The GOP War Against Grover Norquist

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You could tell Grover Norquist was really powerful last year when House Speaker John Boehner called him "some random person." Think how much scarier the demon was in The Exorcist when it demurred, "That's a much too vulgar display of power." Just think how bad things are when even Joe Scarborough is calling your power a myth. And you know America's biggest anti-tax advocate is in trouble when he starts getting vulgar, as he did on CNN Monday, warning a wavering Republican that "Congressman Peter King of New York knows full well that the pledge he signed and others have is for while you’re in Congress, not a two-year period." He cautioned the others: "We've got some people discussing impure thoughts on national television."

Which begs the question: Have we reached Peak Grover?

No Republican has voted for a tax increase since 1990, something Norquist, even while being relatively humble, has taken partial credit for. ("I helped. Yeah," he said modestly in 2011, when things were going well. Republicans eventually rejected a grand bargain that would have significantly cut entitlement spending in exchange for a mere $800 billion in revenue.) Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, has gotten the vast majority of congressional Republicans to sign his pledge to never raise taxes. But with the fiscal cliff looming, some influential Republicans are suddenly offering to break the pledge. Sens. Lindsey Graham, Saxby Chambliss, Bob Corker, and Rep. Peter King have all said that the size of the country's deficit can't be sufficiently shrunk without raising some tax revenue.

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On Fox and Friends Monday morning, Gretchen Carlson said Norquist had gone too far. "I think you get into really difficult situations in relationships in general when you make people sign on the dotted line and then you crucify them if they ever decide to change their mind," she said. Fox and Friends plays an "agenda-setting function" at Fox News, The New York Times' Brian Stelter has reported. Fox chief Roger Ailes "regularly" provides talking points and ideas for the show, even while it's on live.

When Norquist was riding high, Boehner pretended not to know him, even though they'd worked together for 20 years. Now that he's weak enough that Republicans dare mention his name, Norquist has started making threats. "I don’t think between now and 2014 that either the South Carolina senator or the Georgia senator will vote for a tax increase," Norquist told The Washington Post Monday, making an obvious and vulgar threat of a competitive Republican primary. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.