WASHINGTON -- Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, responded to President George H.W. Bush's slight on him and his work on Friday, saying Bush lost his bid for a second term because the American people "really don't like when politicians lie to them."
"The rigidity of those pledges is something I don't like," Bush said. "The circumstances change and you can’t be wedded to some formula by Grover Norquist. It's -- who the hell is Grover Norquist, anyway?"
Bush actually signed Norquist's pledge in 1987. Then at the 1988 Republican National Convention, he famously said, "Read my lips: No new taxes." But Bush broke his pledge in a spending compromise with congressional Democrats, and the issue was used by Democrats against him in his reelection campaign.
"He didn't lose this election because he lied to me, he lost the next election because he didn't keep his word to the American people," said Norquist in an interview with The Huffington Post.
Norquist took exception to Bush's focus on him, stressing that the pledge is a commitment to the public.
Referencing a HuffPost headline showing different characters named "Grover," Norquist said, "The key thing: The pledge is not to Grover Cleveland, it's not to Grover the furry monster, it's not to Grover Norquist. It's to the American people."
"I think he was buying into the Harry Reid argument recently that somehow the pledge is to me," Norquist said. "Now he knows better than that ... He gave a speech at the Republican convention. He didn't turn to the side and say, 'By the way, Grover, I won't raise taxes.' He said to the American people, I'm not going to raise your taxes, take that to the bank."
ATR is circulating a 1992 quote by Bush in which the former president seemed to express regret for cutting the tax deal with Democrats.
Norquist attributed the difference to a lapse in memory and time.
"It was 22 years ago. Let's give the guy some slack," he said. "He had an otherwise successful presidency ... He got Iraq out of Kuwait without occupying the place for a decade -- he ought to have a conversation with his son about how you do that. But he had one big hole in the bottom of the boat, and that was a tax increase."
The former president isn't the only member of his family who has dismissed the Norquist pledge. "The pledge was presented to me three times. I never signed the pledge," said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, son of George H.W. Bush. "I cut taxes every year I was governor. I don’t believe you outsource your principles and convictions to people. I respect Grover’s political involvement. He has every right to do it, but I never signed any pledge."
Still, Norquist said he doesn't resent George H.W. Bush for not sticking to his signed promise.
"The reason why Republicans today take the pledge and keep it is they have the example of George Bush winning the primary because he made that commitment, winning the general election because he made that commitment and then losing the presidency because he broke that commitment to the American people," said Norquist. "So he's a very big part of the success of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge."
In the National Republican Congressional Committee's line-up of "Young Guns" candidates, 53 percent have signed Norquist's pledge. In 2010, 88 percent signed on.
Rudy Giuliani And The Price Of Milk
While running for president in 2007, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani <a href="http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/news_theswamp/2007/04/giulianis_price.html">told</a> a reporter at a Montgomery, Ala., supermarket that he estimates "a gallon of milk is probably about a $1.50, a loaf of bread about a $1.25, $1.30, last time I bought one." It must have been a few election cycles since his last trip: The grocery store's website listed milk for $3.38 and bread up to $3.49.
Dan Quayle And Single Mothers
During George H.W. Bush's reelection campaign in 1992, Vice President Dan Quayle <a href="http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1314&dat=19920521&id=b1tWAAAAIBAJ&sjid=NfADAAAAIBAJ&pg=6921,388223" target="_hplink">scoffed</a> at the "Murphy Brown situation," referring to a television character who had a child out of wedlock. Quayle called the Brown story "totally unreal," adding, "A highly paid professional woman [with a baby] ... give me a break."
Martha Coakley And Shaking Hands
In a display of aloofness that many political observers say led to her defeat by Republican Scott Brown, Democratic Senate candidate and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley erred in <a href="http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0110/Coakley_not_sweating_it.html" target="_hplink">brushing off</a> the idea of ramping up her campaigning. When asked whether she was being too apathetic, she referenced one of Brown's ads and fired back, "As opposed to standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?"
Spiro Agnew And Poor Neighborhoods
Republican vice presidential candidate Spiro Agnew, branded as Richard Nixon's go-to guy on cities, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1996/09/18/us/spiro-t-agnew-ex-vice-president-dies-at-77.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm" target="_hplink">vowed</a> in 1968 to avoid poor neighborhoods. "If you've seen one slum, you've seen them all," Agnew said.
Gerald Ford And Tamales
While visiting the Alamo in 1976, President Gerald Ford <a href="http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/No-one-told-Ford-tamales-need-to-be-unwrapped-1536700.php" target="_hplink">bit</a> into a tamale through the husk, a faux pas later deemed the "Great Tamales Incident."
George H.W. Bush And Grocery Scanners
President George H.W. Bush caught flak for <a href="http://www.snopes.com/history/american/bushscan.asp" target="_hplink">appearing awed</a> by a supermarket check-out scanner while touring a grocers convention in 1992. It turned out the president was being shown a new bar code technology, and the convention worker who was alongside Bush later said it's "foolish to think the president doesn't know anything about grocery stores. He knew exactly what I was talking about."
George W. Bush And Gas Prices
In 2008, President George W. Bush <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/03/business/worldbusiness/03iht-assess.4.11654214.html?_r=1" target="_hplink">said</a> he had not heard predictions that gas prices could soon hit $4 a gallon. At the time, the national average was $3.29 a gallon.
John Kerry And Cheese Steak
In 2003, Democratic presidential contender John Kerry <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/battle10/244119/bloombergs-john-kerry-cheesesteak-moment-thomas-shakely#" target="_hplink">ordered</a> Swiss cheese on a cheese steak while campaigning in South Philadelphia, straying from the traditional favorite topping, Cheez Whiz.
Michael Dukakis And The Tank
Democratic presidential contender Michael Dukakis <a href="http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2008/01/17/the-photo-op-that-tanked" target="_hplink">tried</a> to one-up Republican opponent George H.W. Bush on national defense by striking a pose in an M1 Abrams tank.
Mitt Romney And Wawa
Mitt Romney has had his fair share of seemingly out-of-touch statements this election cycle, admitting he likes to "fire people" and <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/OTUS/mitt-romney-sandwich-computer-wawa/story?id=16587170#.T-Ca3XBfaUc" target="_hplink">expressing amazement</a> at the touchscreen ordering system at convenience store Wawa.
Barack Obama And The Private Sector
President Barack Obama is not exempt from the "gotcha" moment. In June, he <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/08/obama-doing-fine-private-sector_n_1581874.html" target="_hplink">described</a> the private sector economy as "doing fine." The gaffe immediately elicited comparisons with his 2008 Republican opponent, John McCain, who said that the "fundamentals of the economy are strong" in the midst of a crippling financial crisis.