Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Oh, this is good!

David Frum is Moe Green and Mark Levin is Michael Corleone, and it's time to settle old scores:
David Frum was never much of a thinker. Try as he might, he just can't seem to attract interest, let alone a following, even when stabbing his old boss, President George W. Bush, in the back with a rambling screed. Profiting from a confidential relationship with a president is about as low as it gets. But Frum, the ex-speech-writer turned self-hating blogger, isn't done descending. Now he spends his lonely days and nights at his keyboard trying to settle personal scores and demonizing those who dare to dismiss his ramblings as the work of an emotional wreck.
Go read every blood-drenched word. See why I like Levin? He is perfectly happy to spend his days going after Democrats and ignore the occasional insult. But if you ever really piss him off . . .
(Via Protein Wisdom.) Go read the whole thing, but check back here in an hour or so, because I'll have an update I think you'll want to read.

UPDATE: Believe it or not, I consider David Frum a friend. He did me a favor once when I needed it, and I try not to forget a favor.

Nothing hurts me worse than to see two friends at daggers drawn, as with Frum and Levin, but Levin is clearly the injured party here. As I sometimes say when somebody gets cross-ways with me, "Buddy, you done pissed off the wrong redneck."

Frum wrote a truly excellent book about the 1970s, How We Got Here, and his wife, Danielle Crittenden, wrote a truly excellent book about feminism, What Our Mothers Never Told Us. I do not hesitate to recommend either book, even if you don't like David Frum.

So, what happened to Frum? He made the mistake of joining the Bush speechwriting team without thinking of what he was getting himself into. As Matthew Scully has explained, Bush made the mistake of assigning his speechwriting shop to Michael Gerson, a worthless, self-serving, two-faced, second-rate scoundrel.

There is something about working for a mediocrity like Gerson that injures a man's pride, which is why it is always dangerous to entrust managerial or supervisory duties to mediocrities. Gerson was a disloyal glory hog who was always leaking to the press. The rest of the speechwriting staff knew who was doing the leaking, they resented the hell out of it, and it destroyed morale.

That kind of stuff happens all the time in D.C.. When I showed up for my first day of work at The Washington Times in November 1997, I got talking to a guy named Michael Rust, a brilliant writer who died a few years ago of diabetes. Michael said, "Welcome to Washington, a town where people advance" -- and here he made a motion with his hands, as if climbing a ladder -- "on the knives stuck in the backs of their former friends."

Ah, would that I had heeded Michael's warning more closely! It was not until about 2006 that I began to understand what he meant. The specifics are irrelevant here, but the lesson that you must understand is that most feuds like this in Washington are not really about ideology, they're about ambition.

There is another excellent book you should read by -- surprise! -- David Brooks. Bobos in Paradise (2000) includes a chapter describing the means by which political intellectuals ascend the ranks of the punditocracy. It's a shrewd and devastatingly accurate analysis of how things work inside the Beltway, and the insightful reader realizes that Brooks followed his own cunning advice. ("Brooks, you brilliant bastard! I read your book!")

When I write about The Republicans Who Really Matter, I'm trying to explain how ambition accounts for the bizarre peregrinations of so many "conservative" operatives in Washington. It isn't that they don't have principles or that they don't have any core beliefs. Rather, it is that they stay in the game long enough to see how the game is played by the "winners" -- e.g. , David Gergen -- and decide to start playing that same game.

This is why I so admire Robert Novak. An excellent reporter who was originally a liberal Republican, Novak followed the facts wherever they led him -- which is why he became a conservative. But if a Republican was doing the wrong thing, he always had to worry about Novak, because Novak was fearless and independent, and he would blow the whistle in a heartbeat if he found out someone was running a scam.

In his ill-advised article "Unpatriotic Conservatives," Frum unjustly attacked Novak, and Rich Lowry should have been fired immediately for having had the bad taste to publish such a thing on the cover of National Review. (What did Ann Coulter call Lowry, a "girly man"?)

I've got friends on both sides of the paleoconservative/neoconservative divide. My paleo friends are laughing their asses off to see Levin and Frum going at one another. And half my family is Democrats, so you can imagine how they're enjoying this internecine Republican bloodletting.

It's just like when Charles Johnson goes after Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Who assigned Charles as the Torquemada to lead the Blogospheric Inquisition? In any large collaborative enterprise, these kinds of feuds and schisms are to be expected, but sooner or later somebody has got to say, "Hey, knock it off with this Urge to Purge power trip." I've got no personal beef with Charles, but at the point he accused Geller of being a pawn of Euro-fascism, he jumped the shark.

Same thing with Frum or Dreher or anyone else who wants to arrogate to themselves the right to say who is or is not a legitimate conservative spokesman. Like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin and Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin has earned what he's got by honest toil.

Levin's independence is a function of his hard-earned success, and he speaks to an audience that is always free to turn the station. Even if I don't always agree with him -- even if I sometimes think, "Hey, Mark, could you maybe turn it down to 11?" -- Levin is honest, and does not fawn or flatter or backstab.

If Levin's got a problem with you, he's going to come right at you. That's just the way the bad boys roll. Either roll with them, or get out of the way, Moe Green.

My advice to David Frum would be to admit his error and try to make amends, because like I said, "Buddy, you done pissed off the wrong redneck."

UPDATE II: Now linked at Memeorandum, and speaking of pissing off the wrong redneckCanadian, Kathy Shaidle jumps in and predicts the trench warfare will continue all week.
BTW, Kathy perfectly illustrates what I'm trying to say about trying to bridge the paleo/neo divide. Kathy is pro-Israel, which would normally make her neo, but she's so bold in her political incorrectness, it's as if Sam Francis had been reincarnated as a sawed-off Canadian girl. (NTTAWWT.)

And, by God, she fights. That's what really counts with me. I admire conservatives who hate and despise liberalism with a primal ferocity, so that the minute the Left comes after one of our guys . . .
When you're Jet,
You're a Jet all the way,
From your first cigarette
To your last dying day.
Heaven help any fool who thinks he's going to cross Kathy Shaidle and walk away unscathed.

UPDATE III: Just updated the right-sidebar headlines to link this post by Tigerhawk:
Sadly, it is fashionable among certain righty intellectuals to make a point of distancing themselves from Ann Coulter. . . .
The offensive reason, of course, is to establish their bona fides as "reasonable" conservatives so that they do not destroy their social lives. . . .
The more legitimate reason is that Ann, along with Rush, has been so successful promoting a sort of "low brow" conservatism (see John Derbyshire on this taxonomic classification and Rush Limbaugh's impact on it) that the middle-brow version has been terribly diminished by comparison.
Like I said in the headline, "Watch it with that 'lowbrow' stuff, cracker." Coulter and Limbaugh are obviously quite intelligent, and I credit them with knowing exactly what they're doing. (See also: Dreher, Levin, and the Craft of Talk Radio.)

Some people like to imagine that they're more sophisticated than Rush, more sensitive than Coulter, more civil than Levin. And anyone who thinks like that is an arrogant son of bitch, in my book.

When someone is very successful at what they do, they must be given credit for knowing what they're doing. Don't try to tell Jimmy Page how to play guitar and don't tell Tiger Woods how to swing a three iron.

This is not to say that Page never misses a note, or that Tiger never shanks a drive, nor is it to say that Rush or Ann or Mark is immune to criticism. Rather, they have earned, by their demonstrable success, a certain level of respect for their judgment, and ought not be lectured self-righteously by some wannabe "expert" who never played the game. And I will repeat what I said before:
"One of the basic principles of military strategy is to reinforce success. If you see a man who fights and wins, give him reinforcements, and bid others to emulate his success."
Conservatives who want to derogate successful leadership really need to ask themselves whether David Brooks, Kathleen Parker, Rod Dreher et al., have what it takes to inspire and lead conservatives to success. Evidence for such a proposition is lacking.

If Republicans had listened to Rush, John McCain never would have been the GOP nominee and Barack Obama would not have been the Democratic nominee. So if the Republican Party is in disarray, whose fault is that? It ain't the fault of us "lowbrow" conservatives, is it?

Tigerhawk, you're still a Jet in good standing, as far as I'm concerned. I've always liked John Derbyshire, but that was an article he never should have published. And if Rush or Ann see you quoting that kind of stuff, don't say I didn't try to warn you.


  1. I'm normally not one for internicine warfare, but this f***ing rocks.

  2. The only people posting at Frum
    s scary good site are libs.

    Doesn't that say something about the attractiveness of his new ideas on Republican success?

  3. I never thought I'd say this, but I pity Frum. Levin is impossibly dense. I don't know how Frum managed to stay so cool in the face of such thickheaded bullying. I would've resorted to pistols at dawn within ten minutes!

    If this is typical of Levin's shtick, then his show utterly fails to represent his true intelligence. Definitely plays to his negatives.


  4. hollywood wags said...
    The only people posting at Frum
    s scary good site are libs.

  5. OK, I followed the links and read both items.

    Frum has yet to make a case.

    Yes, Levin could 'turn it down to 11,' but ANYONE who listens to talk radio for more than 15 minutes/day knows that every host has their own schtick, and Levin specializes in curt and dismissive.

    Both of the Milwaukee-area conservative radioguys have a small bit of that 'curt/dismissive,' and Limbaugh has almost none.

    It's a question of style, folks.

    )Hell, Von Karajan recorded all of Beethoven's symphonies three times(!)--each one different from the others. (I prefer the last set.)

    No big deal...)

    Frum also backstabbed PJBuchanan when GHWBush realized that he could actually LOSE the (R) debate/nomination back in '88. Frum has never been, and never will be, a Conservative.

  6. I have no problem acknowledging Mark Levin's success at selling books, getting an audience, etc. Trouble is, a part of his schtick is denouncing those-not-as-conservative-as-they as big stinky sellouts. You call someone a sellout, and guess what? You open yourself up to the charge of being a purist nut.

    On the other hand, the bit Mark Levin did about no decent restaurants being open after 10 PM in DC was absolutely spot on.

    Oh, and you can read Frum's 1991 essay on Pat Buchanan on Google Books. Google "the conservative bully boy". You'll find it.

  7. As John Derbyshire might put it, Limbaugh, Coulter, levin, and the other blowhards who stand in for conservative "leadership" might best be described as Happy Meal conservatives--modern, uncouth versions of what some might consider "food." Coulter, Limbaugh, Levin, et al appeal to the self-conscious conservative with an overly oppositional personality. If a liberal eats free-range chicken with organic vegetables, the vulgar conservative revels in a McDonald's Big Mac. He then turns on the radio for hours upon hours of conservative "leadership." What else is he going to do? The liberals have all the good restaurants and network tv.

    We need more fries with that!

  8. If you consider Frum a friend, I got to start wondering about you. You were suiting me fine until I read that.

    Frum and Drihat and Dreher and Brooks and the rest of the X-conservatism crowd, where the X is the latest liberal trend, are top class losers.

    I'll stick with you, but don't bring up your friendship with that wuss, anymore

  9. If I hear James Carville's - Rush and Coulter = leadership - nonsense one more time today, I'm going to scream. It's a lie, it's a damn lie, AND it's a statistic!

    Republicans identify as their leader:
    No one 68%
    Unsure 17%
    John McCain 5%
    Rush Limbaugh 2%
    Sarah Palin 1%
    John Boehner and others, less than 1/2% each

    General Public (including independents and Liberals) PERCEIVE the leader of conservatives (thanks to Emmanuel's talking point) to be:
    38% John McCain
    25% Newt Gingrich
    24% Rush Limbaugh

    The problem is that so many of you FAIL to challenge faulty liberal premises. You're so busy arguing over whether Limbaugh is a GOOD leader, you completely ignored the FACT that he's NOT the leader Libs say he is in the first place.

  10. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this talk radio feud is the logical culmination of snooty attitudes that have been held by some conservatives for years. Here’s the other name I’ll throw into the mix – Michael Savage. I’ll be the first to admit that he’s not everybody’s cup of tea. Is he kind of a nut? Of course he is! But is he beyond the pale of conservative discourse? No! Not only is it perfectly reasonable to enjoy his show - he can be very entertaining – but more often than not I find myself in complete agreement with what he has to say. Yet for years many on the right – the National Review crowd for example – have tried to drum the guy out of the movement as though he were some kind of totally disreputable David Duke-type character when he’s not. If you’re some Commie goofball cop killer like Bill Ayers wife, the lefties like the President of the United States will happily embrace you. If all you do is say some goofy things on the radio to get a rise out of your audience, then uptight right-wingers shun you like the plague. Learn from the Democrats. To them there are no enemies to their left. Even that Stalin guy had some ideas worth defending. To Republican pseudo-cons it appears that anything inflammatory enough to make them uncomfortable over cocktails in the Upper West Side means that somebody has to be run out of town on a rail. Good luck winning elections with that attitude prisses!

  11. R Dittmar, you are wrong about one thing:
    That is not a limb you are on, but a granite foundation of reason and eloquence. Kudos to you sir.

  12. Cody... I'm sorry, did someone slip some Sutter Home white zin into your chablis carafe tonight? You seem a big touchy tonite... and painting with a broad brush you really don't know how to use, rather like the novelty video of the artistic elephant.

    And RSM, we ain't lowbrow. We just look that way because we keep our eyes down on the job at hand, while the likes of Brooks and Frum are swivelling in all directions like ferrets, looking for the next main chance...

  13. Posts like this are the reason I became an R.S. McCain fan. More people on the right need to read this one, since many of us seem to have lost sight of the fact that the left is the real enemy.