BILL CRAWFORD: Which pledge matters most?

By Bill Crawford

Pulitzer Prize winning author, New York Times columnist, and flat-world specialist Thomas Friedman thinks we need to “bring back Poppy.”
Poppy was the late Sonny Montgomery’s racquet-ball buddy and best friend in Washington, the 41st President of the United States George H. W. Bush.
It is my privilege each week to manage works guided by Sonny’s leadership legacy, a legacy based on Sonny’s deep roots in faith and patriotism and major achievements through fellowship and perseverance.
Sonny and George were among the “greatest generation” who came back from WWII and Korea tempered with what Friedman and Haley Barbour agree were “sustainable values”… strong moral foundations and patriotic steadfastness that guided their future actions.
Describing “The Greatest Generation” Tom Brokaw wrote, “no block of marble or elaborate edifice can equal their lives of sacrifice and achievement, duty and honor, as monuments to their time.”
As America struggles with unbalance, Friedman says we miss such leadership, calling it “sane” and “balanced.”
“Bush agreed to a compromise with Democrats to raise several taxes, along with spending cuts, as part of a 1990 budget deal that helped to pave the way for the prosperity of that decade,” said Friedman. “It definitely hurt his re-election, but he did it anyway.”
That final phrase tells the story…”he did it anyway.”
As we so well know, Bush in 1988 ran for re-election on the pledge “read my lips, no new taxes.”
That wasn’t a written pledge like modern politicians sign for various special interest groups. But, it was a political promise grounded in partisan politics.
Bush’s problem occurred when federal spending pushed deficits to risky levels (sound familiar?). Bush compromised with Democrats to cut spending and establish pay-as-you-go spending limits. His give was to raise several taxes.
Special interest groups joined expedient politicians to kill his try for a second presidential term by making his broken pledge the central point of the campaign.
I agree with Friedman that here lies the difference between today’s leaders and those of the greatest generation.
Too many leaders today see pledges to special interest groups and political parties as paramount, fearing political consequences should they break such pledges as Bush did.
Bush, Montgomery, and those of their ilk saw a different pledge as paramount. It’s called the “Pledge of Allegiance.” When they pledged allegiance to America, they meant it and were willing to sacrifice politics for country.
Yes, Poppy “did it anyway.” He resolved a crisis. He put America on a balanced course. He set the stage for the economic boom and balanced budgets of the Clinton years.
Would that we could bring Poppy, Sonny, and their allies back. America cries out for “sustainable values” and strong moral, patriotic, balanced leadership.
Bill Crawford (crawfolk@gmail.com) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.