Grover’s—everyone calls him Grover—apparent crime against Washington is that he now actually wants to hold politicians to what they willingly signed. If enough Republicans will disavow their tax pledge, then the capital crowd can go about agreeing to a grand fiscal bargain that raises taxes, pretends to cut spending and avoids the January 1 fiscal crack-up that the politicians have set us up for. Voters are supposed to believe that only Grover stands in the way of this happy ever-after. …

If Republicans in Congress want to repudiate the pledge, they are free to do so at any time. They could even quote Edmund Burke’s line that a democratic representative owes his electors his best judgment, not a slavish fealty to majority opinion. But that would mean saying they didn’t mean it when they signed the pledge. So they are now busy pretending that Mr. Norquist is a modern Merlin who conned them into signing the pledge and must be eliminated before they can do the “right thing” and raise taxes. …

This is where Mr. Norquist can give some ground. If taxes are going up anyway because the Bush rates expire, and Republicans can stop them from going up as much as they otherwise would, then pledge-takers deserve some credit for that. Mr. Norquist says it violates his pledge to eliminate deductions without lowering rates, but at the current economic and political moment it is also a service if Republicans prevent tax rates from going up. Speaker John Boehner deserves some leeway to try to mitigate the damage by negotiating a larger tax reform.