“Read my lips: No new taxes!”
Those six words received a thunderous applause at the 1988 Republican National Convention when they were spoken by George H. W. Bush, who passed away on Friday at the age of 94. Bush was accepting the nomination as the Republican candidate for president, and the promise of no new taxes became an easy-to-digest rallying cry for his campaign, drawing a stark contrast between Bush and his Democratic rival Michael Dukakis. (Side note: He didn’t keep the promise.)
Thirty years later–in our current age of nonstop sound bites, tweets, and three-hour news cycles–it’s hard to imagine a presidential candidate being propelled to victory by a single viral moment, but Bush’s famous speech gave him the momentum and message to do just that, or so goes the story as told by the political talking heads of the era.
In hindsight, the origin of the phrase can be seen as a harbinger of a potent and persuasive conservative media environment that would soon be unleashed upon the world. According to Time magazine, one of the key architects of Bush’s messaging was none other than Roger Ailes, who worked on the candidate’s campaign and would go on to lead Fox News only a few years later.