Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Opinion

Republicans finally starting to say, 'Grover who?'

A few days ago, Sen. Marco Rubio hedged on this whole silly science thing by claiming he has no clue about the age of the planet.

"It's one of the great mysteries," said the man who wakes up every morning practicing the crisp salute upon debarking from Marine One on the White House lawn.

But if you are on the hunt for a real mystery, you don't need to go much further than that demagogue Grover Norquist, Washington's Torquemada of Taxes.

Congress, of course, is populated by figures who pride themselves — at least before microphones — as fiercely independent-minded pillars of courage ever ready to stand up to the forces of evil bent on destroying America. Inspiring is what it is.

And yet, going into the November elections, 279 congressional incumbents along with another 286 challengers eager to become part of the Capitol Crazy Buffet line all happily signed a pledge to Norquist promising to never, ever raise taxes by so much as a bus token.

Say, there's some singular backbone for you.

Among those rolling over like a Shih Tzu eager to get its tummy rubbed for a Snausage treat were Rubio, Reps. Vern Buchanan of Sarasota, C.W. Bill Young of Indian Shores and the recently defeated Allen West of Palm Beach Gardens. Other prominent Republicans panting after Norquist's nod in their general direction were the likes of household names in Congress, such as John McCain, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Jim DeMint and Orrin Hatch.

A Washington lobbyist who has never held public office, nor run a business, nor been responsible for creating anything remotely resembling coherent public policy, managed to force hundreds of politicians to kowtow to him by signing a ridiculous scrap of paper with less binding legal authority than a mattress tag.

There always has been the concern over the potential abuses of one-party rule. But for decades, the nation's tax policy has effectively been hijacked by a political grifter holding court in his 12th Street NW redoubt, funded by a who's who of corporate special interest groups.

Would Norquist qualify as one of Mitt Romney's dreaded gift takers, relying on the dole from others?

This has been one of the great Potomac scams of Washington life.

To refuse to sign Norquist's Pledge of Compliance would result, or so the addled thinking went, in the unleashing of political retribution against anyone who had an iota of common sense to think the no tax promise was stupid.

Little wonder that in a place where common sense is a rare find, the pledge was so popular. It spared some of Congress' dimmer leading lights the inconvenience of thinking for themselves.

But elections are curious things. And with President Barack Obama given a second term in a wave that also saw a number of tea party acolytes given the heave-ho at the polls, as if by magic some Republicans — some — are beginning to suggest they aren't so beholden to the bully of the Beltway.

As Congress and the White House inch closer to the fiscal cliff, a few fairly prominent Republicans, such as New York Rep. Peter King, Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, South Carolina's Sen. Lindsey Graham, Tennessee's Sen. Bob Corker and Oklahoma's Sen. Tom Coburn, have dropped broad hints they might be willing to tell Norquist to take his no new taxes pledge and file it under: "Grover Norquist? Doesn't ring a bell."

While not quite rising to Martin Luther nailing his manifesto to the church door, most of these Republicans have indicated they might be willing to consider tax increases, along with spending cuts, to address the nation's budget deficit.

And with that, the Wizard of Odd could well be exposed as the feckless, impotent straw man that he is. When figures like King, Chambliss, Corker and especially the uber-conservative Coburn are willing to dismiss Norquist as an irritating and naive political poltroon, they provide cover for others to also part ways.

For a brief moment, some Republicans have pledged to put the interests of the country ahead of an overbearing Washington influence-peddler.

Now a twitching Norquist is threatening revenge on those who have rejected his phony pledge. And here's the best part. Who really cares?

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