They’re fighting over the “pledge.”
Like I told you a year and a half ago, political candidate pledges of any sort are stupid, even if I happen to agree with the content of the pledge. I wouldn’t sign a one.
For his part, Norquist is defending himself by noting that Bush 41 lost his bid for re-election after he violate his “read my lips no new taxes” promise, which was a quasi-pledge. Yes, that tells me something, but it doesn’t tell me anything good for Norquist’s cause and the cause of the pledge-industrial complex. Once politicians run off half cocked during a campaign and sign all these dorky pledges and/or make quasi-pledge spoken or written promises, they leave themselves no room to maneuver or pivot or wiggle. One very hard and bitter lesson that I learned from being part of the Todd Akin campaign is that as much as I’ve always been attracted to Todd precisely because he was so black-and-white (“A thing that is 99% right is by definition 100% wrong”), and that he was in politics for the Hallmark Card/Lifetime Movie/Civics 101 “right” reasons all along, the engineer’s ethos about 99% right = 100% wrong doesn’t much hurt you when you live your political life in safe red (or safe blue) gerrymanders, but once you go statewide or nationwide, you have to learn how to pivot and maneuver and yes, sometimes compromise and learn how to govern against your instincts or base morality, simply because the whole state or country has red voters, pink voters, blue voters, purple voters, slate blank voters, drone voters and low information voters.
The fallout here is that politicians will be very loath to sign these kinds of pledges in the future.
Another factor is that I don’t buy into the conventional and too-easy wisdom that Bush backsliding on “read my lips” was the singular cause of him losing in 1992. It’s conventional wisdom that the Grover Norquists of the world and the pledge-industrial complex want you to believe, because the net consequence of people believing it is that they are more empowered and their egos are whetted. The main component of the 1990 budget deal that Bush signed was that the top marginal income tax rate was bumped up from 28 to 31 percent for relatively high income earners. The main part of the deal which most people felt was a five cent per gallon bump up in the Federal retail automobile petroleum tax, and back in those days when gas prices were $1.0x, it was a bit of a hit, even though five cents wouldn’t seem like it by today’s standards. But was a 3% marginal increase on higher income people grounds enough for the average person to turn out the President who signed that into law? I remember hearing this conversation around a lot of kitchen tables in the Fall of 1992: “Schucks, Mabel, someone making more than $120,000 this year has to pay 3% more on the amount over $120,000 that he made. That bastard Bush. That does it, we’re votin’ for the Arkansas hillbilly.” (Note the sarcasm) No, the real reason Bush didn’t win was because the economy overall in 1992 was worse than it was in 1988.
For the record, I don’t necessarily buy the notion that Perot elected Clinton, either.