Norquist Calls Congressman's Criticism a 'Cheap Stunt'

Grover Norquist isn’t shy about slamming critics of his anti-tax crusade. But in one instance, at least, he says he may have gone too far.

Peter King, the Long Island congressman, said the other day that he considered The Pledge—the vow that most Republican lawmakers have made to Norquist not to support tax hikes—to be binding for only one session of Congress. Whereupon the head of Americans for Tax Reform said of King that he hopes “his wife understands that commitments last a little longer than two years.”

“Perhaps I should have cut him some slack on that because he said something stupid” while appearing on television to talk about Libya, Norquist tells me in a video interview. “He knows perfectly well the pledge is for as long as you’re in Congress. For him to suggest there’s an expiration date is irritating…I consider that a real cheap stunt.”

Okay, maybe he’s not that sorry.

Norquist is in the midst of an extraordinary media blitz, appearing on one television show after another now that a number of GOP senators are saying they could break the pledge and support a budget deal with the White House that raises revenues as well slashes spending. Norquist dismisses this as “the same six people they interviewed two years ago saying they might raise taxes…This is turning in last year’s homework again.”

I kept asking why he, a somewhat nerdy numbers guy, was such a media star, but Norquist deflected the questions. First he claimed that Harry Reid, during last year’s debt-ceiling fight, said that Republicans were willing to raise taxes “except Grover won’t let them. Me?” Then he likened himself to Ralph Nader, “Mr. Consumer,” as the public face of a movement. When the members of Congress who actually write the laws are busy, he says, “I’ll do.”

So how does Norquist keep up with it all? He says he got up at 4 a.m. to read his backlog of e-mails.