Grover Norquist to Jeb: Learn from dad's tax gaffe

Taxes? Don't be 'stupider' than France: Norquist
Taxes? Don't be 'stupider' than France: Norquist

Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist's message to expected GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush: Don't make the same mistake your father made.

"If my dad had thrown away a perfectly good presidency by raising taxes, I think I'd learn from that," the Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) founder said Wednesday.

Norquist is trying to get Jeb Bush to sign his group's no-new-taxes pledge, which has become a rite of passage for Republican candidates.

"He didn't sign when he was a governor. And as a [Florida] governor, he actually cut taxes," Norquist told CNBC's "Squawk Box" in an interview—taking issue with the potential candidate's stance to "leave the door open," not his past track record.

"His brother [George W. Bush] took the pledge and kept it. His father took the pledge and broke it," said Norquist—claiming the 1990 reversal cost George H.W. Bush a second term in the White House.

While accepting his party's nomination at the 1988 Republican National Convention, the elder Bush famously promised, "Read my lips: no new taxes."

Two years later, in a compromise with congressional Democrats, the 41st president agreed to hike taxes in exchange for spending cuts to reduce the budget deficit.

He lost his re-election bid to Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992.

Norquist said he's concerned about Jeb Bush's past comments defending his father's tax increases. The younger Bush is expected to announce his candidacy this coming Monday.

Unlike Bush, many of the major Republicans seeking the 2016 nomination have signed Norquist's so-called Taxpayer Protection Pledge, including Sens. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz; ex-Govs. Rick Perry and Mike Huckabee; and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker—who's expected to make his presidential intentions known as soon as the end of the month—signed the pledge as governor. He's expected to sign if he runs for the White House, Norquist said.

"When you take taxes off the table, you get real spending cuts. When taxes are on the table, no spending cuts," the ATR founder contended.

"History tells us, and reason does as well, that politicians raise taxes instead of governing, instead of reforming government," he added.