Thanks to Helen Gandy, the world never learned of the true reach of J. Edgar Hoover’s choke-hold on American politicians. According to a congressional inquiry and other sources, the notorious FBI director amassed secret files on the sexual and other peccadillos of politicians, entertainers, writers and officials, giving him immense blackmailing powers over his real and imagined enemies on Capitol Hill and elsewhere.
We'll never really know the whole story, because Miss Gandy, his longtime secretary, destroyed the files upon Hoover's death in May 1972.
It may turn out that tax maniac Grover Norquist also has his own Miss Gandy, primed to destroy the contents of his locked safe when the grim reaper comes. Until then, he's got the Republicans' cajones in his hands.
Norquist himself suggested his true grasp on power Monday night when he "took a pot shot at Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY) marriage," according to Raw Story's Arturo Garcia, after the Long Islander suggested he might abandon his no-taxes pledge after nearly two decades.
"I hope his wife understands that commitments last a little longer than two years or something,” Norquist fumed.
What other than the possession of embarrassing details on the private lives and messy business deals of Republican legislators can explain the right-wing lobbyist’s hammerlock on tax policy over the past quarter century?
For those of a certain age, it’s impossible not to read between the lines of Aaron Blake’s take-down of the wobbling Norquist in today’s Washington Post, complete with reference to the Republican operative’s “secret fireproof safe,” without thinking back to Hoover’s private files.
“Norquist, a zealous, self-promoting Washington icon who presides over a weekly meeting of top conservative players, has quietly amassed an extraordinary amount of power in the Republican Party without ever being elected to office. The 56-year-old president of Americans for Tax Reform is a former Reagan-era operative who launched his pledge in 1986, wheedling and cajoling so many GOP lawmakers into signing it over the years that it has become a Republican rite of passage. He keeps the source of his power, the original signed pledges, in a secret fireproof safe.”
Now why would a congressional member’s public pledge to not raise taxes need to be kept in a locked safe?
What else is in there?
Blake further sniffs at the mystery of Norquist’s bizarre power a few paragraphs down.
“Every time there is discussion about Republicans voting for a tax increase, his influence on the party is called into question — and somehow his influence has continued and even grown.”
This time, though, with Republicans defecting from Norquist over Washington hemorrhaging debt--and their defeat at the polls--the tea party may be wrapping up.
Liberals can't help but cackle at Norquist’s seemingly impending demise, however premature it may be.
Over at the New York Times, Frank Bruni takes Norquist’s pulse, and gleefully pronounces him on life-support. With the same acumen with which he chronicled the death of Pope John Paul II from septic shock years back, Bruni wrote of Norquist today:
“Someday someone will write a dark history — a farce, really — of how he managed to bring nearly all of the Republican Party to heel, compelling legislator upon legislator to lash themselves to his no-new-taxes pledge.”
The answer to that riddle may well be locked in Norquist’s safe.
The question is whether someone will get to them first, before his own Miss Gandy obliterates them in the shredder.