Not just crooked, but disloyal

Which side is Grover Norquist on? And does the Bush Machine care?

Jesselee at The Stakeholder connects the dots between the GOP looting squad that’s been running Washington since 2001 and a variety of terrorist-linked funding operations. The linchpin seems to be Grover Norquist, whose Islamist sympathies — whether genuine or mercenary — have been an ill-kept secret.

But Jesselee neglects to connect what may be the most important dot of all: from Norquist to Karl Rove. While Rove was the acknowledged Grand Vizier of the Bushite Caliphate, Norquist, thorough the agency of Rove’s assistant Susan Ralston, was able to determine which lobbyists could, and which could not, get through to the Boy Genius.

As the Washington Monthly reported a year ago:

Norquist had a deal with Susan Ralston, who until recently was the assistant to Karl Rove. An unnamed Republican lobbyist recently told “Susan took a message for Rove, and then called Grover to ask if she should put the caller through to Rove. If Grover didn’t approve, your call didn’t go through.”

How did Norquist attain such influence over Ralston? Flowers every Friday? Redskins tickets? The answer, actually, is what the White House ethics lawyers call a “preexisting relationship.” Ralston had formerly worked for lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a close friend of Norquist’s and a top fundraiser for House majority whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

This couldn’t have been a secret from Rove; obviously he was using Norquist as his enforcer to keep lobbyists in line. Access to arguably the most powerful man in Washington was controlled by someone whose loyalty to the country against its most dangerous current adversaries is dubious at best.

That, I submit, is a scandal. A secondary scandal is the silence about Norquist’s terrorist connections on the part of the news media, of Democratic politicians, and especially of those in politics, the media, and the blogosphere who impute disloyalty to Bush’s critics at the drop of a hat.

I have no brief to carry for George Galloway. But anyone who has made a fuss about Galloway and remained silent about Norquist has, it seems to me, some explaining to do. Galloway is a marginal figure. Norquist, alas, is not.

During the earlier part of the Cold War, ideology was the primary motive for selling this country out to its adversaries, and therefore loudly professed anti-Communism seemed to be a guarantee of loyalty. Later on, that changed; the predominant motivation for disloyalty became money, and Russian spies such as Robert Hanssen used conspicuous conservatism and fanatical anti-Communism as cover. (Some of the money Hanssen took from the Russians went to pay his children’s tuition at an Opus Dei school, and he went to the same Latin-Mass church attended by Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Louis Freeh.)

Any serious Islamist agent of influence in today’s Washington won’t be wearing a black turban; he will wear a two-thousand- dollar suit, an Adam Smith necktie, and an American flag lapel pin. That’s the world we live in, and we’d better get used to it.

If we continue to run a money-dominated political system, we will continue to be vulnerable to the purchase of influence by those with access to a slice of the billions of dollars we send abroad to fuel our SUV’s. In a hostile world, corruption may cost us a lot more than our money.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: