised them his second year, and we all know what happened.”

Wikipedia’s article on the “Read my lips” pledge, linked above, provides illuminating information on Bush’s motive for the lie—he felt he needed to convince conservative voters that he was a conservative—and the disastrous fall-out when he broke the pledge, which he did without even informing Republican leaders in advance. Truly Bush the elder is a man without character—a description that applies as well to his eldest son, a man who led America into an unprecedented pre-emptive war on the other side of the world, and when the ostensible justification for the war was found not to exist, never bothered giving the country an accounting for how such a consequential mistake was made. The seed doesn’t fall far from the weed.

- end of initial entry -

N. writes:

It is also worth recalling that Bush the elder promised “no new gun laws” on the campaign trail as well. Early in 1989, one Patrick Purdy, a mentally ill man with multiple felony arrests that had all been plea bargained to misdemeanors, opened fire on a schoolyard in California with a semi-automatic Chinese-made Type 56 rifle (a semi-auto version of the AK-47). This led to a huge outcry in the press and on the left for a gun ban.

Bush senior responded with an Executive Order prohibiting the importation of certain firearms, an EO that stands to this day. It was prettied up with a “study” done by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms regarding “sporting use” (language from previous “gun control” laws such as the Act of 1968) but the import ban was a done deal, because Bush senior didn’t want the bad press and the pressure he was getting. I know for a fact that many supporters of Ross Perot in 1992 were either angry over Bush’s gun importation ban, or over his tax increase, or both.

From time to time, certain conservatives (right-liberals, actually) float the idea that Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, is now the man for the White House. He may well be a good candidate, but I know too many people over 40 who will never vote for anyone with the last name of “Bush” again.

LA replies:

Among Bush’s other discreditable deeds: signing the Civil Rights Act of 1991 (after stating for a year that he would not sign a “quota” bill); signing the American with Disabilities Act; ordering a federal civil rights trial of the Los Angeles police officers in the Rodney King case after the L.A. riots broke out; running for re-election when he evidently had no particular reason to want a second term, and his lackluster, themeless campaign (which included him looking at his watch during his debate with Clinton) assured Clinton’s victory; and his appointment of Souter to the Supreme Court.

Let’s also mention that he was speechless at the fall of the Soviet empire in 1989 and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. He had no grasp of the meaning of these events.

To be fair, here’s one thing to say in favor of Bush: he stayed with Clarence Thomas and didn’t throw him under a bus.

Spencer Warren writes:

Equally revealing was Bush the elder’s crack about “the vision thing,” when his total absence of same was contrasted with President Reagan.

When I worked for the 1984 Reagan campaign a reception was held for the hundreds of staff at the White House, where we were greeted on a receiving line first by Bush and later by President and Mrs. Reagan. Even just shaking Bush’s hand, the man’s utter emptiness and phoniness was almost overwhelming.

I did not have a high position, but at the time I told a friend I thought Bush should be kicked off the ticket.

LA replies:

What about when Bush said, during the 1992 campaign, “Message: I care”?

JC in Houston writes:

I agree with LA that George Bush the elder is a man of no political character. Granted he deserves credit for his service in WW2, but, beyond that, nothing else. He achieved the presidency through no real efforts of his own. I recall as a precocious 14 year old in Houston handing out cards for Bush in his first run for elective office, against incumbent Democratic liberal Texas senator Ralph Yarborough in 1964. Bush was the face of the “new GOP” in what was then one party Texas. He lost in the LBJ landslide. Two years later a new congressional district was carved out of west Harris County which was then an up and coming Republican area ( I lived in his district while in high school and first years of college) and he was elected to two terms there, his only electoral victories until 1988. He was all set to run for the seat of Sen. Yarborough in 1970, but Lloyd Benson beat him to the punch by defeating Yarborough in the Democratic primary and going on to win the general election. From there it was a series of appointive posts to reward him for being a loyal soldier, I guess, UN Ambassador, CIA director, RNC chairman. He’d never have been elected President on his own without Ronald Reagan’s selection of him as VP. Bush in fact from the ’70s on had tenuous connections to Texas. Unlike Dubya who did maintain his ranch in Crawford, George I sold his Houston residence and kept a rented condo in a Houston high rise as his Texas “home,” though he was never there. As a previous poster noted, I totally soured on him when he endorsed gun control scheme against so called “assault weapons” within months of trumpeting his support for gun rights at his convention acceptance speech.

As for son Jeb, I will NEVER vote for him should he run and not just because his name is Bush. He has enough awful open-borders flood-us-with-Third-World-immigrants policies to disqualify him on that alone.

March 15

Paul Nachman writes:

Subject: “The seed doesn’t fall far from the weed”

I laughed out loud at that one (the subject line above), which is in the entry about Bush. Is it your own coinage? I know it’s a play on some other phrase that just won’t come to me right now.

And you also wrote,

What about when Bush said, during the 1992 campaign, “Message: I care”?

In case you don’t know that story, it was on a card intended to remind him to say “I care.” Whoever had prepared the card had prefaced the “I care” with the prompt or motive (i.e. u”message”) for the “I care.”

LA replies:

When I was drafting the entry, at first I was going to say, “The fruit doesn’t fall for from the tree.” But because this was about the Bushes, I changed it to, “The fruit doesn’ fall far from the bush.” But that play on words re the Bushes seemed hackneyed, and even if it wasn’t hackneyed (in fact it’s not; a Google search finds only two instances of it), it still seemed too obvious. I wanted to find another way of saying it. Then I thought of “The seed doesn’t fall far from the weed.”

I just Googled it, and the only result is the same VFR entry. So it’s a new coinage.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 07, 2011 07:25 AM | Send

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