With House Republicans set today (Thursday) to unveil their “Pledge to America” if they win a majority of seats in November, a look back at how then-NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw derided the Contract with America when it was announced on Tuesday, September 27, 1994. “Today,” Brokaw declared on the newscast he anchored from in front of the White House, “GOP congressional candidates were summoned to Washington and given a battle plan. However, as NBC's Lisa Myers tells us tonight, it is long on promises, but short on sound premises.”
In the subsequent story, Myers cited the GOP's promise of “tax cuts for just about everyone” while also pledging “more money for defense and a balanced budget amendment.” She countered: “An independent budget expert called it standard political bunk.” Myers also poked at term limits, noting Newt Gingrich “already has served 16 years...Gingrich said any term limit bill will apply only to future members of Congress.” She mused in concluding her piece: “And politicians wonder why voters are cynical.”
Video clip, from the MRC's videotape archive, is of Brokaw's introduction followed by the entire story from Myers. Audio: MP3 clip. Extra treat: The video begins with a Today show promo narrated by Katie Couric: “The latest on the OJ Simpson case. Can celebrities get a fair trial?”
Transcript of the coverage on the Tuesday, September 27, 1994 NBC Nightly News:
TOM BROKAW: Here in Washington, fear, loathing, anticipation and among Republicans, unrestrained glee about the November elections. Democrats are bracing for the worst. Republicans, now, are beginning to talk openly about taking control of the House and the Senate. Today, GOP congressional candidates were summoned to Washington and given a battle plan. However, as NBC's Lisa Myers tells us tonight, it is long on promises, but short on sound premises.
LISA MYERS: It was a political extravaganza. More than 350 Republican members of Congress and candidates on the Capitol steps bearing flags and promising tax cuts. In trying to convince voters this was not just another campaign stunt, Republicans called their promises a contract.
REP. DICK ARMEY, (R-TEXAS): Today, we Republicans are signing a Contract with America. We pledge ourselves in writing to a new agenda of reform, respect, and renewal.
MYERS: Their agenda: tax cuts for just about everyone; Seniors, business, families with children, even new 'American Dream' savings accounts for the middle class. Also promised: more money for defense and a balanced budget amendment. An independent budget expert called it standard political bunk.
CAROL COX WAIT, BUDGET ANALYST: It doesn't add up because nobody wants to hear the truth. Everybody wants to talk about benefits, and nobody wants to talk about cost."]
MYERS: "Democrats called the contract a big fraud.
REP. BOB WISE (D-WEST VA.): If you liked Reagan's supply-side economics you will love this river boat gamble.
MYERS: Republicans did list a few possible spending cuts. But they fell hundreds of billions of dollars short of balancing the budget. In their contract, Republicans also promised votes in the first 100 days on welfare reform and term limits, to require members of Congress to retire after 12 years. Republican leader Newt Gingrich already has served 16 years.
REP. RICHARD DURBIN (D-ILL.): And they're for term limits? Do they think America has forgotten how to count? Honestly.
MYERS: What's more, Gingrich said any term limit bill probably will apply only to future members of Congress.
REP. NEWT GINGRICH (R-GEORGIA): "I don't think you're going to say to everybody who's been here 12 years, 'You know, this is your last term, don't run again.'
MYERS: And politicians wonder why voters are cynical. Lisa Myers, NBC News, the Capitol.