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.

MR. NORQUIST:  On many of those other issues, you’re right.  On taxes, no.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  Well, I believe I disagree on that.  You wouldn’t —

MR. NORQUIST:  You can be flexible on lots of issues.

MR. SCHERER:  If it wasn’t for Grover, you think George H.W. Bush could have won reelection?  You came after him pretty hard.  A lot of the conservatives came after him pretty hard.

MR. NORQUIST:  The American people came after him pretty hard.

MR. SCHERER:  Over taxes, and that was a tax deal you were involved in.

MR. NORQUIST:  He just won the Cold War, okay?  He managed the collapse of the Soviet Union.  He drove Iraq out of Kuwait without getting stuck occupying the place for a decade.  He had a phenomenal record and he shot one bit hole in the belt, the tax hike, and he lost.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  But you know how it happened, too.

MR. NORQUIST:  The tax hike?

SENATOR SIMPSON:  You know how it happened?

MR. NORQUIST:  Which piece of it?

SENATOR SIMPSON:  What Gingrich’s role was.  Let me tell you this and Dole and I went all over the country telling this and boy, Newtie didn’t like it.  Now you know Dole is a pretty calm guy.


SENATOR SIMPSON:  Remember when Newtie rose to the top?


SENATOR SIMPSON:  Dole really came in, do you remember that?  He said no, no, not this guy.  Now this is the last two minutes.  We go to Andrews Air Base.  Republicans only, House and Senate, and they put together two-year budgeting.  They put together a tax increase.  They put together this, this, and this, all of it which would have been to dig us out of the biggest hole and there were House members there, Army, and they went and they said we need revenue.  And they went to Bush and said guess what, we need revenue.  And Bush said guess what, if I do that after “read my lips,” I’m history.  And they said yeah, but we can get the votes to do it.  Will you all take the pledge?  Will you all join here at the edge of the cliff?  Yes, yes, we will.

MR. NORQUIST:  Including Gingrich?

SENATOR SIMPSON:  Everybody, everybody.  First, it went to the Senate.  Dole said okay, guys, here it is.  This is true reform of the government.  And the vote was about 67 to 30 something.  Democrats — it went to the House and Newtie got up and said when I was a member of the group, I voted for this package, but I’ve been thinking so hard.  But as an individual member, now I’m going to vote against it.  And he took with him to the glee of Stark and Berman and every other Democrat said man, this is the end of George.  And boy, I watched Newt do that and let me tell you, none of us ever forgot what he did.

And go look at the roll call vote on that one.  Every Democrat gleefully just voted for it and about 30 or 40 Republicans and down went Bush and then three weeks later, they passed a watered-down version which shouldn’t help America at all.  Now that’s what happened.  I never forgot it.  Neither did Dole.

MR. NORQUIST:  Yeah, because when he ran for President again, he signed the pledge.


MR. NORQUIST:  When Dole ran for President the second time, he made the commitment on the pledge, but he didn’t in ’88 which CBS said was why he lost.  He felt it was why he didn’t make it in New Hampshire.


MR. NORQUIST:  Yes.  But he did take the pledge when he ran in ’96.

SENATOR SIMPSON:  The Kool-Aid or the pledge?

MR. NORQUIST:  The pledge.

At this point, we reached the lions, and the conversation continued for another half hour or so.

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