Call it a consolation prize: Former president George H.W. Bush received a John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award Sunday for raising taxes — the decision that broke his “read my lips” pledge, rankled conservatives and may have contributed to his loss to Bill Clinton in 1992.
“President Bush had promised Americans no new taxes during the 1988 presidential campaign and he was voted into office with that promise,” said Jack Schlossberg — son of Caroline Kennedy, JFK’s daughter — who presented the award. “But, he had also promised to serve his country, and he decided that was the promise he would keep.”
According to the Associated Press, one of Bush’s granddaughters accepted the award on his behalf:
“Candidly speaking, my grandfather didn’t want to raise taxes,” Lauren Bush said as she accepted the award. “But … he felt he owed the American people action and results. Compromise is a dirty word in Washington today. … But once we get back to realizing the importance of actual governance, I suspect this too will pass.”
Named after Kennedy’s 1957 book, the Profile in Courage award “seeks to make Americans aware of the courageous acts of their public servants, and to encourage elected officials to choose the public interest over partisanship – to do what is right, rather than what is expedient,” according to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum’s Web site.
Paul W. Bridges, a former Republican mayor in Georgia who lost an election after he fought an anti-immigration bill in 2011, was also honored.
Though liberal figures such as Ted Kennedy and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) have received the award since it was created in 1989, Bush isn’t the first conservative saluted by the Kennedy Library. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) shared an award with then-Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wisc.) in 1999 for their work on campaign finance reform. Former president Gerald Ford received one in 2001 for pardoning Richard Nixon.
Though McCain and Ford accepted their awards in person, Bush declined. His granddaughter said he’d heard broccoli, a vegetable he banned from Air Force One, would be served at the ceremony.