Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist has a flair for vivid, even macabre verbal imagery as he lays out his long-term plan to drastically reduce the size of government.
In a lunchtime interview with Washington Post editors and reporters Wednesday, the prominent conservative activist called a Virginia Republican state senator an "evil thug" for supporting a statewide tax increase. He likened his own strategy toward some political opponents to the historical practice at the Tower of London of displaying traitors' severed heads on pikes. And he compared one aspect of Sen. John F. Kerry's tax proposals to a divide-and-conquer tactic used by Chicago multiple murderer Richard Speck.
Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform, which has persuaded politicians, including President Bush, to sign a pledge never to raise taxes. The stocky, bearded, bespectacled Norquist is also a director of the National Rifle Association and of the American Conservative Union.
Taking a break from other activities at the Republican National Convention, Norquist spoke in a confident, rapid-fire manner as he outlined his group's goal to reduce the size of government, as a share of the economy, by one-half over the next 25 years. A principal tactic is working to defeat Republican politicians, as well as Democrats, who vote to raise taxes.
Norquist gloated about what he said was a victory on Tuesday evening in Virginia. Republicans in Virginia's 2nd Congressional District chose Thelma Drake, an anti-tax state delegate from Norfolk, to run for the U.S. House of Representatives -- and rejected a bid for the nomination by Kenneth W. Stolle, a state senator from Virginia Beach.
Stolle was anathema to Norquist because he voted in the spring to support a statewide tax increase championed by Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner. Norquist said his group had sent letters and talked to Republicans in lobbying against Stolle, whom he called "the evil thug tax increaser." He said it was a first blow against Warner: "first blood, first blood Warner."
Norquist added, "That was one example of how you do not get promoted, it stunts your political growth to have been a tax increaser." He said he was preparing a poster for distribution in Virginia later this month identifying state legislators who supported the tax increase as targets for retirement or defeat.
"You know how they used to put heads on those little pikes as you went into London Tower," to make the point that it's "a bad thing" to raise questions about who should be king, Norquist said. Now, he said, the purpose is to say, "don't be raising taxes, it's a bad thing."
Norquist also employed a gruesome metaphor in criticizing the Kerry proposal, also backed by former president Bill Clinton, to raise taxes of just the wealthiest Americans. Norquist said he prefers a single tax rate that affects everyone, because then everyone is united in resisting them.
He then recalled how Speck, in 1966, killed eight student nurses in Chicago. Kerry's tax proposal represents "the Richard Speck theory of tax increases, that if you can't take on everybody in the room at once, you take them out of the room one at a time. Our goal is to say, we're not leaving the room one at a time, you got to deal with us all at once," Norquist said.