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Frum Brouhaha Shows Danger on the Right

Posted on March 27 2010 3:40 pm
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Are David Frum’s views dangerous? Is the Right’s focus on David Frum itself dangerous? Or does the danger lie in how the Right treats heterodox thinkers like Frum?

I must say the general conservative response to David Frum’s forced exit from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has been disappointing, albeit perhaps not surprising.

Of course, no one expected conservatives to respond with indifference, given what this brouhaha quite clearly says about the state of the conservative movement in America. But why have some conservatives been so nasty, vicious and mean-spirited in their denunciations of David?

I think it’s because they realize that all is not well on the Right, but for reasons of political circumspection, feel a need to be quiet and to downplay their concerns.

David Swindle’s response to the Frum/AEI controversy has been quite reasonable and charitable. Indeed, unlike some conservatives, Swindle doesn’t seek to excommunicate Frum, and his response is free of the invective and nasty innuendo found in some of the commentary.

Still, it seems to me that our managing editor’s response misses the mark in significant respects.

“Did David Frum really get forced out of AEI for his “heretical” views?” he asks rhetorically. “And is that really what we should be worried about as the Left prepares its next assault?”

Yes, David (Swindle), I’m afraid so. Charles Murray’s post at The Corner to the contrary notwithstanding — and I’ll have more to say about Mr. Murray’s comments later — David’s criticism of the Right appears to have resulted in his dismissal from the American Enterprise Institute.

As to your second question — should this concern us conservatives? — the answer again, I’m afraid, is: Yes. Yes because if the conservative movement doesn’t have room for people like David Frum — unconventional and heterodox thinkers who largely share our political goals and public-policy objectives — then it lacks intellectual vitality and will fail politically.

David’s ouster from AEI is a big deal and ought to be discussed fairly and dispassionately without concern for how our intramural spat is perceived by the Huffington Post or anyone else for that matter.

I’ve already written about this issue here at NewsReal Blog and will, as I’ve indicated, have more to say about it later. But whether you think David Frum is the bane or the boon of the Right, we all should be able to agree that what he says about conservatives and conservatism — and how he is treated by conservatives — matters. And it matters, I think, profoundly.

John R. Guardiano is a writer and analyst in Arlington, Virginia. You can follow him on Twitter:@Guardian0

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