All three network evening newscasts on Thursday found time to cheer the JFK Library Foundation announcing former President George H. W. Bush would the 2014 recipient of its annual Profile in Courage award. So what specific accomplishment did the organization cite from the Republican's decades of public service? His decision to hike taxes in 1990 that cost him re-election and paved the way for Bill Clinton to become president. [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
On NBC Nightly News, fill-in anchor Lester Holt proclaimed: "Bush had famously said, 'Read my lips. No new taxes.' His decision to break that promise not only took courage, as the award says, it also may have cost him re-election."
ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer explained Bush was getting the award for "negotiating a compromise on the budget in his administration, even though it broke his campaign promise of no new taxes."
On CBS Evening News, fill-in anchor Sharyn Alfonsi declared: "The foundation says Mr. Bush showed political courage when he abandoned his 'Read my lips' promise of no new taxes and agreed to a 1990 budget compromise that many believe cost him his re-election."
NBC's Today was the only network morning show to tout the news on Friday, as fill-in news reader Tamron Hall reported: "The annual award, named after JFK's book, is given to public servants who make courageous decisions without regard for the personal or professional consequences. The former president was selected for agreeing to a 1990 budget that raised taxes despite his previous pledge not to hike them."
Just to clarify, the media are happy to celebrate Republicans when they are honored by left-wing groups for doing something liberal that contributed to the election of a Democratic president.
In 1988, the press derided Bush's no-tax pledge:
"The squeeze is on and a modest tax increase would help a lot, but the candidates rule it out. Bush's no new taxes position seems to mean that taxes would go up only if there were an economic crisis. That drastically limits the flexibility any government should have. Is it smart to wait for a crisis? Bush has accused Dukakis of being for unilateral disarmament, yet Bush has disarmed himself by promising no new taxes. Taxes are one of the most important economic weapons a government has."
-- John Chancellor, November 2 NBC Nightly News.
"Stocks nosedived, in part because investors are worried that George Bush's 'no new taxes' pledge may prevent him from reducing the deficit."
-- substitute anchor Ted Koppel on ABC's World News Tonight, November 11.
The media proceeded to lobby hard for tax hikes "to pay the fiddler for our costly dance of the Reagan years." Once the 1990 budget deal passed with the tax increases, they continued to slam the GOP for having previously offered "fradulent, free-lunch budgets."