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George H.W. Bush: 'Who the hell is Grover Norquist?'

July 13, 2012|By Morgan Little | This post has been updated, as indicated below.
  • Former President George H.W. Bush celebrates his 88th birthday in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Former President George H.W. Bush celebrates his 88th birthday in Kennebunkport,… (Michael Loccisano / Getty…)

Nearly 20 years removed from the White House, former President George H.W. Bush, accompanied by his wife, Barbara, sat down for an interview with Parade Magazine. Praising two out of his three presidential successors, Bush saved his critiques for anti-tax ringleader Grover Norquist.

Bush, whose campaign for reelection in 1992 was severely damaged by his failure to live up to his pledge “no new taxes,” was asked how he felt about that same pledge becoming the calling card for the current class of Republicans.

“The rigidity of those pledges is something I don’t like. 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 remarked.

“I think he ought to go back to Alaska,” Barbara Bush joked, a reference to a 2010 interview in which she said she hoped Sarah Palin would remain in her home state.

Norquist's organization, Americans for Tax Reform, pointed to a Bush quote from 1992, in which he said his tax compromise was a "mistake."

"I thought this one compromise – and it was a compromise – would result in no more tax increases," he said. "And now we see Congress talking about raising taxes again. So I’m disappointed."

Barbara Bush said the man who defeated her husband in 1992, Bill Clinton, is now a close friend of the family: “A brother by another mother” to Bush’s sons, as described by Barbara.

“I think he [Clinton] thinks of George as the father he never had. Truthfully,” she continued.

“He knows a lot about everything. He’s a very knowledgeable, right man,” George Bush said of his former rival.

Bush described his relationship with Clinton’s presidential successor, his son George W. Bush, as more “about father and son” than a former president advising another.

“We’d talk about things,” Bush said, “He never said the ‘Dad, what do I do now?’ kind of thing.”

“Nor was there any competition. People always said, 'I read that George was just doing this because he wanted to beat his father' … and they were stupid. It wasn’t true,” Barbara Bush added.

George Bush is now 88 and suffering from vascular Parkinsonism, a condition that causes symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease without the loss of nerve cells characteristic of Parkinson’s, also looked back on his time in the White House.

“I think we had an honorable administration,” he said, reflecting on his proudest moments. “We were relatively scandal-free and blessed by good people. Something I guess I’d throw in there is the liberation of Kuwait.”

“I don’t think any president’s ever had the background he had. I’m prejudiced, I admit,” Barbara said. “And 40 million people now have jobs they can get to because of the Americans with Disabilities Act. You can’t not count that.”

The full interview, conducted with presidential historian Mark Updergrove, will be published in Sunday’s issue of Parade.

[For the Record, 11:12 p.m. PST  July 13: This post has been updated to reflect Americans for Tax Reform's response to Bush's remarks.]

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