David Frum, former speechwriter to George W Bush and campaign
adviser to Rudi Guiliani's 2008 presidential bid, has been a critic of
parts of the conservative movement for some time. His recent book Comeback Conservatism
called for big changes to the Republican message and warned that the
'old' messages on tax, crime and welfare were losing their Reagan-era
potency. He launched a strong attack on Rush Limbaugh last March and on Sunday lambasted the Republican Party's handling of the healthcare debate. He has also attacked conservative pundits*, notably Fox News:
“Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now
we’re discovering we work for Fox… The thing that sustains a strong
Fox network is the thing that undermines a strong Republican party.”
Two great pillars of conservative America decided this week that Frum had overstepped the line too many times.
The Wall Street Journal (like Fox News, owned by Rupert Murdoch) called him "the media's go-to basher of fellow Republicans"; a role filled by Michael
Portillo within the UK in the years BC (Before Cameron). One
commentator said Frum “yearns for the goodwill of the liberal elite in
the media and in the Beltway.” The Left are certainly cheering Mr Frum
at the moment. The White House Press Secretary tweeted Mr Frum's Sunday
attack on the Republicans and The Guardian's Michael Tomasky's warmth towards Mr Frum is typical of many left-wing commentators.
Yesterday Mr Frum's position at the American Enterprise Institute was "terminated". The suggestion is
that the AEI's trustees were no longer willing to tolerate his
outspoken attacks on conservatives in general and the GOP, in
particular. There is also a suggestion, however, that some trustees
were unhappy at the time he was devoted to his must-read blog,
FrumForum, at the expense of supporting the AEI's mission. AEI President Arthur Brooks was nonetheless very positive about Mr Frum in a statement (quoted here):
"David Frum is a truly original thinker and we are proud to have been
associated with him for the last seven years. His decision to leave in
no way diminishes our respect for him."
Mr Frum, a Canadian, told his country-of-birth's Globe and Mail that he was once an outcast
from Canadian Conservatism: “Back in ‘95, I said that Progressive
Conservatives and reformers were going to have to come together and to
work together, and I didn't say that because I was a liberal. History
proved me right.”
Mona Charen at National Review Online has come to David Frum's defence:
"I have known David for at least 15 years. He has staked out
views in the past that put him to the right even of the conservative
consensus. In his first book, he took issue with Jack Kemp’s idea for
enterprise zones. Was he currying favor with liberals then? Don’t think
so. He went on to work for George W. Bush. In any case, he was
criticizing Kemp from the right. David is unpredictable because he has
an original mind and constantly questions his own assumptions. He has a
very rare intellectual integrity that is refreshing and bracing.
Sometimes he changes his mind. To paraphrase David Mamet quoting John
Maynard Keynes, “When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do
you do sir?”"
* ConservativeInternational has also worried about the influence of America's conservative punditry.