A Personal Ethical Challenge and Grover Norquist’s “Black Bag”

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Grover Norquist's Bag.jpg
I don’t keep a secret of the fact that Grover Norquist and his wife Samah are friends of mine — and I just had him in to speak at the New America Foundation on his new book, Leave Us Alone: Getting the Government’s Hands Off Our Money, Our Guns, Our Lives.
It’s an interesting, thoughtful, provocative book that progressives should read. Norquist is a major kingpin of Republican party politics — but he’s fighting against the nativism and bigotry in the party which I think is worth noting. Of course, he’s monomaniacally opposed to tax increases. And yes, I know his name percolates in the Abramoff files. Not my issue, at least not right now.
However, I find his book the antithesis of both the style and content of an Ann Coulter book.
Christopher Hayes of The Nation already has a post up that ties into the Norquist event today.

The personal ethical challenge I am having is that he just left his black bag here — full of binders, charts, strategy points, playbooks, schedules, all of that — possibly the Republican electoral game plan from his perspective. It even has a copy of the no new taxes, “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” that he got Stephen Colbert to swear loyalty to last night. (see above)
And I’m not going to go through Grover’s ‘black bag’.
Norquist’s messengers are on the way to pick it back up. But part of me thinks I should have called Jon Stewart and gone through Grover’s bag together on his show.
But no, not going to do it. . .not gonna. . .no. . .well. . .but then again, what would Karl Rove have done?
On another front, stay tuned to the “On Day One” effort by the Better World Campaign to ask a cross section of leaders what he or she would do on the first day of the next presidential administration. I did one of these on US-Cuba policy.
Grover Norquist did his video clip today and it should be up on their site soon.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

38 comments on “A Personal Ethical Challenge and Grover Norquist’s “Black Bag”

  1. Kathleen says:

    I’m wondering if Grover is in favor of the gov’t taking it’s nose out of a citizens’ gardens? Our right to plant any seed that occurs in nature is
    God-Given, not State-Given and technically cannot be taken away from any citizen, yet certain plants have been “criminalized” and growing those plants is cause tobe deprive of one’s liberty and property. We are free to kill our say you, oursleves with tobacco, while its growers become wealthy and they are even free to provide and distribute the lethal plant in convenient little packages, taxed by States and the Federal gov’t, but if we can’t prove that a criminalized plant can cure cancer., we go directly to jail. What say you, Grover? Or does the fact that tobacco growers contribute to the “right” politicians make it all okay, for the right plant?

    Reply

  2. weldon berger says:

    About the only thing I find funny in this is the Google Adwords spread at the top: “Have Grover’s Disease? Discover and compare alternative treatments now!” Fine advice, if you ask me.

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  3. Mr.Murder says:

    Steve,
    The mischief that could accomplished with the help of photoshop and your knowing, guarded smile….

    Reply

  4. bubba says:

    “Grover Norquist has a substantial degree of personal responsibility for the fleecing of America that has taken place under Bush. That he is unwilling to recognize that in the slightest is evidence that his program is a deceptive charade – even as I agree with much of the words that come from his mouth.”
    Yep. And those who befriend Norquist (and those similar to him) and willingly and openly call him “friend” are enablers of the near heinous acts performed by Norquist, Bush and the like. This goes beyond talking–it actually does go towards appeasing (to tie this to a current event). Appeasing these clowns for the better part of these past 15 years has gotten America and its future nowhere, well not nowhere, just deeper and deeper into shite. And such appeasing only allows them to live to raise their zombie like heads another day down the road to inflict further damage.

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  5. TokyoTom says:

    Steve, I’m with blueman and others.
    Talk is cheap – and what Norquist has succeeded spectacularly in doing over the past ten+ years is NOT smaller, “conservative” government, but a BIG, intrusive government that is dedicated to ripping us off for the benefit of corporate insiders, running our lives, leaving the world in a shambles and leaving all of us and our children holding the bag.
    That he has the chutzpah to even show his face in public is amazing, but that he can do it as if the Bush presidency, K Street corruption and Republican strong-arm gerrymandering and theft never happened – and that he has no responsibility for it – is simply more galling than I can stomach.
    Grover Norquist has a substantial degree of personal responsibility for the fleecing of America that has taken place under Bush. That he is unwilling to recognize that in the slightest is evidence that his program is a deceptive charade – even as I agree with much of the words that come from his mouth.
    He should be hiding under a very large rock, at least until he is willing to make some public mea culpas. Until then, his lack of honesty undermines his arguments for open, honest and limited government.
    His interview here with Nick Gillespie of Reason is very much like what he said to Reason staffers 11 years ago:
    http://www.reason.com/blog/show/126314.html
    http://www.reason.com/news/show/30147.html

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  6. blueman says:

    If Grover had any integrity he would long ago have broken with the mega-spending, outsourcing, criminal cabal that has controlled the country for the past eight years. It’s one thing to encourage low taxes, quite another to facilitate the destruction of good government. It’s hard to tell from your post what “good progressive ideas” Norquist is said to be promoting. Transparency? Anti-imperialism? Talk is cheap and his efforts have actually been dedicated to opposite purposes. He may have personal charm but, Steve, he’s been a tremendously destructive influence on the nation. Were he your friend, he would act differently.

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  7. Blue Steel says:

    Hey Steve, thanks for responding to my question. I agree that transparency is a laudable goal for government, but I hardly think Norquist is the first to suggest it. I’ve always been mystified why Dems didn’t rush to embrace the idea, though. It seems like something that would be an easy sell, and Dems could make political hay from the implementation of such a policy for years.
    At any rate, my question still stands. I appreciate your approach in looking into either camp (and I assume others outside the DemRepub label) for great ideas, and good people to discuss them with. But I would suggest that Norquist’s goal – taken to it’s final conclusion, is the United Corporations of the Americas, where people have transformed into corporate “assets”, government services such as HEW, FDA, SEC, etc. are outsourced, and the three branches of government have been transformed into a big boardroom with 27 people who look at the bottom line. This, I believe, is the ultimate goal of the libertarian/no tax/shrink government gang. And you must admit, we’re far closer to that reality than we were 8 years ago.
    So be friends with whomever you wish. Talk to anyone with good ideas. But I say – beware the tiger that wants to accompany you on your walk through the jungle…. because the tiger only listens to one thing.
    His stomach.

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  8. Robert M. says:

    Dear Steve, Oh dear.
    I can see if Norquist was a college-buddy from day one, and of course its important in your professional life to keep communication lines open to all Beltway factions, but for people like Norquist and His Ilk who’s policy positions have come to hurt large segments of our fellow citizens, and who’s public mean-spiritedness made others like Ann Coulter all too possible, there needs to be a line in the sand in terms of personal relationships.
    You indeed should be thoroughly familiar with ALL the Abramoff ties, just like you want to be up on Chalabi’s ties with Iran. Corruption is corruption. Norquist is the Wolfowitz of Domestic Policy.
    But I did get the bag joke and, yes, pawing through it with Stewart would have been memorable. But unlike Norquist, you did the honorable thing.
    Regards, Robert M.
    She’s toast (& I told you so), and now so is John McCain. Revolutionary Change.

    Reply

  9. bubba says:

    Wow. Steve. I thought your mancrushers were for the most part, harmless (McCanine, Hagel, etc.). But this. Yeesh. It is one thing to be close to those on both sides who may have strong opinions on certain issues but who also truly have open minds about working together with the opposition and finding common ground, even if it means giving up a little. But to be friends with someone who has been directly responsible for some pretty horrible and deceptive attacks on good people running for office just because such people do not agree with the anti-tax views of that someone, that is an entirely different matter. Norquist is one of the people in this country directly responsible for the really nasty decline in civility (for lack of a better word) between the parties and the people of this country, causing the huge rift we face today. He is directly responsible for the wide divide that you are trying to straddle and reduce. Incredible lack of judgment. I understand the motto keeping friends close and enemies closer, but to consider such a vicious man a friend really says a lot.

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  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    With food prices skyrocketing, obscene fuel prices, health care just for the rich, and costs rising acrost the board, these fuckers are saving me money by not raising my taxes?
    Gads, thanks alot. I really like throwing my money down the black hole of rising cost of living expenses, instead of contributing it to the maintainance of our infrastructure.
    Oh I forgot, my tax dollars no longer go for that purpose.
    So, lemme see if I have this right. My tax dollars are for killing Muslims, subsidizing Israel, and paying the wages of our criminal ruling class. And the rest of my money is for my gas tank.
    OK, I get it.

    Reply

  11. Steve Clemons says:

    bob h — thanks for your comments, but I disagree. i’m aware of
    numerous things Norquist has done in the public interest which are
    important and useful for progressives. I don’t expect those of you
    who have formed opinions on Norquist to change — but I’ve
    always been transparent that I work on both sides of the aisle, and
    my problem with the government today is US foreign policy,
    particularly in the Middle East. There, Norquist is a clear ally.
    best, Steve Clemons

    Reply

  12. bob h says:

    Norquist’s puerile thinking has done great damage to the country’s finances. The Republicans have accepted his “Starve the Beast” mantra, but the Beast just goes on borrowing when confronted by a shortfall in revenues.
    Norquist is a charlatan, and I am surprised you would call attention to any connection with him.

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  13. questions says:

    Carroll,
    You write, One of the things Americans have learned about DC is that it is full of Grovers and “ideas” and debaters……90% of whom are worthless power
    groupies, idealogues……
    The problem is that Norquist is more than a worthless groupie — he had a major hand in drafting the constitution we imposed on the Iraqis — it actually mandated a flat tax. A further problem is that the idea machines help shape public opinion over time. When the right pushes long enough, public discourse moves further to the right — all the way to the point that “centrist solutions” are actually pretty much right wing. The ability to change public discourse is a very powerful tool.

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  14. mtirder says:

    perhaps the time i spend with my conservative friend ( the one who, praise the lord, always thinks two pair will win any hand) is really not that much different from the time you spend with Grover.
    i dunno. just seems like i always end up feeling bad when i rush to judgement.
    mtrider

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  15. David says:

    “Mine, plus I’ll share because I couldn’t have generated any of my wealth without a whole social system geared towards creating and maintaining wealth.”
    That is the heart of the matter, and a point which seems to totally escape the Grover Norquists of the world (there are a lot of them, or he would have no influence). I’ve long thought the phrase “It’s your money” misses an important point, a point even more lost with “It’s my money.” Money as a private thing is absolutely worthless. And anyone who thinks the answer to the overriding problems facing the world’s societies is for government to essentially go away borders on pathologically simple-minded, no matter how intelligent the believer.
    It’s rather like all the denunciations of bureaucrats that call for doing away with the bureaucracies. Makes about as much sense as doing away with the medical profession because of instances of medical malpractice. Or the police department because of bad cops.
    Grover Norquist would do well to drown his notion of government in a bathtub. I am with him all the way in any of his calls for needed reform, including transparency. But his notion that government is the problem (cf. that great political simpleton Ronald Reagan)is what needs to be submerged in his now famous bathtub.
    I agree with Steve Clemons that we need to hear what people who see the world differently are saying, especially if they represent an influential group. I want to know what they are up to, what they believe, and how they can believe what they do. When I call them nuts, I want it to be an authoritative denunciation of their misguided ideologies.

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  16. Rowan Berkeley says:

    I imagine that this is just a side-show, compared with the fact that being friends with Nir Rosen is likely to get you tarred, feathered, and run out of DC on a rail. That is, if you or anyone else takes Nir Rosen seriously – if he isn’t just a tacitly tolerated safety valve that never leads to trouble for the big boys.

    Reply

  17. Steve Hunt says:

    Just so long as you aren’t friends with Paul Jacob, it’s all good!

    Reply

  18. Carroll says:

    “But part of me thinks I should have called Jon Stewart and gone through Grover’s bag together on his show.”
    You should start listening to that better part of yourself.

    Reply

  19. Carroll says:

    One of the things Americans have learned about DC is that it is full of Grovers and “ideas” and debaters……90% of whom are worthless power
    groupies, idealogues,and self styled intellectuals promoting themselves with crackpot theories and plans.
    Orwellington DC is a circus and freak show solely for the benefit of the DC circus members and financied by a select group of fellow feaks.
    Please…BWTTGASO

    Reply

  20. Tim O says:

    Devil (whispers): Go ahead Steve! Take a peek, no one will know! You know you want too!
    Angel (sweetly): Stephen, what would your dear old Granny say? Remember the Golden rule! Tie it up with string and give it back right away!
    Devil (more forceful): You momma’s boy! Don’t listen to that wimp! Start scanning that stuff and get it on the net! You’ll be a hero to those bleeding heart commies over at DailyKos!
    Angel (shocked): OH NO! Grover’s your friend! Even though he wants to drown government in the bathtub, and starve the poor, he must have SOME good qualities! Maybe he’s nice to animals, or at least his wife.
    Devil(losing his mind): I CAN’T BELIEEEEVE YOU’RE LISTENING TO THIS CRAP! EVENTHOUGH I AGREE WITH GROVERS PHILOSOPHY, HE DESERVES A LITTLE HARDSHIP IN HIS PAMPERED LIFE! GO FOR IT STEVIE!
    Good little Stephen ties off the bag and calls up Grover.
    Devil Explodes and exits.
    Angel smiles sweetly and Grover says to himself, “Sucker! I would have rifled through the bag in a second!”
    Good for you Steve!

    Reply

  21. rapier says:

    Steve, you should do what Grover would do. Call up some ratf#&^er to come over and make some copies. I suppose your not really on a first name basis with the Roger Simon’s of the world like Grover is.

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  22. questions says:

    I tend to think that the biggest problem with the no government/no taxes people is that they tend to think that Locke’s notion of property applies despite the insupportability of that notion. It’s one thing to say the apple you pick is yours and ought not to be taken from you; it’s quite another to go further and suggest that the labor of your servants can easily be alienated from them and taken; and it’s even worse to see Locke add in a money economy so that there is absolutely no limit on accumulation.
    I find it even more unsettling to see the almost spiritual relationship between the product of labor and one’s soul for Locke. The attachment to MINE is really beyond my understanding. I can see, mine plus of course I’ll share because maybe one day I’ll need help; or Mine, plus I’ll share because you’re a suffering sentient being; or even, Mine, plus I’ll share because I couldn’t have generated any of my wealth without a whole social system geared towards creating and maintaining wealth. But MINE and I have no obligation to share no matter what is over the top. Governmental taxation solves free rider problems, guarantees that help is available widely and without discrimination, encourages planning and stability, and ensures that very very large projects can be undertaken. It’s not such a big deal to pay taxes, and it’s not an insult to your very being. Labor isn’t your essence, it’s just a thing you do.

    Reply

  23. Steve Clemons says:

    mtrider — no matter the circumstance, glad to see you on TWN.
    come by and post more often.
    best,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  24. mtrider says:

    i rarely (read never) post comments on blogger sites. I always figure you other guys are much smarter than me- so why say something that has already been assumed by 95% of the readership. this post, however, put me over the top- the influence of grover norquist and his ilk has, in my opinion, caused much hardship, pain, and years ( decades ?) of rebuilding for the majority of the wage earners in this country.
    you say you count him as a friend. ok. so, once again it appears i have been the fool.
    maybe i really will quit my poker game with my republican/conservative friends(?) this month.
    yet again, perhaps i should not be so hasty, after all, they honestly dont know the stakes.
    if you know what i mean.
    mtrider

    Reply

  25. ringo says:

    cute post

    Reply

  26. Steve Clemons says:

    Blue Steel — one of the things I have learned in DC is that both sides are prone to hyperbole and their are rational folks on both sides of the aisle who can discuss approaches to reasonable government. I think Grover Norquist’s book has many ideas in it that progressives may find interesting and useful — like the transparency initiative he has been pushing and which Dem and Republican governors have been instituting. I’m not into guns, but I am into transparency. He’s on our side regarding the idiocy of empire-hugging, and in that there is something and someone to work with.
    The country is divided and conservatives tend to talk to conservatives, and the same is true for liberals. I believe in having a foot in both camps and promoting discussion and civil debate when I can.
    I’m crashing on some projects and am out of time, but I wanted to respond to your reasonable question and suggest that this was not a waste at all.
    best, steve clemons

    Reply

  27. Blue Steel says:

    Here’s the thing, Steve. Having friends is one thing. Reading his book that seems to be well reasoned is fine as well.
    But why would you take any advice on how to run a government from someone who hates government? For that matter – why would anyone vote Republican when what they want to do is shrink government (also known as mismanage and outsource it) so that it is small enough to “drown in a bathtub”?
    At least listen to Dems agruments – they want it to be run correctly and efficiently. But listening to adivce on governing from the “anti-government” guy just seems like a waste…

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  28. FaceOnMars says:

    Remember the episode of the Brady Bunch where Gregg left a phony playbook in their living room so Marsha’s boyfriend (who was on the rival football team) would snag the book filled with erroneous information?

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  29. andrew says:

    …and in the video, he used the phrase “enhanced liberty”. That’s positively Orwellian, and rather frightening. this is the kind of rhetoric we’re going to see coming out of the McCain campaign, clearly.
    Burn the black bag, Steven. For the sake of all that is Holy.

    Reply

  30. andrew says:

    I find the title of his book “leave us Alone…” more than slightly off-putting.
    Norquist is nothing short of disgusting in his Money, Guns, Life…um… Gestalt.
    And he just came out hyping McCainiac to Newsmax.
    With friends like him…
    I certainly hope you vote for Obama in Noveember, Steven. My goodness.

    Reply

  31. Kathleen says:

    The current standard deduction is $5,500 for a single person. Do you know anyone who can survive on that? I’d rather take people off the tax rolls until they earn more than a livable income and reduce wasteful spending. Why should people who earn less than what it costs to stay alive be paying for Congressional raises and perks? Why is it we can always afford tax cuts for the wealthiest but have spazz attacks if the poorest get an extra crumb? As for the 40% of filers who manage to not have a tax liability, I’ll bet they aren’t all poor but rather more clever about their loopholes. In any case, if Congress needs a cost of living increase every year, so do the people paying their salaries. How many do I want to take off the tax rolls? How ever many are earning less than a livable income. Besides, if the standard deduction is raised, even the wealthiest benefit. The difference is that the it isn’t JUST the wealthy.

    Reply

  32. Greg P says:

    LOL. I actually have a bad dream recently about losing my BlackBerry on the DC metro. Same deal – it would be like being inside my mind.

    Reply

  33. JohnH says:

    Though Norquist is maniacally opposed to tax increases, I bet that he never targets the biggest and most profligate government enterprise of all: the Department of Defense, which spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined.
    Why won’t he state the obvious–DOD is massively wasting taxpayers money? The federal operating deficit today is roughly equivalent to DOD spending. The only way to reduce it is for DOD (and Homeland Security) to be seriously downsized, prioritizing their missions, and making them efficient. The alternative is to continue borrowing from China and siphoning funds from the Social Security Fund. (I’m almost certain Norquist advocates curtailing retirement benefits, so DOD can continue looting Social Security. Some solution!)
    If Norquist doesn’t address the DOD problem, then his book is nothing more than BS.

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  34. Myself says:

    Grover left a bag full of disinformation with you, HOPING that you
    WOULD go through it.

    Reply

  35. Grover's Schill says:

    Exactly how many people do you want to take off the tax rolls, Kathleen? According to the Treasury Department, the bottom half of households only pay 3.1% of all income taxes.
    About 40% of all filers don’t even have a tax liability.

    Reply

  36. Kathleen says:

    Is Norquist interested in cutting taxes from the bottom up or is he only concerned with helping the rich? The standard deduction hasn’t been raised since 1980. It should be indexed to the cost of living and raised annually, like Congressional pay is to keep apace with the cost of living.

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  37. Steve Clemons says:

    thanks for your note janinsanfran. i’m often told that i’m not good at humor — but seriously, how often does a major republican political player leave his bag in a blogger’s office. i had to post it.
    thanks much — but i’m still having some fun over it.
    best, steve

    Reply

  38. janinsanfran says:

    Not funny, dude. Norquist is an apologist for the style of government that lets New Orleans drown. He has a right to his opinions — but he should risk getting a pie in the face, minimally, when he dares take them out in public.

    Reply

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