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Conservative America struggles to find room for the dissenting Mr Frum

RoCJgs 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?”"

Tim Montgomerie

* ConservativeInternational has also worried about the influence of America's conservative punditry.


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