msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell enlisted the help of Academy Award-winning director Barry Levinson to shed some light on “anti-tax champion” Grover Norquist’s goals during Monday’s Rewrite segment.
Norquist has repeatedly suggested drowning the government in a bathtub, once saying, “Our goal is to cut government in half as a percentage of the economy over 25 years, so that we can get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” While some dismiss Norquist’s bathtub analogy as merely a metaphor, neither O’Donnell nor Levinson can see it.
In a recent Huffington Post article, Levinson asks, “What is the metaphor? He said he wants to kill the government in a bathtub. The only substitute is to overturn the government. He is a revolutionary like Lenin or Mao. He doesn’t believe in the system. He just doesn't want to say it with as much clarity as they did.”
There is no metaphor in Norquist’s war on taxes, O’Donnell argues. He does not want to drown the tax code, but rather "drown the government of the United States, kill what the Founding Fathers fought for…He is a new kind of revolutionary, a 21st century revolutionary," Levinson writes in his article, "Grover and the Bathtub."
O’Donnell predicted what would happen if someone else uttered Norquist’s words publicly, someone who was not white and had not worked for Republicans in Washington.
Levinson offered a possible scenario: "Let's say his name is not Grover Norquist. He is a black man or a Latino or, for that matter, any minority, and he says (as Norquist did), 'our goal is to inflict pain. It is not enough to win. It has to be a painful, devastating defeat, like when the king would take his opponent's head and spike it on a pole for everyone to see.'"
If, for example, you were Van Jones, former special adviser for green jobs in President Obama’s administration, and you told the media your goal was to "inflict pain." "What would O`Reilly say that night? What would Sean Hannity do that night?" O'Donnell asked. "Sean would devote the entire hour of his show to condemnation of Van Jones."
The host warned Republicans that Grover Norquist is not a conservative, but rather a revolutionary, one who wants his government to stop. But what should come next if, say, you succeed in drowning the government in a bathtub?
"He is not very clear about that," O’Donnell argued. "What he is clear about is how much he hates the American government." Despite this fact, he continued, Republican elected officials in Washington continue to cheer and "pal around" with a man "whose goal is to destroy the federal government."
O’Donnell speculated that there are two prerequisites for an American revolutionary to be "championed by the right wing media and welcomed into the halls of power by Republicans in Congress": "First of all, be white; be very, very white. And second, pretend to be a conservative."