CNN's Velshi Calls Grover Norquist a 'Dangerous Man'

CNN's Ali Velshi labeled anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist a "dangerous man" on Friday for blocking a fiscal cliff compromise between Democrats and Republicans.

"Hey, speaking of the fiscal cliff, there's been all this focus on one dangerous man who stands in the way of a deal that could avert it, Grover Norquist. He is neither elected, nor has he ever run for office, so why is Washington so scared of him?" Velshi introduced his segment on Norquist.

And CNN's financial guru quoted the lone GOP presidential candidate who did not sign Norquist's anti-tax hike pledge, Jon Huntsman. "He had some advice for his fellow Republicans," Velshi said before airing Huntsman preaching against politicians taking special-interest pledges.

"[I]t becomes impossible to do the work of the people, which desperately needs to be done economically and in every other way to prepare for competitiveness in the 21st century, when you're hamstrung and tied down by all of these pledges," Huntsman told Velshi.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on November 30 on CNN Newsroom at 3:35 p.m. EST, is as follows:

ALI VELSHI: Hey, speaking of the fiscal cliff, there's been all this focus on one dangerous man who stands in the way of a deal that could avert it, Grover Norquist. He is neither elected, nor has he ever run for office, so why is Washington so scared of him?

(Video Clip)

GROVER NORQUIST: Taxes went up, spending didn't go down.

VELSHI: (voice over) He's been called a "kingmaker," a "patriot," and the ideological godfather of the Tea Party. Since the mid-80's, Grover Norquist, the founder of Americans for Tax Reform, has been the driving force behind the anti-tax movement. His goal: to take big government, and in his words, "drown it in the bathtub." Norquist's weapon is the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which was at one point signed by 95 percent of GOP members of Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Can you raise your hand if you feel so strongly about not raising taxes –

VELSHI: On the campaign trail this year, only one Republican presidential candidate, Jon Huntsman, dared to cross him.

Norquist has clout. He's called the most powerful unelected man in America today. But since the November election, his fortunes have changed.

Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.): I will violate the pledge –

Rep. PETER KING (R-N.Y.): A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is for that Congress.

Sen. BOB CORKER (R-Tenn.): I'm not obligated on the pledge.

VELSHI: Republicans in Congress are jumping ship, and supporting unspecified revenue hikes to help cut the deficit. And big business is now resigned to higher taxes. Here's Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein.

LLOYD BLANKFEIN, CEO, Goldman Sachs: But if we had to lift up the marginal rate, I would do that.

VELSHI: Norquist's response?

NORQUIST: To be fair to everybody, some of these people have had impure thoughts. No one has pulled the trigger and voted for a tax increase.

VELSHI: Norquist is clearly looking toward the 2014 midterm elections. But one high-profile figure from the Fix the Debt movement believes that Norquist's clout is clearly waning.

STEVE RATTNER, Campaign to Fix the Debt: I don't view this as some – as the end of Grover Norquist. I don't think he suddenly disappears, never to be seen of again. But I think his aura of invincibility has been largely shattered.

(End Video Clip)

VELSHI: And former Republican presidential contender Jon Huntsman was the only candidate in the primaries who wouldn't bind himself to Norquist's anti-tax pledge. I met with Huntsman earlier today. He had some advice for his fellow Republicans.

JON HUNTSMAN (R), former Utah governor: There are dozens and dozens of special interest movements in Washington, all of whom have their pledges, all of whom try to get their pound of flesh when people are running for office. And I think we're learning, Ali, some very important lessons, the political class in America, as we go through this. And that is, it becomes impossible to do the work of the people, which desperately needs to be done economically and in every other way to prepare for competitiveness in the 21st century when you're hamstrung and tied down by all of these pledges. 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014