Hail David Frum…

… for telling it like it is.

David Frum

If we say something often enough, we come to believe it. We don’t usually delude others until after we have first deluded ourselves. Some of the smartest and most sophisticated people I know—canny investors, erudite authors—sincerely and passionately believe that President Barack Obama has gone far beyond conventional American liberalism and is willfully and relentlessly driving the United States down the road to socialism. No counterevidence will dissuade them from this belief: not record-high corporate profits, not almost 500,000 job losses in the public sector, not the lowest tax rates since the Truman administration. It is not easy to fit this belief alongside the equally strongly held belief that the president is a pitiful, bumbling amateur, dazed and overwhelmed by a job too big for him—and yet that is done too.

Frum, the Bush speechwriter who–sadly enough–is credited with adding the phrase “axis of evil” to our lexicon, has watched the conservative movement he helped foster zoom past him to the edge of sanity–and beyond.

I’ve spent a few moments with the guy before, and found him reasonable, assured but with what feels like a genuine humility. He is also highly informed. His instincts remain strongly conservative. Frum:

I have worked on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, at Forbes magazine, at the Manhattan and American Enterprise Institutes, as a speechwriter in the George W. Bush administration. I believe in free markets, low taxes, reasonable regulation, and limited government. I voted for John ­McCain in 2008, and I have strongly criticized the major policy decisions of the Obama administration. …

But these positions no longer stand as credentials for today’s conservative movement. Instead, says Frum:

In the face of evidence of dwindling upward mobility and long-stagnating middle-class wages, my party’s economic ideas sometimes seem to have shrunk to just one: more tax cuts for the very highest earners. When I entered Republican politics, during an earlier period of malaise, in the late seventies and early eighties, the movement got most of the big questions—crime, inflation, the Cold War—right. This time, the party is getting the big questions disastrously wrong.

All of these quotes come from a single New York magazine article, “When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?”

It is highly recommended, as is Jonathan Chait’s equally compelling counterweight piece, “When Did Liberals Become So Unreasonable?”

Chait’s money quote:

Liberals are dissatisfied with Obama because liberals, on the whole, are incapable of feeling satisfied with a Democratic president. They can be happy with the idea of a Democratic president—indeed, dancing-in-the-streets delirious—but not with the real thing. The various theories of disconsolate liberals all suffer from a failure to compare Obama with any plausible baseline. Instead they compare Obama with an imaginary president—either an imaginary Obama or a fantasy version of a past president.

Both articles are highly recommended reading.


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