Yglesias zeroes in on one aspect of the termination:
The most surprising thing about David Frum’s apparent parting of ways with the American Enterprise Institute is the extremely mild nature of Frum’s heterodoxy. What he’s been doing for the past week has been to primarily offer a tactical critique of congressional Republicans’ approach to health reform. And if you can’t offer a tactical critique in the wake of an unequivocal defeat then what can you do? I don’t really expect people to welcome sharp disagreement about matters of principle, but when you adopt an approach to blocking a piece of legislation, and then the legislation doesn’t get blocked how are you not going to engage in some spirited disagreement about what went wrong?
TNC compares Frum with me:
It's worth contrasting Frum with Andrew, who I think differs with the right on core goals. Andrew doesn't simply believe the GOP should compromise he thinks the current health care bill is a good idea. Whereas Frum endorsed John McCain (though he was sharply critical of Sarah Palin), Andrew endorsed Barack Obama. Frum coined the term "Axis of Evil" and wrote a book defending the Iraq War. Andrew supported the war, but now regards his support with regret.
But here's where David and I agree: we both grew up when conservatism was intellectually sharp and interesting. Its current brutal anti-intellectualism, its open hostility to moderation in any form; its substitution of purer and purer ideology for actual, pragmatic ideas: these are trends that have left a lot of us on the center right marooned. I think David may well be glad he is now formally ostracized. It will liberate him and his formidable mind. Serious thinking conservatives know that these are times for real re-thinking, not more positioning. Julian Sanchez:
One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. (How do you know they’re liberal? Well, they disagree with the conservative media!) This epistemic closure can be a source of solidarity and energy, but it also renders the conservative media ecosystem fragile.
If AEI was not punishing Frum for his apostasy, then its timing was at the very least awful, and the episode handled with a clumsiness that Larry, Moe, and Curly would admire. Machiavelli would tell us: If you are going to be labeled as intolerant anyway, you might as well be feared. No one in Washington will respect an institution that failed to foresee how this would play out.
Tunku Varadarajan is vicious:
David is a man I’ve known professionally for almost a decade, and with whom my social interaction has always been very genial. He is a good and energetic man, and has, in the years since he left service at the White House, dedicated himself to being what I call a “polite-company conservative” (or PCC), much like David Brooks and Sam Tanenhaus at the New York Times (where the precocious Ross Douthat is shaping up to be a baby version of the species). A PCC is a conservative who yearns for the goodwill of the liberal elite in the media and in the Beltwaywho wishes, always, to have their ear, to be at their dinner parties, to be comforted by a sense that liberal interlocutors believe that they are not like other conservatives, with their intolerance and boorishness, their shrillness and their talk radio. The PCC, in fact, distinguishes himself from other conservatives not so much ideologicallythough there is an element of thatas aesthetically.
None of the bozos who require purity tests in liberal and leftwing circles are anywhere remotely as powerful or as influential as the fanatical psychopaths who both fund and staff the conservative think tanks. Nor are they likely to become influential anytime in the forseeable future. I can't think of even a moderately liberal group, let alone a genuinely leftwing group, that funnels staff that have been ideologically vetted into the government at anything close to the level at which the AEI and the Federalist Society pack presidential administrations with the politically correct. Nor does any liberal-leaning group - say, CEIP or CAP - require anything close to the purity of ideology the right does.
It seems like the day before yesterday Frum was putting steel in the spine of the GOP on immigration, gay marriage, etc. If he really believed those things then and he believes his new analysis about the GOP now, then he should at least be remorseful about the changing times and the need for the party and movement to moderate. He should be saying things like “I wish I was wrong, but we have to face reality.” He should be celebrating when his thesis has been disproved (as it was, to one extent or another, in every off-year election of the last 12 months). He should be saying, “As much as I disagree with how Rush says X, I have to concede on the merits he’s right about X.” And he should both cheer and revisit his thesis when serious social conservatives win without compromising their beliefs (as happened in the McDonnell election).
Watching the David Frum saga unfold, culminating with his being fired from the American Enterprise Institute yesterday and essentially purged from the respectable conservative movement, I'm reminded more and more of my old boss, Charlie Peters. Charlie founded The Washington Monthly magazine in 1969, and undertook to reorient a liberal movement that he felt had become hopelessly lost and inward looking. Charlie believed in a liberal vision for society--just not the means by which the Democrats of the 1970s and '80s were pursuing it. His philosophy became known as neoliberalism. It's a measure of how out of step Democrats at the time were with popular sentiment that a 1976 Washington Monthly cover story titled "Criminals Belong in Jail" was controversial.
The conservative reaction to Frum's suggestion that health-care reform is a Republican Waterloo feels uncannily similar.
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