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Grover Norquist speaks at CPAC 2011.
The pied piper of Republican anarchy
Someone is going to have to explain to me again why noted anarchist tax-troll Grover Norquist wields more apparent influence in Republican thinking than any actual elected politician or other government official. He's a troll, and he's trolling, because that's what he does.

Some of his new bluster on the "fiscal cliff" and debt ceiling, however, is beginning to sound positively Rovian:

“Obama will be on a very short leash, fiscally speaking, over the next four years,” he said. “He’s not going to have any fun at all, he may just have to go blow up small countries he can’t pronounce because it won’t be any fun to be here, because he won’t be able to spend the kind of cash he was hoping to.”
Oh, take that, Mr. President! You see, because you like to spend cash! You will be reduced to invading places like Grenada as our great leader Ronald Reagan did, but you will mispronouncing those places for some reason! Ha ha, scoundrel, I have vanquished you!

Fine, whatever, Brain Trust. Knock yourself out with that. Grover's advice to Republicans, however, seems to be just as silly. Will Republicans notice that, or will Grover be able to keep them on that short leash?

“Republicans have three tools,” he said. “One: the sequester. The Democrats fear sequester more than Republicans because it actually reins in spending.”
Not really. In case Grover hasn't noticed, the last Republican administrations have botched the spending side of things considerably when compared to the Democrats, so he's getting a bit confused as to which side likes "spending" more. And it's the defense contractors, more than of the much weaker groups on the Democratic side, that are raising holy hell over the sequester. I'm not saying it will be all roses and sunshine for Democratic programs if the sequester goes through, but you'd have to be pretty dense to not notice that it's Republicans, not Democrats, showing up on the TV and making all the pronouncements of imminent doom if those budget cuts that the Republicans previously stomped their foot and demanded actually go through.
Next, he said, is the upcoming debt ceiling vote.

“It will have to come up every month or so as Obama keeps hitting that ceiling,” Norquist said of the nation’s borrowing limit. “Republicans can raise it a little or a lot, or for a month or for six months. That gives them discipline as it did in 2011 to require spending restraint.”

Or the administration could just say screw you, refuse to negotiate, and leave the Republicans to either shut down the government or stop holding the debt ceiling hostage. It's not just the general public that is blaming the Republicans on this issue—the markets are taking notice too. You know, the people with money. There's no part of the Republican donor base that wants to see the economy repeatedly bludgeoned on a month-by-month basis, and past debt ceiling hostage-taking hasn't done a damn thing to institute "discipline." Republicans' major victory last time around, the commissioning of yet another "blue ribbon panel" backed by a "sequester," is the exact same thing they're moaning about now as being intolerable.

And if you're announcing in advance that you intend to take the national budget hostage on a monthly basis, exactly how does that make the other side want to work with you the first time you do it? If it's just going to keep happening, forever, screw it—you've just made Obama's decision easy. Close up shop, as the Clinton administration did, and wait for Newt, I mean Boehner, to be gutted like a fish by his own party.

Norquist cited other budget fights from earlier in this legislative session, as examples of how Republicans have fended off spending increases — the third tool the GOP can use.

“Because the Senate doesn’t do its job, because Harry Reid plays politics instead of governing, they haven’t got a budget,” he said. ‘They do a continuing resolution … they still have to vote to allow that money to be spent, which means the House of Representatives has to agree to continue the budget. What they did in 2011, for about a month or two, they said, ‘We’ll extend the continuing resolution for a few weeks if you save four billion dollars.’

So long as the other side plays along, sure. But now that you've broadcast eternal war, forever, on the subject, there's no reason for the other side to play along. The Republicans are going to refuse to fund government for yet another span of yet another few weeks? Fine, close down the government again. The outcome—Republicans being tarred and feathered in the streets by the defense community, the Wall Street community, every other government contractor, their own constituents, and so on—increasingly sounds like something that would be better for the economy and the nation than playing the hostage game on every issue. It's not a pleasant thought, but the Norquist version is, for anyone with a vested interest in the actual long-term economy, far, far more unpalatable.

The problem with Norquist's screw-everything strategy is that the harder line he and his fellow corporate anarchists take, the easier it is for the administration and the Democrats to simply refuse. The Norquist strategy is to threaten the functions and stability of government, repeatedly, in order to defund whatever smaller parts of government his own personal little ideology demands. He may be quite happy to see that sort of thing actually happen, but if the administration were to actually call the bluff, there's not a lot of national Republicans out there who could weather the resulting storm. Or are willing to.

Norquist is bluffing. The only question is whether he knows it.


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