Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Novak vs. Frum, Levin vs. Frum, and Casualties of Rhetorical Combat

Today's news about the death of Robert Novak brought to mind my first meeting with Novak in 2002, and subsequent events:
It was Novak's criticism of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, and especially his agreement with Buchanan on that subject, that earned him inclusion in David Frum's notorious 2003 catalog of "Unpatriotic Conservatives."
Since then, Frum has gone on to attack others, including Mark Levin. . . . As a result of the Bush policy -- and the rhetoric that attended the political defense of that policy -- every consideration of the U.S. position in the Middle East became a crude referendum on anti-Semitism, so that all dissenters were suspected of being closet Jew-haters in "unpatriotic" allegiance with terrorists.
This Manichean rhetorical escalation was both unfortunate and unjust, even if some of the dissenters (including Buchanan) had unwisely given their critics ammunition with which to arm accusations of mala fides. When discussions of policy become clouded by such damaging insinuations, when disagreement is cited as evidence of moral inferiority -- can anyone but a child molester be worse than an anti-Semite? -- then honest discussion becomes impossible. . . .
Today, of course, Novak can no longer be harmed by accusations that he, born at Jew, was guilty of aiding and abetting anti-Semites. Whatever his faults and errors, Bob Novak now awaits the judgment of a higher authority than David Frum. Let us pray that Frum will now pause to consider that he, too, shall one day be judged by the same authority.
You can read the whole thing at The American Spectator, and I am grateful to be linked in Ed Driscoll's own Novak tribute, as well as by DaTechguy, Mark Goluskin and Craig Henry.

Last night, I got a message from a veteran conservative communications professional, a friend who on Friday had tried to contact me about Frum's attack on Levin. Over the weekend, my attention had been consumed by other news, and so I had not responded to an earlier e-mail.

In the meantime, however, Dan Riehl had blogged about it, and someone called my attention to Frum's appearance on the Moyers show, and my response to that was actually mentioned on Monday night's show by Levin.

Nothing is more harmful to the legacy of Ronald Reagan than when a conservative, engaged in good-faith discussions of politics and policy, is publicly accused of dangerous malice, immorality or irresponsibility by another who purports similarly to revere the worthy cause to which Reagan dedicated his life.

Frum's attack on Levin was such an occasion, as was his "Unpatriotic Conservatives" article that attacked Novak and others. If a colleague in the conservative cause has erred in judgment, he should certainly expect criticism. Yet Frum has so clearly crossed a line -- and crossed it more than once -- that I wish he would entertain the hypothetical possibility that he has himself made errors of judgment.

Our nation is now in circumstances too desperate for good men to be silent while sincere conservatives like Mark Levin (who did honorable service under Ed Meese in the Reagan administration) are repeatedly and unfairly maligned by others who profess also to be conservatives.

(Cross-posted at the Hot Air Green Room.)


  1. Mark Levin is engaged in "good-faith discussions of politics and policy"?

  2. Thanks for the high five, I owe you a beer next time you are in central mass or a shot of Chivas if you are at the house.

  3. Frum isn’t a conservative now and never has been a conservative. Frum’s Unpatriotic essay was intended to support a purge of whatever elements of traditional conservatism remained after the takeover of most mainstream institutions by the Neocons (or Neocon-artists if you prefer).

    Note that no traditional conservative would’ve supported the Iraq war because it was exactly the kind of Wilsonian left wing project that had already been rejected by previous generations of conservatives. Just go back to Irving Babbitt and James Burnham or Albert Jay Nock or Russell Kirk and you might learn something. I know we aren’t supposed to mention “dead white men”, but when the current test of who and what is conservative is reduced to the latest rant from talk radio or the latest cheap internet essay, in place of the tradition that is deep and vast, than it is time to forget about the fake “conservatives” of the present hour and wait for the collapse of the Republic to wake more people up to the fact that they have been “had.” And a large part of that “Con-job” was conducted by the Neocon-artists like Frum.

  4. David Frum cries himself to sleep when he can't get the adoration of fellow travelers.
    He is reaching for Kathleen Parker's slot.

    He is a typical liberal "manipulate the masses" douchebag that has no concept of the arguments he spews forth.

    Back then, when the adults around him would talk, he would glean what he could and run headlong into stupidity like the "Unpatriotic Conservatives" thing, an oxymoronic phrase if there ever was one. It's like "Liberal Economists."

    Frum is a backbiting pantywaist who should be Rahm Emanuel's intern. Trying to have civil discourse with such creatures is like talking to a smart dog. It seems okay for awhile, but suddenly it craps on the floor.

    Excuse me, I have to go take a Frum...

  5. "He is reaching for Kathleen Parker's slot."

    If this were Ace of Spades I'd be screaming in horror right now...

  6. I, too, would prefer not to contemplate the horrible issue of a Frum/Parker mating.

    PW: phorta