CNN Hires a Kinder, Gentler Conservative

David Frum is no Erick Erickson

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It was just last year that CNN hired flame-throwing, crass-tweeting Redstate managing editor Erick Erickson as its right-wing political contributor. The hire gave liberals a near heart attack. But today, CNN seems to be making amends, hiring David Frum, the kind of conservative liberals like to like, as the network's new political contributor for the 2012 election season.

“CNN is where the national conversation starts,” said David Frum in a CNN press release announcing the hire. “In this exciting election year, I am truly honored to join that conversation.”

The question is: will the right want him in that conversation? In the post-Bush years, Frum has served as a yardstick for the GOP's rightward lurch. The former George W. Bush speechwriter, columnist and founder of had a very public split with the conservative establishment in March of last year when he was booted from the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute. Questions still linger as to the nature of his termination at AEI, but his departure occurred shortly after his "scathing criticism of the GOP" for not compromising on the Democrats' health care reform bill. Outside of the health care debate, Frum has also criticized the right on a range of issues from the embarrassing Shirley Sherrod affair to attacks on Obama from Dinesh D’Souza and Newt Gingrich

In short: he's no Erick Erickson: the rock 'em sock 'em pundit who makes headlines for reviving the Obama "death panel" meme or saying things like "Social Security is, for all intents and purposes, a Ponzi scheme." Almost as if to highlight the contrast, Frum appeared on CNN's The Situation Room at 4:40 p.m. today and criticized Texas governor Rick Perry for calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme.

Important to note, however, while no one would deny Erickson is a resolutely right-wing conservative, it has been clear he moderated his behavior on-air after signing on with CNN. On multiple television appearances, he disowned inflammatory, partisan tweets he sent out after getting his new job. And a scan of his offenses on the heavy-handed liberal watchdog site Media Matters, shows the vast majority of his "controversies" occurred on his blog Redstate, not on television. His latest televised offense? Spreading a factual inaccuracy about the extent of The Washington Post's coverage of Rick Perry's hunting lodge scandal:

Meanwhile, David Frum's televised appearances prior to his new contributor status, have sought a pox-on-both-your-houses-style approach. Take last week's appearance on CNN's American Morning when he made a bipartisan argument against America's "broken" government: "We need institutional change... We have two parties that... have harder and harder ideological disagreements and won't cooperate... The system needs all of these bodies to work together and increasingly the parties don't want to do that."

Clearly Frum is a card-carrying Republican. But his attacks on the far-right and the Tea Party, in "traitor" publications such as The New York Times mean the network is getting a kinder, gentler conservative contributor into the mix. While Erickson remains a staple at CNN, Frum will proudly add a RINO element to CNN's "Best Political Team."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.