New York Times Editorial on Bush’s Death Borrows Heavily from One on 1992 Election Loss

President George H. W. Bush on Sept. 27 1991, in the Oval Office (Luke Frazza/AFP/Getty Images)

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The New York Times editorial about the death of President George H. W. Bush cribs entire sentences and phrases from a past one released by the newspaper following his failed re-election bid in 1992.

In the postmortem about Bush's loss to Bill Clinton, called "An Incomplete President," the Times in 1992 brought up his famous "read my lips, no new taxes" pledge. Bush reneged on the promise in 1990, in order to reduce the deficit as part of a budget agreement with congressional Democrats, and the Times hit him for not defending it better and then later apologizing to conservatives for it.

"Even when he did something that was both essential and courageous — like reversing his "no new taxes" pledge of 1988 to win a budget agreement in 1990 — he failed to defend it coherently," the board wrote then. "Worse, in that case, he apologized for it."

The Times used the same language almost word-for-word upon Bush's death in a piece published Saturday entitled "George H. W. Bush, Public Servant."

"Even when he did something that was both courageous and right, like reversing his famous ‘read my lips, no new taxes' pledge at the convention that nominated him in 1988, he failed to defend the reversal coherently," the board wrote. "Worse, in that case, he apologized for it."

The opening of the 1992 piece and the section of the 2018 one about his election loss also have strong similarities (emphasis added):

1992: Angry Republicans point fingers in every direction to account for President Bush's defeat. Some blame an unfortunate turn in the business cycle from which no President could have escaped. Others blame bad advice from passive economic strategists, the nasty convention in Houston, his unaccountably late and lame campaign. All true, but the main reason for George Bush's precipitous fall from political grace was George Bush himself.

2018: Fingers pointed in every direction after his defeat, a deteriorating economy, a divisive convention in Houston, a disjointed campaign. But one big reason for Mr. Bush’s precipitous fall was Mr. Bush himself, chiefly his inability to convince Americans that he understood the depth of their fears or could summon up a coherent plan for addressing them.

The Times editorial board also cribbed a section from the 1992 piece discussing the "strongest hand in foreign affairs ever awarded a new president" and how he "played that hand cleverly and energetically." The new editorial linked to the old one at this point but didn't place the previously written comments in quotations:

1992: Even after four years as President and a quarter-century in public life, Mr. Bush remains an oddly bifurcated, incomplete figure. He spent the better part of his life preparing for the White House — and fate dealt him probably the strongest hand in foreign affairs ever awarded a new President. For the most part, he played that hand cleverly and energetically.

2018: A Times editorial after his defeat called Mr. Bush "an incomplete president" — good at some things but clumsy at others. Fate had dealt him one of the strongest hands in foreign affairs ever awarded a new president, and for the most part he played that hand cleverly and energetically. 

The Washington Free Beacon reached out to the New York Times for comment and hasn't heard back.

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