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There is Inadequate Evidence to Assert That David Frum Quit AEI for Ideological Reasons

Posted on March 28 2010 11:05 am
David Swindle is the Managing Editor of NewsReal Blog and the Associate Editor of FrontPage Magazine. Follow him on Twitter here
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John Guardiano is awfully certain he knows why David Frum resigned from the American Enterprise Institute. Responding to my post in which I chose not to make a judgment about private employment matters about which I have no first hand knowledge, he countered:

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.

First, I’m going to limit this discussion to a single issue and not get into the broader discussion of the state of the Right. That’s a separate can of worms altogether — which we can feast on soon — but let’s resolve this first bit of business.

“Appears.” is the keyword in your sentence, John. I am not convinced that Frum resigned from AEI because of anything he said or wrote. Given Murray’s piece and Tunku Varadarajan’s at the Daily Beast there seems to be plenty of room to doubt. It strikes me as entirely plausible that AEI told Frum that he was not adding $100K worth of value to the institution. He wasn’t coming to the office, posting at the AEI blog, mentoring AEI staff, attending AEI events. Sure he was writing books, articles, speeches, and blog posts. But he was mostly adding value to the Frum brand, not the AEI brand. Why would AEI want to continue paying him when he can do what he was doing on his own?

That AEI President Arthur Brooks was willing to allow Frum to remain associated with AEI but merely did not want to continue paying $100K salary and benefits per year suggests that it’s entirely possible that ideology had nothing to do with Frum’s “ousting” from the think tank.

But I don’t know. I wasn’t at the lunch meeting and I don’t work for AEI. Maybe they were ticked off at Frum’s recent center-right turn and this talk about his office hours and AEI blog posting is just clever cover. Of course I’m skeptical of that given — as Varadarajan points out — there are plenty of people at AEI who should irritate conservative hardliners more than Frum.

Clearly I’ve got my suspicions and I lean in one direction — that Frum was not “fired” for being “ideologically incorrect” — but I’m not going to speak with any degree of certainty since we simply do not have adequate facts in front of us.  Am I being unreasonable or irresponsible in that judgment, John?

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