It truly is springtime for Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) a group that has been in the forefront of the libertarian goal of de-funding the U.S. government. Finally, thanks to ATR's fellow travelers in the White House, his objective has almost been achieved. The baby is drowning in the bathtub and the beast is starving, to paraphrase Norquist's many colorful metaphors for the federal government's impending bankruptcy, and the cotton (And the deficit) is high.
As if that great accomplishment weren't enough, another of his non-profits "The Reagan Legacy Project," (RRLP) which according to its web site, "is dedicated to promoting the legacy of President Ronald Reagan's leadership by working toward one significant monument named after him in each of America's 50 states, as well as some dedication in every county in America," has finally got the country's attention.
After a full week of the mainstream media lauding the accomplishment's of the dearly departed "great communicator" in a wall to wall, around the clock, cult of personality extravaganza even Joseph Stalin would be embarrassed by; Grover is all over the news, plugging his idea of getting Alexander Hamilton off the $10 bill. CNN reports, "Norquist... has already had discussions with treasury secretary John Snow and senior White House staff about the idea, and found no opposition." Ground breaking for the Reagan memorial on the National Mall, a long time dream, surely can't be far behind.
Dark Clouds on the horizon
But all may not be well in Groverland. Franklin Foer an associate editor at The National Review, has quoted one former intelligence official saying CIA and FBI counter-terrorism agents are "pissed as hell about Grover," because of his connections to some dubious characters associated with terrorists who have over a period of years gained access to the White House through his cozy relationship with the Bush administration.
In 1998 Norquist was the founding chairman of the Free Market Institute, better known as the Islamic Institute, an organization that promoted conservative core values to Arab-Americans and then sought to sign them up as Republicans. Because he saw their conservative religious values as a possible vote getter, (He has claimed "American Muslims look like members of the Christian Coalition.") he touted them to Karl Rove his old school buddy, who was very receptive, as then Texas Governor Bush's political adviser.
When Bush got into office Norquist had an "in." Paul Weyrich, a long time republican activist, has said "just like [administration officials] ask my advice on inviting religious figures to the White House; they rely on Grover's help [with Muslims]."
No one is accusing Norquist of aiding terrorists, of course, but you really have to question his judgment. David Horowitz, the well-known right-winger, wrote in a damning essay about this undue influence with the Bush people, that the "exposure" of some of his acquaintances "as agents of terrorism" has not "resulted in noticeable second thoughts on Grover's part or any meaningful effort to dissociate himself from his unsavory friends."
The Washington Post reports Abdurahman Alamoudi one of those "unsavory friends," a prominent leader of Northern Virginia's Muslim community, that worked closely with Norquist and provided seed money for the Institute, is currently sitting in a federal prison after being arrested in 2003 on charges of "money laundering, fraud and illegal travel in his relationships with the government of Moammar Qaddafi."
On June 11th the Post broke the story that Alamoudi was involved in a plot to assassinate Crown Prince Abd Allah of Saudi Arabia at the behest of Qaddafi.
Frank J.Gaffney Jr., a former senior Reagan Defense Department official and now President of the Center for Security Policy in Washington, has been very critical of Grover's efforts in promoting and defending his Muslim friends and is now in the middle of a very nasty dispute with his former comrade in arms.
Gaffney has been "uninvited" from the 115 member "Wednesday Group" a conservative get together, because as Grover says "there is no room for bigotry in the movement." He also asserted that Gaffeny was "rude to Muslims and made faces at them" at their meetings.
The great crime Mr. Gaffney committed was authoring an incendiary denunciation of Norquist's associates saying, "The growing influence of this operation -[The Islamic Institute] and the larger Islamist enterprise principally funded by Saudia Arabia - has created a strategic vulnerability for the nation, and a political liability for its President."
Bizarrely, part of the reason the right wing are up in arms against Norquist is due to his undying opposition to the Patriot Act. He is a regular at People For the American Way rallies, and his work against government racial profiling and secret evidence goes back to the Clinton administration.
On September 11th 2001 a group of Muslim leaders were to meet president Bush at the White House to express displeasure on the contentious issue, but instead wound up meeting at Norquist's offices after they were turned away, for obvious reasons.
Despite his doubtless noble intentions regarding the preservation of our constitutional republic, I remember the first time that I ever heard of Grover Norquist in the late nineties. I was listening to NPR's Diane Rehm show and the subject of discussion was his advocacy of building a monument to the still living Ronald Reagan on the National Mall. I, the callers and the e-mailers were beside themselves.
One caller had the audacity to question Norquist's background and funding, at which point he went ballistic. He accused Diane Rehm's audience of being all liberals and refused to answer any more questions.
Now I see why. Why doesn't the Bush administration?