Comparing Bentley’s change of heart on taxes to politics’ most famous flip-flops
Friday, Governor Robert Bentley (R-AL), shocked the state when he admitted at the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA) conference that he will propose increasing taxes to fill hole in Alabama’s general fund budget.
“After four years of saying we’re not raising taxes, and we have not, I’m telling you, for the next four years we are going to raise taxes,” Gov. Bentley said to the audience that included lawmakers and business leaders.
It was only a few months ago that Gov. Bentley ran on a “no new taxes” platform, after signing the Americans for Tax Reform Taxpayer Protection Pledge. But almost immediately after taking office he began changing his tune, and now has made a complete flip on the subject, revealing a previously-undiscussed $265 million hole in the state’s general fund budget he proposes to fill by doing the exact opposite of what he pledged to voters.
So how does the governor’s sudden change of heart on taxes stack up next to some of the most famous political flip-flops of all time?
(Then) Senator John Kerry
Kerry took a lot of heat during the 2004 Presidential campaign for his rapid-fire flip-flops, most notably on foreign policy immediately following the 9/11 terror attacks.
After saying “I don’t think any United States senator is going to abandon our troops and recklessly leave Iraq to whatever follows as a result of simply cutting and running,” Kerry voted against an $87 billion appropriation to fund forces in Iraq.
His reputation as a flip-flopper was cemented by his now-infamous words: “I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it.”
President Obama on Same-sex Marriage
During the 2008 Presidential campaign, then-Senator Barack Obama claimed to be against same-sex marriage, but has “evolved” on the issue since then.
In a new book by longtime Obama aide David Axelrod, the president’s former top advisor even admitted that Mr. Obama lied to the American public about his position on gay marriage.
For as long as we had been working together, Obama had felt a tug between his personal views and the politics of gay marriage…. [H]e grudgingly accepted the counsel of more pragmatic folks like me, and modified his position to support civil unions rather than marriage, which he would term a “sacred union.” Having prided himself on forthrightness, though, Obama never felt comfortable with his compromise and, no doubt, compromised position. He routinely stumbled over the question when it came up in debates or interviews.
President George H.W. Bush’s “Read my lips” pledge
The elder George Bush made the unequivocal “Read my lips: no new taxes” pledge during his acceptance speech following being nominated as the GOP’s Presidential nominee in 1988, and not holding to his word ended up cutting the President’s career short.
In 1990, President Bush signed a compromise budget that increased several existing taxes, then in 1991 instituted a new tax, completely violating his pledge.
Then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton capitalized on the public’s discomfort with Bush’s flip-flop. His change of mind is widely credited with contributing to the President’s failure to be elected to a second term.
Mitt Romney: Pro-life or Pro-choice?
During a 1994 debate with Sen. John Edwards, Romney said “I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country,” a position he held as late as 2002, when he said in a gubernatorial debate “I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose and am devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard.”
He changed his tune going into the 2008 Presidential primaries, saying, “I am pro-life and believe that abortion should be limited to only instances of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. I support the reversal of Roe v. Wade, because it is bad law and bad medicine. Roe was a misguided ruling that was a result of a small group of activist federal judges legislating from the bench. I support the Hyde Amendment, which broadly bars the use of federal funds for abortions. And as president, I will support efforts to prohibit federal funding for any organization like Planned Parenthood, which primarily performs abortions or offers abortion-related services.”
While Romney’s reversal was toward a position with which most conservatives agree, it continued to dog him throughout the 2008 and 2012 Presidential races. It was one of the reasons many didn’t consider him conservative enough, and may have had a hand in keeping the GOP’s base from turning out in enough numbers to deny President Obama a second term.
Of these, Governor Bentley’s situation is probably closest to that of President George H.W. Bush. Though Bentley hasn’t revealed any ambitions to run for higher office after his tenure as governor ends in January of 2019, it will still be studied as one of the most profoundly surprising and complete changes in direction by a politician in recent memory.
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— Elizabeth BeShears (@LizEBeesh) January 21, 2015