Conservative policy leader and anti-tax activist Grover Norquist admonished the GOP in an interview Thursday, drawing a parallel between the party's current focus on the proposed Park51 mosque and its ill-fated emphasis on the Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1998.
Democrats gained five House seats in the 1998 midterm elections after Republicans had campaigned strongly on impeaching then-President Clinton for his affair with Lewinsky.
“Republicans need to remember that they screwed up
when they were about to win an election and win 20 House seats in 1998
Clinton’s spending priorities," Norquist told C-SPAN in an interview.
He appeared on the network's "Washington Journal" program to discuss a new report from his group, Americans for Tax Reform.
"They decided to spend the summer talking about Monica Lewinsky, which is a fascinating discussion for talk radio and doesn’t move any votes. And the Republicans lost five seats, because they were talking about Monica Lewinsky and not the economy.”
Norquist's comments echo those from an interview with Time magazine's Michael Scherer earlier in the week.
"This [the mosque controversy] is a distraction from a winning game plan," Norquist said. "It is very stupid, when Republicans are poised to win an overwhelming victory in November over Democratic spending, to focus attention on this issue."
"As it relates to religious buildings in the vicinity of Ground Zero," he continued, "it's either all or nothing — churches, synagogues and mosques should be treated the same."
Whether the mosque and Islamic center should be built in its proposed location — a few blocks from the World Trade Center site — has become a wedge issue looking toward November.
Republicans need 39 more seats to claim a majority in the House.