Jonathan Singer at MyDD writes about an interesting Washington Post article that claims, rather unconvincingly, that powerful and creepy anti-tax, anti-government activist Grover Norquist is losing influence due to his entanglement with criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Over the past six years, Norquist has been a key cheerleader and strategist for successive White House tax cuts, extracting ironclad oaths from congressional Republicans not to even think about tax increases. And even before President Bush's election, he positioned himself as a gatekeeper for supplicants seeking access to Bush's inner circle.On the other hand...
But in the aftermath of reports that Norquist served as a cash conduit for disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the irascible, combative activist is struggling to maintain his stature as some GOP lawmakers distance themselves and as enemies in the conservative movement seek to diminish his position.
"People were willing to cut him a lot of slack because he's done a lot of favors for a lot of people," said J. Michael Waller, a vice president of the right-leaning Center for Security Policy who for several years was an occasional participant at Norquist's Wednesday meetings. "But Grover's not that likable."
For now, Norquist's well-publicized financial links to Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty to corruption charges and is cooperating with prosecutors, have had little obvious impact on Norquist's prominence. Nor have they affected his signature event: the meeting every Wednesday morning at Americans for Tax Reform, where officials of conservative organizations, activists and lobbyists gather with Republican politicians to swap notes, make plans and coordinate messages. The June 28 meeting in downtown Washington was packed.There are some examples of Republicans gearing up opposition and staying away from his meetings, but until I hear Bush and Rove have turned their backs on him, I'm not impressed.
"I don't think he's lost one iota of influence in conservative circles," said Cesar Conda, a Republican lobbyist and a former top aide to Vice President Cheney.
...[T]he apparatus he has created for conservatives -- with fundraisers, social dinners and weekly meetings not just in Washington but in 43 states and even Europe -- has become too important to destroy.
"Grover supplies grass-roots power, which is why lobbyists want him on their side," said John Feehery, executive vice president of the Motion Picture Association of America. "He senses where he can get activists around the country riled. He's a master organizer on specific issues."
As for Wednesday mornings at ATR, Feehery added, "I still think it's still the place to be."
Now the overall tenor of the Weisman article is that Norquist's influence is diminishing, and to the extent that is true, Republicans are doing the right thing.Unfortunately, I think the plain truth is that most Americans still have absolutely no idea who Bush's dodgy pal Grover is, although I suspect if they were properly introduced, they would not find him very likable either. Any such introduction should include not only his Abramoff involvement, but also some selections from the Grover Norquist Quotation Hall Of Fame, like the one about drowning government in the bathtub, and the one about bipartisanship being date rape, and the one about how Democrats will be much more docile after they're neutered.
But the fact remains that top Republican lobbyists and activists continue to go to Norquist's meetings and pay homage to the corporatist leader enabling him to continue to wield at least some power in Washington. And Republicans' willingness to tolerate Norquist even after it has become clear that he was an integral player in Abramoff's power scheme serves as yet more proof that the Republicans have no intention whatsoever to change.
Certainly, Republicans will put out the word that they are sending Abramoff and Norquist out to pasture (there are a number of quotes to this effect in the Weisman piece, and the article, in and of itself, evidences and effort to undercut Norquist). But when push comes to shove, Republicans continue to welcome him as a key ally.
And while this might seem like a little too much insider baseball for most Americans to pay attention to, the fact that many Republicans continue to embrace on of Jack Abramoff's closest allies is plain enough for any voter to understand.
I hope the Democrats really do have plans to shine some light on this bearded cockroach, but I'm not going to hold my breath.