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:  No, I’m just saying he would be irrelevant in two years and he may last longer than that.  He’s a very persistent guy.  But no, I just say he’s wandering the earth in his robes.  I have said that.  That he has a mysterious influence on people.  Then he says it’s not me, it’s their constituents who they made the promise to.  That’s a beautiful thing.

MR. NORQUIST:  You got it, you got it.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  He says it’s not me, I have no power.

MR. NORQUIST:  The pledge is written to their constituents.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  Pull out the Patriot Act and Grover, it says if you intimidate or coerce the Congress, you violate the Patriot Act.  I haven’t pulled that one out yet.  No need to go further with that.  But anyway —

MR. NORQUIST:  The good news is the pledge is to the people of their state and to the American people.  It says it right on the pledge.  And as a result people tend to keep it.  In Virginia, some people broke their pledge and several of them just lost an election at the state legislative level.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  What do you think of that?  Why?  Why did they lose?

MR. NORQUIST:  People don’t like being fibbed to.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  But they have to be energized first.  Do you know that this man — I keep the pledge on my wall and this man violated — I didn’t know that.  I didn’t know he had signed the damn thing.  Well, he did.  And now you’re supposed to energize yourself and go and destroy him in the name of his constituents.  Well, it works.  Works very well.  And then he comes off without a single piece of blood on his hands, no shred.


. . .

MR. NORQUIST:  Speaking gently to the American people to remind them that the guy over there is trying to steal their money.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  He’s called a gentle, interaction with constituents, like  a full-page ad.  Here’s what herky jerky signed.  Do you remember Jarvis?  You must have gone to school on Jarvis?

MR. NORQUIST:  Jarvis, oh yes.  Howard Jarvis.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  He asked me, I don’t know if he asked me to sign that when I was in a primary in ’78 and everybody in Wyoming said you better sign that.  I had to go hunt him down in Afton, Wyoming.  I never got over the feeling of going to see him because my opponent had already embraced what he was doing and other people said Jesus, you have no choice  Well, I was a green pea.  It was in ’78.  And I went and sat with him and told him how conservative I was on that.  Honestly, but I felt unclean and I signed up.

MR. NORQUIST:  What was the issue he was working, (inaudible) or something else?

SENATOR SIMPSON:  No, Jarvis was the guy from California who put in the thing about property tax which now is really kind of screwed up in California with regard to getting education money and so on.  Because I think the lid is still on as to how much property tax.  That was it.  Do you remember?  It was about your real estate.

MR. NORQUIST:  It limited the tax rate and the assessments could only increase two percent a year.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  That was right.

MR. NORQUIST:  Florida does it better.  They do — they don’t worry about assessments and rates.  They just say the total bill can only increase 3 percent a year.  You can jimmy it by changing the rates or the assessments and they just say the amount of money they charge.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  The only thing about it, I was always asked to sign things about abortion and gay rights and I never did.

MR. NORQUIST:  No, no, you should never do it.  There’s only one pledge.

MR. SCHERER:  And Grover, you must have approached him, right?

MR. NORQUIST:  At some point, probably.

MR. SCHERER:  Did he ever approach you to sign the pledge?  He must have at some point, right?

SENATOR SIMPSON:  His range is like an eagle’s wings.  And you see the shadow over your campaign.  Grover is out here again.  His people, and you say oh, Jesus.


And he’s there, but I learned after Jarvis, I never felt comfortable, never did it again on anything and I’ve been accused — then you’re accused of being squishy.  I say abortion is a terrible thing, but it’s a deeply intimate and personal decision.  Gay/lesbian, we all have somebody we know or love who is gay or lesbian.  And I think when you sign something before you’ve heard the debate or listened to anything or heard testimony, I think that’s a real mistake.

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