Posted under Conservatism
“Rod, I apologize in advance but it is hard to critique a work of Frum’s without, at the very, very least, some mild form of irritation. I believe the main reason for this is his ability to take specific arguments, critiques and ideas made by writers of publications and journals and blogs he would generally regard with disdain or disgust and pass them off as his own and then, at the very same time, attack such people viciously for what he doesn’t agree with them upon and then try to “banish” them, or marginalize them, from the general debate on the basis of these disagreements.
On its own merits the piece is a good one (I’ve always complemented Frum’s intelligence and writing ability). The problem is nothing he is saying hasn’t been said long before he converted from true believer to dissident in the pages of The American Conservative by writers like Austin Bramwell (“provoking the audience into a fever of indignation (to keep them watching) and fomenting mistrust of all other information sources (so that they never change the channel)); by Pat Buchanan and the writers at VDARE.com (“White America has been plunged into a mood of pessimism and anger since 2008.”); by John Derbyshire (“As a commercial proposition, this model has worked brilliantly in the Obama era. As journalism, not so much.”) and even myself (“A political movement that never took governing seriously was exploited by a succession of political entrepreneurs uninterested in governing—but all too interested in merchandising). a.k.a Conservative INC.
But of course we are all in the fever swamps Frum and his friends at Fox and AEI and the Weekly Standard and the National Review banished us to in the last decade, except for when Frum stops by and collects the pretty butterflies he finds there for his collection. If you talk to people who work and write for TRI and Chronicles for example, his methods are what drive them to absolutely loathe the man because he operated in the same fashion when writing Dead Right. He soaked up ideas they had in the late 1980s and early 1990s about conservatism and the country as whole, using what he liked and then attacked them in a nasty, mean-spirited way for he didn’t like about them.
If Frum wrote or said he was sorry for the past things he’s said and done and was willing to work with fellow dissidents and others he’s trashed because we all happen to share similar views of how rotten things are within the GOP and with the conservative establishment, then in the spirit of Christian charity and forgiveness (I am, of course, speaking only for myself) I would welcome collaboration given his talents and experience on the inside. Yet there is nothing in this piece which indicates he is ready or really wants to do this.
Frum says “the Bush years haunt me.” Yet what haunts him exactly? What part of the “mess” does he take responsibility for? He does not say. Was it No Child Left Behind? Medicare Part D? unlimited immigration? Iraq? Afghanistan? Notice that nowhere in Frum’s piece are the wars even mentioned, only as a euphemism for Vietnam. Is the democratic utopianism he decried in Dead Right an embarrassment to him now after it was put into full force by the Administration’s fellow neocons? Much of what caused Republican defeats in 2006 and ’08, at least for most voters, were these wars and how their mismanagement helped in no small measure to wreck the economy. True, he does not defend the Bush II record but he does not repudiate it either.
This leads one to wonder what he proposes the GOP should stand for if not its current rotten, knee-jerk orthodoxy? Is “government can borrow for ten years at two percent” his solution? The government has been doing exactly that for a long, long time and yet the debts incurred from such borrowing to pay for the wars and the entitlement programs the Bush II Administration he worked for supported are coming due. How would more borrowing help the situation? If the potential candidate he was secretly writing speeches for ultimately decided not to run for President, does anyone think it’s coincidence? Obviously nothing Frum wrote changed this person’s mind or made him more willing to undertake a run for the White House.
Actually, in my opinion, I think Frum is once again writing another screed against his old enemies, the “ultralibertarianism, crank monetary theories, populist fury, and paranoid visions of a Democratic Party controlled by ACORN and the New Black Panthers.” He wisely does not name names this time around but I think we probably know who he is referring to. It would not surprise me when he saw Ron Paul rise in the polls in both Iowa and New Hampshire he leaped from the couch to his desk and his computer to write this New Yorker piece saying to himself “My God! They’re actually supporting Ron Paul! I’ve got to stop them!”. And yet what is Ron Paul trying to do but to break the very political stalemate in our country by creating a new, realigning political coalition which would include a broad base of voters of all backgrounds,ethnic groups, races, religions, opinions and persuasions united on a few simple ideas? Why is this not a potential future for the GOP as compared to what Frum is not clearly offering as an alternative to what is there now? How is being “Obama light” or “Obama, only less so” (or better yet, “Me too!”) going to attract voters who do not like the man or convince his supporters to abandon him to someone like Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman, Frum’s presumed favored candidates?
Finally, as much as this article makes several good points, it will not reach nor influence its potential audience. Tomorrow morning this piece will be linked to by at least a dozen liberal blogs, all celebrating Frum as the “conservative voice of reason.” Frum will be seen as someone who can be worked with or discuss ideas with, which is exactly the way he wants to be seen. If this is familiar to those who have followed Frum’s career closely is because it’s follows a pattern according to Wikipedia:
As a columnist for the Yale Daily News in the early ’80s, Frum joined his liberal editors in a campaign to urge the university to seize control of the Yale Literary Magazine, at the time owned by a 25-year-old alumnus named Andrei Navrozov. According to the New York Times, Navrozov had acquired “the financially troubled magazine” in 1978 and “turned the modest undergraduate journal into a handsome journal with a national circulation.” Frum and his allies said they simply wanted the Lit returned to the undergraduates. But Navrozov detected a political subtext to their efforts, the existence of which the Times, in its coverage of the Lit controversy in 1981, confirmed. “Privately, these same people talk about Mr. Navrozov’s politics,” the newspaper reported, “his ‘raucous, antiliberal, new cold war’ politics.” . . .A Yale near-contemporary, John Zmirak recalls, “Frum had made himself well-known among the amazingly intolerant Leftist students of early 1980s Yale by loudly espousing Reaganite foreign and budgetary policy.” That notwithstanding, “there was a sense” that attacking the Lit “was a good career move,” an unnamed ally of Navrozov’s told Toronto Life in 2001, “a sense—and a resentment—that [Frum] was trying to establish himself as the acceptable conservative voice on campus—not with other conservatives, but with the powers that be.”
Of course, if you don’t know, Navrozov is Chronicles European Editor. As I said, I speak only for myself when it comes to welcoming Frum. Others will not be so charitable and I don’t blame them one iota. It’s too bad his reach is limited because no conservative trusts him, but it is a responsibility which he alone must bare. Whether it “haunts” him or not only he can say but one can only conclude – by this piece and others he has written recently – until proven otherwise, it doesn’t.