Grover Norquist Makes Jeb Bush’s Point

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush made big waves at a meeting held by Bloomberg View Monday when he said the current Republican Party didn’t have much room for either his father, George H.W. Bush, or the patron saint of modern conservatism himself, Ronald Reagan:

Ronald Reagan would have–based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, similar to my dad–they would have had a hard time if you define the Republican Party–and I don’t–as having an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement.

Back to my dad’s time or Ronald Reagan’s time, they got a lot of stuff done with a lot of bipartisan support that right now would be difficult to imagine happening.

Bush also advised Republican nominee-in-waiting Mitt Romney to “change the tone” on immigration about which he said: “I think we need to have a broader approach.’’

The comments followed a candid interview last week with Charlie Rose in which Bush mused that he might have missed his chance to be president by not having run this year.

The former governor also had much to say Monday about President Obama, whom he faulted for not embracing the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction plan. ‘‘If he was a transcendent figure, which is what he ran as, I think he’s failed,” said Bush.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush testifies before Congress. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite.

The liberal blogosphere loved Bush’s attack on his own party, but aside from mavericks like Joe Scarborough, conservatives were up in arms. They pointed out that the GOP had nominated Sen. John McCain in 2008 and will nominate Romney this year, both of whom are supposed moderates.

(McCain, remember, had to pick unqualified Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate to appease his Christian right base while Romney has had to tack far to the right on several key issues, including immigration, to get his party’s nod.)

Perhaps worried that the RINO label would stick to his forehead, Bush backtracked, tweeting Tuesday:

The point I was making yesterday is this: The political system today is hyperpartisan. Both sides are at fault.

Past 4 years, Democrats have held leadership roles w/opportunities to reach across political aisle. For sake of politics, they haven’t.

Grover Norquist. Photo: Gage Skidmore

Meanwhile, that enforcer of Republican orthodoxy Grover Norquist called Bush’s statements “foolish’’ and “bizarre,’’ and said today’s GOP “is the Republican Party that Reagan created, that he envisioned.’’

The head of Americans for Tax Action and author of the infamous pledge under which senators and congressmen make a solemn blood oath never to raise taxes in any form also made it clear he wasn’t interested in any touchy-feely compromise with Democrats on the Bush tax cuts. He told Talking Points Memo:


I think the American people would look at anything that raised taxes from where they are today to be a tax increase…It is going to be clear that there are competing visions: One without a tax increase and one with a tax increase. And you either voted to raise taxes, let them lapse, or not to raise taxes — or replace a tax cut that disappeared, or not replace it.

In other words, as TPM wrote, “he’s slamming the door shut [on possible compromise solutions, putting] Republicans on notice that they’ll be expected to fight, this Congress and next, for complete extensions of the Bush tax cuts. It escalates a bitter fight between the parties…”

The late Steve Jobs once told publisher Rupert Murdoch that the principal differences in the US were not between Republicans and Democrats but between constructive and destructive political leaders.

Clearly Jeb Bush is trying to be the former, but you could put Norquist’s picture in the dictionary next to the latter.


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