WASHINGTON -- One day after George Bush appeared to renew his 1988 no-new-taxes pledge, the White House yesterday insisted that the president didn't mean he would never raise taxes.
Campaigning in New Jersey Wednesday, Mr. Bush said "I went along with one Democratic tax increase and I'm not going to do it again. Ever. Ever."
But yesterday morning, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said the president's statement "wasn't a pledge, no. He was saying, as he's said before, that he wouldn't make that mistake again."
Mr. Fitzwater was referring to the "mistake" Mr. Bush has said he made two years ago in agreeing to raise taxes as part of a budget deficit-cutting deal with Congress.
It wasn't the first time the president and his advisers struggled to clear up his position on raising taxes.
From the day he first uttered the no-tax vow while struggling for the 1988 Republican nomination in New Hampshire, the president has wrestled with the implications of such a pledge.
Here's what Mr. Bush has been saying about it over the past four years:
* Aug. 18, 1988 -- "I'm the one who won't raise taxes . . . Congress will push me to raise taxes, and I'll say no, and they'll push and I'll say no, and they'll push again and I'll say to them: 'Read my lips, no new taxes!' " (Acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans.)
* June 26, 1990 -- "It is clear to me that both the size of the deficit problem and the need for a package that can be enacted require all of the following: entitlement and mandatory program reform, tax revenue increases, growth incentives, discretionary spending reductions, orderly reductions in defense expenditures . . ." (Statement issued by the White House signaling willingness to go along with tax increases.)
* Sept. 30, 1990 -- "It is balanced, it is fair, and in my view it is what the United States of America needs at this point in its history. Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to you, the Democrats, and the Republicans that have seen that the interest of this country came first . . ." (Announcement of the budget compromise that included the tax increase.)
* March 2, 1992 -- "It's political grief. Look, if I had to do it over, I wouldn't do what I did then, for a lot of reasons, including political reasons." (Interview with the Atlanta Constitution on the eve of the Georgia primary.)
* Sept. 9, 1992 -- "We do not need to raise taxes in this country. I found out the hard way: I went along with one Democratic tax increase and I'm not going to do it again. Ever. Ever." (Speech in Middletown, N.J.)
* Sept. 10, 1992 -- "It wasn't a pledge, no. We're not using that word. That's a media word. We don't have to make any pledges. He's just saying he made a mistake accepting Democratic tax increases which he'll never do again." (White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater, seeking to clarify Mr. Bush's statement the day before.)