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In AEI vs. Frum, the Evidence Refutes Agnosticism

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Posted on March 29 2010 11:41 am
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In AEI vs. David Frum, the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that Mr. Frum was fired for his perceived political apostasies.

David (Swindle), I think your agnosticism about why David Frum was given the boot by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), although laudable on one level, is nonetheless misplaced.

Sure, we don’t know all that transpired between David and AEI. However, we know more than enough, I think, to make reasonable judgments about what happened and why.

I detailed the chronology of events in a post earlier today here at NewsReal Blog, but to recap.

David’s been working at AEI for seven years without incident or problem. And he’s been doing essentially the same thing throughout those entire seven years: writing, publishing, lecturing, and opining — in books, for the public prints, on television and radio, at seminars and conference, and at college and university lecture halls. That, after all, is what think tank scholars do.

Yet, we’re supposed to believe that now, all of a sudden, in late March 2010, AEI’s had an epiphany and realized that what David’s been doing for the past seven years isn’t enough. He’s not pulling his weight and earning his salary.

I suppose that’s possible, but why then did it take AEI seven years to figure this out? And are we really supposed to believe that the timing of AEI’s supposed revelation is a mere coincidence? I report, you decide:

* Sunday, Mar. 21 — David writes a widely publicized piece (“Waterloo”), much condemned on the Right, in which he blames conservatives for the debacle that is Obamacare.

* Monday evening, Mar. 22 (online) — The highly influential (amongst conservatives) Wall Street Journal editorial page condemns David for his “Waterloo” piece. The Journal also tries to excommunicate David from the conservative movement by charging him with quite literally selling out his conservative principles to curry favor with the liberal media elite.

* Tuesday morning, Mar. 23 — AEI president Arthur Brooks emails David and asks that they meet for lunch.

* Thursday, Mar.  25 — David and Brooks meet for lunch. What exactly Brooks tells David is unknown. But based upon published press and blog accounts, we do know this: Brooks tells David that his longstanding work arrangement with AEI will have to change. David no longer can continue working at AEI as he has for the past seven years.

Now, the question is why did AEI feel it necessary, after seven years, to significantly alter its work relationship with David? I think you have to be incredibly naive to think that David’s recent perceived apostasy within the conservative movement had nothing to do with AEI’s decision. The timing of AEI’s decision certainly invites suspicion and doubt, does it not?

The fact is that think tanks are businesses. They are subject to financial constraints and bottom line pressures. They need to raise money and find new revenue streams just like any other business. And whom they hire — and fire — certainly is affected by bottom-line business and financial decisions. And nothing in Tunku Varadarajan’s piece at the Daily Beast or Charles Murray’s post at The Corner suggests otherwise.

That’s because when you cut through all of the rhetorical fog, you see overwhelming evidence that David Frum was fired for his perceived political apostasies.

I should add that to say all this is not to be anti-AEI or anti-Arthur Brooks. AEI scholars are superb, and Mr. Brooks is a model think tank president and scholar.

However, I do wish AEI would be more candid and forthright about what exactly happened re. David Frum. I also wish they would be more transparent about the financial pressures that force them to make difficult and sometimes, it now seems, shameful decisions.

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

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