Grover Norquist Calls George H.W. Bush A Liar

In an interview with ABC News this morning, Grover Norquist, the President of Americans for Tax Reform went after former President George H.W. Bush.

“When George Herbert Walker Bush ran for president, he promised the American people he wouldn’t raise their taxes,” Norquist said this morning on “This Week.” “He lied to them. He broke his commitment to them and they threw him out of office four years later.”

Bush famously said “Read my lips: no new taxes” during his 1988 campaign, before going on to raise taxes during his only term as president.

Norquist, the man famous for convincing a huge swath of congressional Republicans to pledge to not raise taxes, was responding to a jab from the former President Bush last month in an interview with PARADE magazine.

“The rigidity of those pledges is something I don’t like,” Bush said in the interview. “The circumstances change and you can’t be wedded to some formula by Grover Norquist. It’s – who the hell is Grover Norquist, anyway?”

These comments mark the growing split within the GOP between more pragmatic conservatives and those entirely ideologically driven. This gap has been papered over with Barack Obama in the White House as Republicans have been able to submerge their differences in opposition to the President. The problem for the GOP is what happens if Mitt Romney wins in November. Romney will then have to govern and take actions that will inevitably alienate part of his party—a task made more difficult by the fact that he is held in suspicion by members of each wing of the GOP. Eventually President Romney would have to align himself with either the Grover Norquists or the George H.W. Bushes of his party.

But a Romney administration is far from inevitable and in the meantime, Romney still has to navigate these pitfalls in order to even be elected. For all his avoidance of the press, one of those pitfalls will come soon when a reporter inevitably asks the former Massachusetts if he agrees with Norquist. It will be interesting to see how Romney answers that question.

Ben Jacobs

Ben Jacobs is a journalist living in New York. He is a former reporter for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and contributor to the Boston Globe editorial page. Follow him on Twitter @bencjacobs.