As health care reform, after decades of intense debate, was finally being passed on Sunday, conservative commentator and former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum, who has been spending his recent months "dedicated to the modernization and renewal of the Republican party and the conservative movement," issued a condemnation of the "conservatives and Republicans ourselves," for not being willing to "deal with the administration" on health care. It was a much-linked essay, with plenty of bad things to say about Rush Limbaugh, "conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio," and "the conservative entertainment industry," all of whom were "whipp[ing] the Republican voting base into such a frenzy." (Read Peter Suderman's reaction to Frum's analysis here.)
Anyway, fast forward to today, and Frum has suddenly been tossed from his fellowship position at the American Enterprise Institute, where he had been since 2003. Read the stories from The New York Times (which includes AEI's official statement) and the Washington Post.
Bruce Bartlett, who was fired from the National Center for Policy Analysis in 2005 "for writing a book critical of George W. Bush's policies, especially his support for Medicare Part D," comments:
Since, he is no longer affiliated with AEI, I feel free to say publicly something he told me in private a few months ago. He asked if I had noticed any comments by AEI "scholars" on the subject of health care reform. I said no and he said that was because they had been ordered not to speak to the media because they agreed with too much of what Obama was trying to do. [...]
[N]ow I see that I was just the first to suffer from a closing of the conservative mind. Rigid conformity is being enforced, no dissent is allowed, and the conservative brain will slowly shrivel into dementia if it hasn't already.
Sadly, there is no place for David and me to go. The donor community is only interested in financing organizations that parrot the party line, such as the one recently established by McCain economic adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin. [...]
[T]his is a black day for what passes for a conservative movement, scholarship, and the once-respected AEI.
My view on Frum is colored by two things he wrote in 2003–The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush, An Inside Account, and a National Review cover story on "Unpatriotic Conservatives." A sample from the latter:
Some of the leading figures in this antiwar movement call themselves "conservatives."
These conservatives are relatively few in number, but their ambitions are large. They aspire to reinvent conservative ideology: to junk the 50-year-old conservative commitment to defend American interests and values throughout the world — the commitment that inspired the founding of this magazine — in favor of a fearful policy of ignoring threats and appeasing enemies. [...]
You may know the names of these antiwar conservatives. Some are famous: Patrick Buchanan and Robert Novak. Others are not: Llewellyn Rockwell, Samuel Francis, Thomas Fleming, Scott McConnell, Justin Raimondo, Joe Sobran, Charley Reese, Jude Wanniski, Eric Margolis, and Taki Theodoracopulos. [...]
They began by hating the neoconservatives. They came to hate their party and this president. They have finished by hating their country.
War is a great clarifier. It forces people to take sides. The paleoconservatives have chosen — and the rest of us must choose too. In a time of danger, they have turned their backs on their country. Now we turn our backs on them.
Frum has a richer experience than most when it comes to drawing, enforcing, and being expelled from boundaries of acceptable coalitions and discourse. Should be interesting to see how this story plays out.