- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2003

Yesterday, Rep. Richard Gephardt announced that he will run for president. We're glad the suspense is over.

What cheers us less is the economic agenda the Missouri Democrat outlined, the pillar of which would repeal the tax cuts Congress passed in 2001. "We have to scrap the vast majority of the Bush tax cuts for wealthier Americans and corporations," he said. "They're unaffordable, unsustainable and patently unfair."

When it comes to campaign rhetoric, this kind of inanity ranks right up there with the establishment of a Department of Peace, proposed by another Democratic aspirant, Dennis Kucinich. But if Mr. Gephardt is serious in his commitment to roll back tax relief, we think voters might profit from an explanation. To wit, if he feels so passionately about the 2001 tax cuts, why didn't Mr. Gephardt sponsor legislation to roll them back? Certainly, as leader of the House Democrats he had every opportunity to do so. Now, the inescapable conclusion is that when Mr. Gephardt had a chance, he didn't do anything. And now that he doesn't have a chance, he says he wants to do something. Wow. That's some leadership.

But then, Mr. Gephardt has an annoying habit of changing his tune on the campaign trail. As our friends at the National Right to Life Committee reminded us, time was when the Missourian was an ardent pro-lifer. "I have always been supportive of pro-life legislation," he wrote to a constituent just before his 1984 re-election to the House. "I intend to remain steadfast on this issue." Or not. Just two years later, in his first failed campaign for the presidency, Mr. Gephardt suddenly announced that he was pro-choice.

Since the congressman seems willing ti say anything, perhaps Mr. Gephardt should risk inconsistency again and come out for free trade, tax cuts and lower spending. If the campaigns of the last four presidents are any indication, they appear to be a winning combination.

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