(Hiawatha, IA) Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes Friday criticized GOP front-runner George W. Bush for failing to issue a “no new taxes” pledge.

“As one of (Bush’s) own aides said today, he’s not going to do that…and I think if a political candidate is not willing to make a firm pledge, you know it’s more likely to be violated,” Forbes said during an interview after a campaign stop in Haiwatha, Iowa.

Forbes was referring to a published report in the St. Petersburg Times which quoted top Bush aide Karl Rove as saying the son of the former President was “loathe to make a pledge he cannot keep.”

President George Bush told voters to “read my lips” during his successful 1988 campaign, promising not to raise taxes. Bush, however, later agreed to a tax increase in a major federal deficit reduction package. His son appears reluctant to fall victim to a similar about face.

Forbes said the younger Bush has previously made a “no new taxes” promise.

“He did, in 1994, take a “no tax” pledge, at least it looked that way, then in 1997 he proposed a tax package that had in it some 70 new tax increases, including an increase in the state sales tax,” Forbes said.

Bush’s Iowa press secretary, Eric Woolson, said Bush opposes taxes, but sidestepped the issue of an outright, signed-and-sealed-pledge on the subject.

“Governor Bush has made it clear to Americans for Tax Reform and others that he will oppose and veto any increase in individual or corporate marginal income tax rates or individual or corporate income tax hikes,” said Woolson. “He feels that such increases would reduce productivity, removemoney from the pockets of Americans at a time when taxes already take a record peace-time share of the national income.”

Since 1995, Forbes has been touting a 17 percent “flat tax” on income which would junk the federal tax code and establish a postcard return. He plans to bring up the tax cut issue at a debate Monday in Des Moines featuring the six GOP presidential candidates.

“Unfortunately, the political culture today is such that no matter what the times and circumstances — peace/war, prosperity/recession, budget surplus/budget deficits — the political culture always finds reasons to take more money out of your pocket and this is part of a pattern…We have to say no,” Forbes said.