Anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a probable Republican candidate for president in 2016, should talk to his father and brother about signing the taxpayer protection pledge and learn from their presidencies.
Norquist predicted that Bush would ultimately make the right decision and take the no-tax increases pledge.
“When he was governor, he cut taxes a number of times. I don’t believe he ever raised taxes. What he didn’t do was promise the people of the state that he wouldn’t raise taxes. Rick Scott, the present governor of the state, signed the pledge when he ran four years ago and just ran and won again. He’s actually been very aggressive in cutting taxes,” Norquist told PJ Media at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
“I hope Jeb Bush will focus on this and realize that when you’re running for office, you should treat voters with respect and tell them what your plans are. If you plan to raise taxes, you should say that. If you don’t plan to raise taxes, if on principle you won’t raise taxes, you should tell them that as well,” he added.
At this point, Norquist said everybody who has expressed interest in running for president on the Republican side has either taken the pledge in their present capacity or as a candidate. Norquist, the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, noted that the Republican Party has changed since Bush last ran for office.
“He hasn’t run for office as a challenger in 16 years. The modern Republican Party has changed dramatically in that time period. It’s changed dramatically since 2010. You can see the difference between people elected before 2010 and after 2010 and it’s night and day,” he said. “The expectations of what it means to be a Reagan Republican after 2010 after the Tea Party is much more dramatically on reform and spending and hell no on taxes. Before, a lot of that stuff was negotiable.”
Norquist explained that signing the pledge is not about promising something a candidate cannot deliver.
“The pledge is I will oppose and veto any tax increase. Theoretically, it could be overridden – that’s not a violation of the pledge. You’re only asked to do what you can do. You’re not being asked to accomplish something that would require the House and Senate to agree with you,” he said. “It’s not a promise to cut taxes. It’s a promise to veto tax increases. I think at the end of the day as a candidate he will make the same decision his father made, which was to sign the pledge and the same decision his brother made, which was to sign the pledge.”
Norquist encouraged Jeb Bush to look at his father’s decision to take the pledge.
“He [George H. W. Bush] won the primary because he took the pledge. We won the general because he said, ‘read my lips, no new taxes.’ He was 14 points down when we said that and he won — but he broke the pledge and lost the presidency,” Norquist said, adding that Ross Perot would not have been a challenger if Bush did not break his pledge on taxes.
Norquist said former President George W. Bush never raised taxes but increased federal spending.
“There was no voice in the House or Senate for spending restraint except from the crazy doctor from Oklahoma [Tom Coburn] and nobody paid attention to him, and so [Bush] let spending drift up but he never raised taxes,” he said.
“Now with the Tea Party corrective, with the sort of, ‘hey Republicans, spending too’ – modern candidates for office won’t raise your taxes and they will tell you that they will dramatically fight and reform government to cost less. All of those things happened since Jeb Bush left office and so it doesn’t surprise me or even disappoint me that it’s going to take him a while to find his sea legs but I think he will. He’s a smart guy,” Norquist added.
He urged Republicans to listen to Bush as a Republican who won in a state that represents the American future.
“The country is getting older and more Hispanic. He won twice. We should listen to that,” he said.
Norquist hopes Jeb Bush has learned that tax increases eat all of the spending cuts.
“It happened to Reagan and it happened to Bush. You think you’re smarter than Bush or tougher than Reagan? These guys weren’t idiots. They were trying to do the impossible, which was to put a tax cut and a spending cut on the table and think you were going to get anything other than tax increases. So, he should talk to his dad and his brother and I think he will do the right thing,” he said.
Norquist said Jeb Bush might get “tangled up a little bit” on tax policy and taking the pledge.
“When somebody says, ‘will you sign the pledge?’ The question he [Bush] thinks he’s answering is, ‘do you love your father because if you sign the pledge are you dissing Dad?’ Talk to your brother. He worked it out,” Norquist said.
“He was honoring his father and saying he learned from Reagan’s mistake and Bush’s mistake that putting taxes on the table means you never get any spending restraint.”