Saturday, June 20, 2009

A scary bedtime fairy tale for your grandchildren

Once upon a time, long, long ago in a land far away, a Democrat candidate for President was honest. He announced early in the campaign, "I will raise your taxes." For those who have forgotten about those olden days, or were born since, the candidate was a man named Walter Mondale. Who?

Most people have forgotten about Walter Mondale, but he was Vice President under President Jimmy Carter, perhaps the most forgettable President of recent history, so a memory lapse is understandable.

Mondale also suffered the indignity of running against a Republican nominee who was not only wise but also had a terrific sense of humor and a great gift of comedic timing, Ronald Reagan. And Reagan was wise enough to recognize an error when he heard Mondale's tax-hike promise and countered with a promise of his own that he would not raise taxes if elected.

In the first televised debate, Mondale put in an unexpectedly strong performance, questioning Reagan's age and capacity to endure the grueling demands of the presidency (Reagan was the oldest person to serve as president — 73 at the time — while Mondale was 56). However, in the next debate on October 21, 1984, Reagan effectively deflected the issue by quipping, "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience."

In the election, Mondale was defeated in a landslide, winning only the District of Columbia (which has never been won by a Republican candidate) and his home state of Minnesota (and even there his margin of victory was less than 3,800 votes[4]), thus securing only 13 electoral votes to Reagan's 525. The result was the worst electoral defeat for any Democratic Party candidate in history, and the worst for any major-party candidate since Alf Landon's loss to Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936.

So the joke was on Mondale, the Democrat who told the truth about his plan to raise taxes. But enough of fairy tales. Wait, let me tell one more. Once upon a time there was a Democrat candidate for President who promised again and again that he would not raise taxes. The people believed him and he got elected. Now some 120 days since, reality has begun to set in.

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