Then, as now, Mr. Clinton’s defenders pointed to the fine print in his campaign speeches as evidence that the broken promise didn’t really count. (Mr. Clinton had never actually said “read my lips,” James Carville explained, the way George H.W. Bush once had.)
In the summer of 1993, Mr. Clinton pushed his budget through Congress by the narrowest of margins—a 218-216 vote in the House, and a 50-50 tie (broken by Vice President Al Gore) in the Senate. Conventional wisdom said that the budget win saved his presidency from an early tailspin, but the price for Democrats in Congress—who provided just enough votes, with every Republican siding against the budget—was enormous: Dozens of House Democrats who stood with their President and a handful of Senators lost their seats in the 1994 Republican revolution, which was fueled in part by the memory of the ’93 budget vote.
So you can only imagine how those defeated Democrats, the ones who took a political bullet for Bill Clinton when they voted for his budget, felt in the fall of 1995 when Mr. Clinton found himself facing an affluent audience at a Houston fund-raiser and declared: “”Probably there are people in this room still mad at me at that budget because you think I raised your taxes too much. It might surprise you to know that I think I raised them too much, too.”
At one point during the Clinton presidency, David Obey, a plain-spoken Wisconsin progressive, said, “I think most of us learned some time ago that if you don’t like the President’s position on a particular issue, you simply need to wait a few weeks.”
The same can be said of the ex-President.