I was disturbed yesterday when seeing the news that David Frum had resigned or potentially been “forced out” of his position at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI.) Frum and NewsReal Blog have had their disagreements in the past but I genuinely like and respect the guy.
Frum’s not an enemy who should be slammed like a Ward Churchill. Nor are his deviations from conservative “orthodoxy” beyond the pale — as John Guardiano pointed out last night here at NRB in a post whose general sentiments I support. A broad range of views is necessary for a healthy political movement. One ideological tendency must check another less the whole train fly off the rails. (And that’s why at NRB we have plenty of people who do not agree on every issue.)
But is this question of challenging the conservative status quo really why Frum left AEI? Today at the Corner Charles Murray disputes this narrative:
I have known and liked David and Danielle Frum for many years, and what I am about to write will end that friendship. I regret that. But his statement goes beyond self-serving. It is a calumny against an organization that has treated him not just fairly but generously.
Regarding donor pressure: The idea that AEI donors sit down to talk with AEI’s president about who should and shouldn’t be on the staff, or what the staff should write, is fantasy. David has never seen the slightest sign of anything like that at AEI. He can’t have. He made it up. AEI has a culture, the scholars are fiercely proud of that culture, and at its heart is total intellectual freedom. As for the reality of that intellectual freedom, I think it’s fair to say I know what I’m talking about. I’ve pushed it to the limit. Arthur Brooks is just as adamant about preserving that culture as Chris DeMuth was, and Chris’s devotion to it was seamless.
I do not have any certain information to convey about David’s departure, except what Arthur Brooks has already said publicly: David resigned. He could have stayed. But I will tell what is common knowledge around AEI: David got a handsome salary but, for the last few years, has been invisible as a member of the institute.
Whether Frum was forced out of AEI by angry donors or if he simply was not pulling his weight at the institution is not something on which I’m about to speculate.
But what I will say is that Huffington Post‘s framing of this issue should not be accepted. Frum’s resignation from AEI does not demonstrate the Right is intolerant of those whose positions on every issue fail to match “the Party line.”
And this is not something that conservatives need to take sides on. It’s not AEI vs Frum. That’s fruitless infighting — and plays into what the Left wants. The real concern that we should be having is how the Left is spinning this event in an attempt to slander the Right as intolerant.