September 26, 2003

Rewriting history

I don't mean to pick nits, but I just can't let this one slide.

Here's Ramesh Ponnuru in this week's TNR:

In 2001, Democrats kept hoping that some Bush initiative--his pro-life executive orders, his review of arsenic regulations, his tax cut--would be the early stumble that gays in the military was for Bill Clinton. But Clinton got in trouble in 1993 because his initiatives had not been vetted during the campaign: Bush père hadn't challenged him on the military gay ban, and Clinton hadn't talked about raising taxes. In 2000, on the other hand, W.'s policies on abortion, taxes, and the environment were extensively debated. [Emph. added]

It's true that Bush didn't challenge Clinton on gays in the military. But saying that Elvis didn't talk about raising taxes in 1992 is like saying Ronald Reagan didn't talk about cutting them in 1980; it's so obviously false, and so easily disproved, that it must be the result of simple ignorance rather than any sort of intent to deceive.

Take a look at this brief exchange from the third presidential debate of 1992.

ROOK: Governor Clinton, you said that you will raise taxes on the rich, people with incomes of $200,000 a year or higher. A lot of people are saying that you will have to go lower than that, much lower. Will you make a pledge tonight below which, an income level that you will not go below? I'm looking for numbers, sir, not just a concept.

CLINTON: My plan -- you can read my plan. My plan says that we want to raise marginal incomes on family incomes above $200,000 from 31 to 36 percent, that we want to ask foreign corporations simply to pay the same percentage of taxes on their income that American corporations play (sic) in America, that we want to use that money to provide over $100 billion in tax cuts for investment in new plant and equipment, for small business, for new technologies, and for middle class tax relief.

Now, we can argue all day long about whether Clinton kept his promise to cut middle class taxes. (Most Democrats think his expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit counts; most Republicans don't.) What we can't argue about is whether he discussed raising them on the well-off. He did. Repeatedly. In his book. In his speeches. In campaign literature. In the debates. Pretty much anywhere and everywhere he could get a warm body to stand still and listen, actually.

Remember that fact the next time you hear some talking head regurgitate the conventional wisdom that a Democrat can't win while advocating some tax increases. It's just equine feces, and since most of today's pundits were around in '92, they should know it.

Even if Ramesh Ponnuru doesn't.

Posted by Jack O'Toole on September 26, 2003 04:07 AM

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I think it is not possible to rewrite history, it is just possible to correct errors of describing history ;-)

Posted by: Andreas on January 4, 2004 12:31 PM