- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 26, 2008


Richard Darman, a former White House budget director who helped persuade former President George H.W. Bush to renege on his no-new-taxes pledge, died yesterday. He was 64.

Mr. Darman died in Washington after battling leukemia for several months, according to a statement issued by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, a longtime friend.

Mr. Darman was chief architect of a compromise designed to reduce the federal budget deficit. Although it drew praise from many economic analysts, the plan included tax increases that broke Mr. Bush’s 1988 election promise, “Read my lips, no new taxes.”

Although the change of policy is partly blamed for Mr. Bush’s re-election defeat to Bill Clinton in 1992, it contributed to balancing the federal budgets in the late 1990s.

A talented and tough negotiator, Mr. Darman sometimes drew criticism for being abrasive, intellectually arrogant and overly concerned with his standing in the White House pecking order. He had a reputation for being so crafty that “Darmanesque” became a word to describe maneuvering that was clever and Machiavellian.

Mr. Darman had a more playful side and was known for pranks. He once donned a gorilla suit to amuse his boss, the president.

Mr. Darman’s hardball tactics on Capitol Hill in budget negotiations alienated many senior Republicans in Congress and many White House colleagues. He railed against budget gimmicks and called for serious steps to get the budget under control.

The government’s huge budget deficits were “a mathematical representation of our wish to buy now, pay later — or more accurately, buy now and let others pay later,” he said. He criticized the nation’s obsession with its current finances and “our reluctance to adequately address the future.”

But those words were from the same man who earlier had served as a top political strategist for President Reagan and helped craft an economic policy that stressed tax cuts even as federal budget deficits were reaching record levels.

“Dick Darman was a brilliant, dedicated, and distinguished public servant, educator, and businessman who could direct traffic through the intersection of policy and politics as well as anybody I have ever known,” said Mr. Baker, who worked with Mr. Darman under Mr. Bush and Mr. Reagan.

At the time of his death, Mr. Darman was a partner in the Carlyle Group, a global private equity firm. He also was serving as board chairman at AES Corp., a power and alternative energy firm. In addition, Mr. Darman was board chairman of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Mr. Darman is survived by wife Kathleen Emmet, a writer, and three sons, William T.E. Darman, Jonathan W.E. Darman, and C.T. Emmet Darman.

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