Stockman then made a costly mistake—he ran right over himself. In a series of 18 interviews over breakfast with a writer for the Atlantic Monthly, he confessed grave doubts about the prospects for the Administration's economic policies. Echoing his Democratic opponents, he questioned a central proposition of supply-side economics: that tax cuts alone would revive the economy. He also showed an unfortunate gift for phrasemaking when he called Reagan's across-the-board tax cut "a Trojan horse" to lower the rates of the rich.
The article exploded like a bombshell in Washington, and the budget director was written off as a casualty. But Reagan refused his proffered resignation, sending him back to work on the 1983 budget. The motive behind his indiscretion remained mysterious. Stockman admittedly has had an erratic political career: antiwar activist, aide to liberal Republican Rep. John Anderson, conservative Congressman from Michigan. The most informed speculation was that he may have hoped to protect his future reputation against the failure of the policies he was charged to execute. "Incredible arrogance," fumed one Republican aide. "He thought those interviews were for a book that would set him up as bigger than the Administration."
Although the crisis is past, Stockman's self-inflicted wound may yet prove fatal. He was helped immeasurably by the Richard Allen scandal, which crowded him off the front pages three days after the Atlantic story broke. The investigations of CIA Director William Casey and Labor Secretary Raymond Donovan for alleged improprieties may also help protect Stockman's place in a besieged Cabinet. But the crucial credibility test will come in January, when he testifies in Congress during the debate over the 1983 budget. As White House counsel Edwin Meese III recently put it: "His survivability is in his ability to do the job."