Just about every Republican in Congress has signed Americans for Tax Reform's anti-tax pledge, a promise to oppose tax increases everywhere and always. But South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said yesterday that his party had to change, and that dealing with the country's fiscal problems means giving "up some ideological ground."
Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, is none too pleased.
"This was a brain fart, not a real idea," he told me in a phone conversation just now. "It doesn’t scare me. I think what he was doing was answering a hypothetical question to show how hypothetically open-minded he was about something."
Norquist said Graham's position that the GOP would need to compromise on income tax deductions makes it sound like he expects Barack Obama to win re-election.
"Who does he think he’s negotiating with? If Romney wins, he’s taken the pledge -- he’s not raising taxes. The [comments] only make sense if he was planning on negotiating with Obama. He needs to have a conversation with the people in South Carolina: ‘You know when I asked for your vote and I promised you I’d reform government and not raise taxes? I was lying. Now would you please re-elect me in 2014?’"
He said the Senator was making the same mistake Ronald Reagan made in 1982 and George H.W. Bush did in 1990: believing congressional Democrats who promise a ratio of spending cuts to tax increases, in this case four-to-one.
"Pinocchio was told by the fox and cat that this would be" a good idea, Norquist said. He lampooned Graham for being disconnected from the reality of fiscal negotiations, comparing him to his three-year-old daughter.
"It’s like having that conversation about what color unicorn you like, while in the back of your mind you know there’s no such thing. 'Grover, why don’t you like green ones?' But there aren’t any ones! I have a three year old who says this a lot. She has green unicorns, but we don’t need them in the Senate."
Norquist also discussed North Dakotans rejecting a ballot intiative yesterday to abolish the state's property tax, expressing frustration with the local anti-tax movement for losing focus on income taxes, his bête noire.
"It’s a train wreck and everybody jumped off the train," he said, citing conversations with local activists and Tea Party members who were concerned the abolition of the property tax would put towns and cities, starved of revenue, at the mercy of the state government. "The good news is everybody says the obvious fix is to focus on the income tax," which he predicted would be a goner in North Dakota by 2016.