Monday, June 12, 2006

Voices: Small-Govt. Conservative Rues Bush Years

ABC News
Voices: Small-Govt. Conservative Rues Bush Years
Grover Norquist Says His Drive to Cut the Size of Government Was Going Well -- Until Bush and the GOP Took Over

June 11, 2006 — - ABC News' George Will goes one-on-one with Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, on the Republican party's stance on spending and taxes.

George Will: Your aim was to cut in half the size of government relative to the size of the economy. That's not going so well.

Grover Norquist: We were doing very well from 1994 up until 2000.

Will: Until Republicans took the White House back?

Norquist: Yes, actually. And I think there are a couple of challenges. One, when you have a Republican House, Senate and president, they think that the other guys are keeping an eye on things. At least when Clinton was in the White House, the Republicans would not let Clinton have his spending, Clinton would not let the Republicans have their favorite spending, and you had a Mexican standoff where people kept an eye on each other. They are not policing spending as they need to in D.C.

Will: Under this administration, the last six years, the number of registered lobbyists in Washington has doubled. Why have lobbyists sprouted like dandelions under a conservative regime in Washington?

Norquist: Because spending has gone up too much. If you put a cake, a birthday cake under the sink, you will get cockroaches. Okay? And there's no point in saying, "Well, we'll build walls against the cockroaches," or, "We'll make the cockroaches fill out paperwork and tell us what they're doing." Okay? Remove the cake from under the sink.

Will: You're not calling lobbyists cockroaches.

Norquist: No. I'm drawing an analogy here.

Will: You have called the conservative movement the "leave us alone coalition" of people who want the government to go away. But there's this enormous social conservative group that wants to change the laws on marriage, and on abortion, and prayer in schools, and display of religious symbols. That doesn't sound like leaving people alone. Is this a fundamental incompatibility in the movement?

Norquist: No. But people do look at the traditional values wing of the party, or part of the party, and say, "They must be wanting to impose their values on the rest of society. They must be like the environmentalists that want to make everybody separate the green glass from the brown glass on Thursdays, or make your toilets too small to flush, or make your cars too small to have people in." Actually, if you look at the voting patterns of the traditional values conservatives Republicans, what they want -- it's a parents-rights movement -- they want to practice their faith, they want to raise their kids. If you ask them, do they think other people should do X, Y or Z, they do. Do they vote on that issue when they vote for candidates? Actually, they don't.

Will: Looking ahead to 2008, [it's] probably fair to say the frontrunner for the Republican nomination is John McCain, who you have accused of Caesarism in his approach to leadership, and [you] have called him "completely unstable."

Norquist: What McCain has done is flip-flopped on the gun issue, on the tax issue. He used to be a Reagan Republican on taxes. He's voted against every one of President Bush's tax cuts. He voted for the first one before he voted against it, but he's voted against all of them.

He's flip-flopped back and forth not because of where the American people are, but because of where the cameras are. And the challenge there, as an elected official who is -- the phototropism of going to the cameras is very damaging, from a conservative perspective, because that's unlikely to lead to conservative governance.