read my lips

A phrase used by George H.W. Bush in his speech for the 1988 GOP nomination for president. The full quote is “Read my lips: no new taxes.” The line is credited with both helping him win the presidency in 1988 and losing his bid for reelection in 1992.

The phrase became the main soundbite of Bush’s campaign in 1988, and it electrified the GOP base. His assertive promise to not raise taxes became what the American people expected from him. When he was forced to raise taxes in 1990, that promise was broken, and he was attacked from both sides of the aisle.

Time ranks it as the 3rd most unfortunate one-liner ever given in politics (behind Clinton and Nixon’s famous denials).

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