Alan Simpson and Grover Norquist Go to the Zoo

Grover Norquist, Alan Simpson and I spent a summer afternoon at the National Zoo. This is what I saw.

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Chris Buck for TIME

Alan Simpson and Grover Norquist, sans talking points, at the zoo.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  Yeah, it was a quote the other day.  I thought that’s the kind of stuff you pull up and I pull up.  They said is it tough, your work?  I said like giving dry birth to a porcupine.  They go, God, that’s disgusting.


SENATOR SIMPSON:  Yes.  I learned all those phrases when I worked with irrigators and they ruined my life.  But he is very sharp, very clever, very astute, did his homework.

MR. SCHERER:  Let me ask, you’re both talking about dialogue and compromise.  Is there any room, you think, for compromise?

SENATOR SIMPSON:  To me, it’s always the rule of compromise.  But to have people say I just don’t compromise on anything, those people are about as rigid as a fireplace poker but without the occasional warmth.

MR. NORQUIST:  Is this a Western thing?  Because I once spent a day with a guy from Alabama and we drove around and we did all these little radio shows on tax stuff.  And went from one to another.  And he must have had a hundred sayings along those lines and he never repeated himself.  I kept waiting to see whether he was on a continuous loop of some kind.  I didn’t know whether he was making them up or had a book of a thousand of them or just picked them up over time.  It was just — people in Boston don’t talk like that.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  And they don’t work in a hayfield with guys who are called irrigators either.


Who are just terribly profound people and very earthy and well, ugly.  No, they’re not. Where is Frankenstein?  Not there.

MR. NORQUIST:  He’s not out.

MR. SCHERER:  I saw one on the other side earlier.

MR. NORQUIST:  On the compromise stuff, one of the ways I’ve tried to frame it and explain to guys who say are you willing to compromise?  And I said yeah, the $2.5 trillion in spending restraint that we got out of the 2011 budget deal, grand bargain, was less than the $6 trillion in spending restraint we wanted in the Ryan plan.  So Ryan’s budget which Republicans all voted for in the House and in the Senate, but didn’t pass, didn’t pass in the Senate, was $6 trillion in spending cuts.  We settled for $2.5 trillion.  That’s a compromise.

I am all in favor of compromising on the road to liberty.  So if I want $2 in spending cuts and I can only get $1, that’s progress. It’s not treason.  I have to talk to my conservative, right of center friends all the time.  I say if we’re here in D.C. and we’re trying to go to California and we end up in Missouri, this isn’t treason.  Missouri is on the way to California.  But if your feet are wet and everyone around you is speaking French, you’re losing.  That’s not compromising.  You’re heading in the wrong direction.

So compromising, getting to a more free society slower than you’d like, that’s okay.  But moving in the wrong direction, backing up, I guess the football players fall back to throw the ball forward, that’s not necessarily a good idea.

[Further down, we approached the pen for the Komodo Dragon.]

MR. SCHERER:  Here’s the dragon.

MR. NORQUIST:  Oh yes, oh, my goodness.  Oh, for heaven’s sake.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  Oh, my lord, look at that baby.


MR. NORQUIST:  And that hole little thing is his ear?

SENATOR SIMPSON:  They are big, aren’t they?

MR. NORQUIST:  Did you see that movie, The Graduate or The Freshman where they try to eat the Komodo Dragon or pretend to eat one?

SENATOR SIMPSON:  They tried to do what?

MR. NORQUIST:  They pretend they’re going to eat a Komodo Dragon.

MR SCHERER:  Matthew Broderick was in it.

MR. NORQUIST:  Plays the freshman.  There’s a mobster played by Superman’s dad, Marlin Brando.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  I never saw that.

MR. NORQUIST:  The whole thing is they’ve got a group that pays a lot of money to eat endangered animals for dinner and they tell them they’re going to feed them a Komodo Dragon, but they feed them chicken.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  Tastes like chicken.

MR. NORQUIST:  Everything tastes like chicken.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  Remember Adolph Green, Betty Comdon and Adolph Green, he was a great comedian.  They did a show together.  He’s at a play, a boring, horrible play.  This guy in high drama said, I’ve been through life and I’ve tasted death.  He got up and said, “Tastes like chicken?”


MR. NORQUIST: On the compromising stuff, you and I argued once before on the immigration issue.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  Oh, we did.  Did I lay that on you at that time that you were involved with the sticker that said “Put this in water and put it on your wrist”?

MR. NORQUIST:  Oh, says the Simpson-Mazzoli little sticker, yes.


SENATOR SIMPSON:  I thought about it every night, this son of a bitch.

MR. NORQUIST:  I have some.  I should have brought them for you.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  I’ve been waiting for this opportunity.  Let me tell you, I kept some of them.

MR. NORQUIST:  Oh, good.  I have a bunch.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  Do you have a lot left over?  Now what about going to retina scans and fingerprints.  That’s where they’re headed now.

MR. NORQUIST:  I know, I know.  I’m not a big fan of that either.  On the compromise, I actually have worked with the Gang of Eight characters.  And that’s one where, I don’t know, there may be eight, ten moving parts on immigration reform.  And we don’t have as much in the way of a guest worker program as I’d like, H1Bs —

SENATOR SIMPSON:  That’s very important —

MR. NORQUIST:  — as big as I’d like.  STEM is not as big as I want.  But everything in there is generally a step in the right direction.

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