by Max Brantley
Think hard of a national figure less likely to sway an Arkansas vote on tobacco than Dick Armey. How about Grover Norquist. He'll be beating the drums for tobacco companies this week. (See jump.) (Armey's group is also buying ads opposing the tobacco tax.)
Health care vs. tobacco. A med school versus taxing smokers. They'll have a hard time turning public sentiment around on this one.
Norquist reared his ugly head earlier today with a news release excorating Gov. Mike Beebe for not declaring Feb. 6 Ronald Reagan Day in Arkanasas. (In addition to tax cutting, Norquist toils in behalf of a movement to deify Reagan.) As his news release put it, Beebe "has put pusillanimous petty partisanship above patriotism" by refusing to honor Reagan. I asked the governor's office for a response. Matt DeCample obliged:
Mr. Norquist’s alliterative skills are impressive, his transparent bid to pick a fight is not. Outside of the ones required under federal law, we have not issued a proclamation for any president, regardless of party.
UPDATE: A news watcher with better memory than mine recalls a couple of salient facts: Ronald Reagan doubled the federal excise tax from 8 to 16 cents a pack when he was president in 1983. And as even Mike Huckabee has pointed out in defense of his own actions, Reagan increased California taxes by a BILLION dollars in his first term in office. Where was Grover then?
Washington, D.C. – Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) will hold a media conference call with ATR president Grover Norquist on Tuesday, February 10, at 1:30 p.m. (CST) to discuss the proposed 56-cent per pack cigarette tax increase in Arkansas.