White House Notebook
A Sound Bite So Good, the President Wishes He Had Said It
By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 2, 2002; Page A13
The mystery of the missing trifecta has been solved. Sort of.
In this space last week, it was noted that President Bush often tells audiences that he promised during the 2000 presidential campaign that he would allow the federal budget to go into deficit in times of war, recession or national emergency, but he never imagined he would "have a trifecta." Nobody inside or outside the White House, however, had been able to produce evidence that Bush actually said this during the campaign.
Now comes information that the three caveats were uttered before the 2000 campaign -- by Bush's Democratic opponent, Vice President Al Gore. The Post's Glenn Kessler found in the archives this promise from Gore: "Barring an economic reversal, a national emergency, or a foreign crisis, we should balance the budget this year, next year, and every year." Gore said that to the Economic Club of Detroit in May 1998, then repeated it at least twice more, in speeches in June and November of that year.
There is still no trace of Bush making such a caveat; in fact, shortly after taking office, he declared that "we can proceed with tax relief without fear of budget deficits, even if the economy softens." On the other hand, Bush can fairly argue that his top economic adviser, Lawrence B. Lindsey, endorsed the caveats during the campaign. When Kessler asked back then about Gore's three exceptions, Lindsey said the same caveats would apply for Bush.