In Harry Potter, no one would say Voldemort's name until it looked like he could destroy the entire world — or else get stripped of his power forever. Grover Norquist is like that. As we noted last month, when there was zero chance House Republicans would break with Norquist's no-new-taxes pledge from back in the 2011 debt-ceiling fight, Republicans denied that he still mattered all that much. House Speaker John Boehner, who's known Norquist for 20 years, called him "some random person." On MSNBC, former Republican Rep. Joe Scarborough said "Grover Norquist has absolutely no power in Washington," and that his reputation was the "greatest Democratic fabrication since the Tonkin Gulf incident." (Scarborough signed the pledge in 1994.) But with Democrats having more leverage on taxes in the 2012 fiscal cliff fight, Norquist's power has become not a Democratic fantasy so much as a GOP nightmare. On Scarborough's show on MSNBC Monday, former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele said that if Norquist didn't exist, we'd have a fiscal cliff deal within "24 hours."
But despite all the talk about his power, Norquist seems nervous. Once he played modest, and denied his sway in Washington. But he told The Washington Post's Peter Wallsten Sunday that Republicans who'd talked openly about defying his pledge had called him to grovel and apologize. Take Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who said, "I care too much about my country — I care a lot more about it than I do Grover Norquist," and who later had deep regrets. Norquist revealed Chambliss felt deep regrets. "He said he’d wished he hadn’t invoked my name and wished that he’d been clearer," Norquist said of a phone call with Chambliss in which he read a transcript of the senator's remarks. Norquist similarly humiliated three other members of Congress in the Post article: Lindsey Graham, Tom Cole, and Bob Corker. But according to a tally by the liberal site Think Progress, 44 congressional Republicans have said regrettable things about Norquist's pledge.