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Snap: George H.W. Bush's tax flip-flop wins JFK Library Foundation 'courage' award

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Taxes,Ronald Reagan,Grover Norquist,JFK

It's about time the Democrats rewarded former Republican President George H.W. Bush for caving in on his “no new taxes” pledge in a compromise with liberals that helped to kill his re-election.

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation said it planned to name the 41st president this year's recipient of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for his 1990 flip-flop.

Why? “[I]n recognition of the political courage he demonstrated as president when he agreed to a 1990 budget compromise which reversed his 1988 campaign pledge not to raise taxes and put his re-election prospects at risk,” the foundation said.

In 1988, Bush famously revived his presidential bid in a GOP convention speech in which he pledged to tell Democrats seeking more tax money, “Read my lips: No new taxes.” Just as famously, he reneged in a deal with Democrats who promised — but never delivered— significant budget cuts.

Many Republicans didn’t forgive Bush, and even today he gets criticized for it.

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, for example, said this when told about the JFK award: “George Herbert Walker Bush's tax increase led to higher spending, higher taxes, and the Clinton presidency, which brought even higher spending and increased taxes. The 'compromise' of 1990 was bad economics, bad policy and a betrayal of the American people. Courage would have been standing up to the spending lobbyists in Washington and saying, 'No.' Doing what official Washington and its spending lobbies want is not courage. It is a failure of nerve."

Norquist said that the deal was to make $2 in cuts for every $1 in tax increases. Although the tax hike went into place, the Democratically-controlled House and Senate increased spending.

The JFK library event to present the award will be held in Boston on May 4.

As the foundation said in its press release announcing the award:

“This year’s Profile in Courage Award recipients exemplify what President Kennedy most admired in public servants: extraordinary courage in serving the greater good,” said Schlossberg, who is a member of the Profile in Courage Award committee. “In his first term in office, President George H. W. Bush risked his reputation and ultimately his political career by forging an important compromise on the budget in 1990 that moved our country forward, and should not be forgotten.”

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.