To Siberia, Applebaum!


Whether or not you agree with him (generally, or in his staunch opposition to the Palin choice), David Frum has been a great read these past few months, and this broadside is no exception. For the sin of backing Barack Obama—in a rather unconvincing semi-endorsement—Anne Applebaum, author of the terrific Pulitzer Prize-winning book Gulag, is attacked by National Review blogger Kevin Williamson for being some sort of Euro-sympathetic elitist, faux conservative. Here is Williamson:

And I find it difficult to believe for a moment that this was some sort of wrenching, soul-searching exercise for the one DC-born/Sidwell Friends-and-Yale alumnus/Europe-dwelling member of the Washington Post editorial board who was seriously thinking about going Republican this year. Spare us the opera; you're an Obama voter. Big deal.

Well, now. This is an absurd criticism on many levels, but as someone who lived in Europe for reasons similar to Applebaum—my wife is Swedish, her husband is Polish—let me remind Williamson that, rather than relaxing on the Left Bank in Paris, reading Sartre and smoking Gitanes, she is married to Radek Sikorski, the very pro-American former Polish Minister of Defense (and current Minister of Foreign Affairs). It should also be mentioned that her elitist European (boo!) husband has also contributed to National Review countless times over the years. Frum's rebuke to Williamson is here, and includes the following question: "What has happened at NR when this generation's greatest living expert on the crimes of communism can be dismissed as an unserious and dishonorable person?" Indeed.

Michael Weiss has an interesting response here, slamming those Stalinist conservatives who have tried to paint Frum as "a dandy arriviste more fond of attending D.C. cocktail parties than blindly supporting any old candidate the Republicans toss up this year," guilty of the unforgivable sin of deviationism.  

Frum's latest adult intervention into the playpen that is NRO's Corner blog is to defend the excellent Ann Applebaum. A Thatcherite conservative with an independent cast of mind, Applebaum wrote a column for Slate in which she explained why she couldn't in good conscience vote for John McCain this year. She did not technically endorse Barack Obama, but just being anti-McCain was enough to tweak the epigones of William F. Buckley, some of whom were even more strongly anti-McCain when Mitt Romney was still a nationally saleable dreamboat.   


Has the tradition of Burke and Chambers really degenerated into such hands?  Buckley, of whom I'm a lesser admirer than most of the so-called "Obamacons," could at least keep lifelong friendships with liberals such as Murray Kempton and John Kenneth Galbraith. And Robert Conquest, I have it on excellent authority, was quite the gentleman to Susan Sontag when they were first introduced. (The author of The Great Terror, who fired a rifle on behalf of the Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War, once lived in Europe, too.)

I'm under no illusion that an Obama administration will usher in a period of American "healing." The politics of polarization has always been with us, and it's in no danger of expiring in the Age of Blogorrhea. But how sad that those paid to do the hard thinking about the future of conservatism should all rush to prove that they've got the intellects of four-year-olds, and the temperaments of Comintern agents.

Williamson responds here.

Weiss's reason piece on cyberwar in Estonia is here.

NEXT: Friday Mini Book Review: Most Outrageous

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  1. my wife is Swedish, her husband is Polish. . .

    That’s quite an arrangement you’ve got there.

    I kid, I kid. Total agreement – this whole circus is amazing to watch.

  2. Didn’t Frum write te Axis of Evil speech?

    If so, his (neo)(mouth-breathing Nat’l Review)-Conservative bona fides should be fairly impeccable.

    It amazes me how quickly some people will turn to eat their own when food gets scarce.

  3. Great post. I never thought I would say this, but David Frum testify!

    I used to think the amazingly well trained and message tight movement conservatives would give the GOP an automatic advantage for decades, but now I think they may be a victim of their own push for ideological purity. They started this Stalinist way of thinking and its eating them.

    Some of the leaders are getting smart and jumping to the side as the majority of the movement conservatives follow their leaders over the cliff to electoral defeat.

  4. Wasn’t Frum the guy who kicked everyone else out of the party if they weren’t down with the whole adventurism thing?

    It’s so rare to see something legitimately ironic going on. It’s kind of refreshing.

  5. If even a Bush-fellating neocon like Frum says you’re too nasty toward Sen. Obama’s supporters, you really need to reconsider your position.

    If the Republicans refuse to flush the neocons down the toilet, cast them into the outer darkness, then the Republican Party deserves to die.

    As for those neocon rats who are deserting the sinking Republican ship, I hope Sen. Obama has the brains, and the balls, to tell them to fuck the hell off, lest then do to the Obama administration what they did to the Bush administration.

  6. “If even a Bush-fellating neocon like Frum says you’re too nasty toward Sen. Obama’s supporters, you really need to reconsider your position.

    Yeah, really.

  7. In the vein of “rather unconvincing semi-endorsement[s]”:

    I’m sure that anyone who is libertarian and tends to slip back and forth across the Red-Blue line gets pilloried by straight-line conservatives or straight-line liberals.

    So what? That’s the beauty of basing your decisions on principle rather than partisanship.

    I cast my absentee ballot for Obama, basing my decision on McCain’s background. While some of his life story is downright heroic, his voting record isn’t. That’s how I found myself thinking that I should give the new guy a chance rather vote for the guy who has been in DC for 40 years.

    I’m sure I’ll regret it, as I’ve regretted voting for every candidate since I was first able to cast a vote in presidential election – which was for Bill Clinton. (Who I voted for twice and learned to regret those votes as I’m sure I’ll learn to regret this vote.)

    Since I also voted for Bush twice, I’m a pretty good indicator of who will win – everyone I’ve ever voted for in a presidential election has won that election.

    Of course, I always have the cold comfort of my conviction that the other guy would have been worse… True Halloween horror tales:

    A second term of Pres. Bush Sr.? (Just plain SCARY.)

    Pres. Dole? (“Spike the dead to prevent them from rising again!”)

    Pres. Gore? (“To make a long story short, I was sent to Hell and back again. Then again. And again…”)

    Pres. Kerry? (“That’s FrankenSHTAIN!”)

    Pres. McCain? (“Perhaps I can find new ways to motivate them” AND “I find your lack of faith disturbing…”)

  8. Stock up on popcorn, the real show starts Nov. 5th!

  9. I still think David Frum is a hack. And I really have to wonder what goes on in the heads of “Obamacons”. If you’re that pissed off at the Republicans, vote Libertarian and send a message. Unless, of course, you don’t think the Republicans are statist enough, in which case go f*ck yourself.

  10. This alternative presidential history thing is kind of entertaining. Each of these is in an independent timeline, to prevent the problem of earlier divergences from the historical timeline changing the possibilities for future divergences.

    1912-Dammit. Teddy Roosevelt again!?
    1916-Maybe whoever was elected would have actually kept us out of war.
    1932-Hoover’s second term, or, I know that if I raise tariffs some more the depression will end.
    1940-Wendell Wilkie wins. How do you like that alliteration?
    1948-Dewey Wins!
    1952-Adlai Steven beats fmr. general
    1956-Adlai Stevenson tries again and succeeds.
    1960-Richard Nixon, eight years early
    1968-President Hubert Humphrey
    1972-President McGovern
    !976-The second term of Gerald Ford.
    1980-Malaise Forever!
    1984-Tax increases for everyone!
    1988-Fmr. Massachusetts governor as president *shudder*
    1992-No new taxes! I promise this time!
    2000-And that’s why we can’t drive cars anymore.
    2004-What do you mean, you were joking about an exit strategy!?
    2008-Bob Barr becomes president, promptly switches back to Republican party.

  11. If you’re that pissed off at the Republicans, vote Libertarian and send a message.

    This won’t work if it allows the GOP to retain the White House. Better to vote Dem, as splitting the vote won’t piss off the Republicans as much as losing the vote.

  12. “And I find it difficult to believe for a moment that this was some sort of wrenching, soul-searching exercise for the one DC-born/Sidwell Friends-and-Yale alumnus/Europe-dwelling member of the Washington Post editorial board…”

    If you’re in that camp and you want to go after someone personally like that, I thought you were supposed to fit “latte-swilling” in there somewhere.

    I thought that was adopted early, like Rule #17 or so.

  13. shecky,
    That might be a valid argument if the Republicans had any change of winning even with full support from their base.

  14. economist,

    1960-Richard Nixon, eight years early

    Ever read Red Son?

    Nixon squeaks it out in 1960, and he’s assassinated in Dallas.

    Senator Kennedy is then elected in 1968.

  15. All political parties have their extreme followers and apostates. Is such a “micro-storm” really that interesting?

    What’s more unfortunate is how National Review (at least the Internet version–haven’t read the print in years) has become little more than a hyper-partisan vehicle in a way that the leftist rags like The New Republic haven’t. By attaching their lips so firmly to to the buttocks of whoever is running the GOP at any given moment, NR has lost much of its ability to function as a forum for debating various strains of conservative thought. Looking back, some of the founders of the magazine would never have a place there now, I believe.

  16. They started this Stalinist way of thinking and its eating them.

    When they turned George Bush into a divinely-chosen uberman icon after 9/11, and made the decision to become the George Bush Party, there was no going back.

    They literally sold bronze busts of George W. Bush on the pages of National Review magazine.

  17. Most native Europeans I know living here in the US are far more conservative and/or mainstream than many Republicans.

  18. “When they turned George Bush into a divinely-chosen uberman icon after 9/11, and made the decision to become the George Bush Party, there was no going back.”

    Coincidentally, for me, there was no going back with them after that either.

  19. How can you be more conservative and more mainstream at the same time? Same applies for being more liberal and being more mainstream.

  20. I’m still voting for McCain. Screw these cowards.

  21. Apparently the Big Tent meant being someone whose principles adhere to those of Obama.

    Time for conservatives to rethink their role in the GOP or abandon it as a hopelessly corrupt instrument of corrupt Beltway politicians and their masters.

  22. Wheeee, kiddies! Peep the last paragraph again:

    Frum is absolutely correct that in these disappointing times some conservatives have become far too ready to “read out” those with whom they disagree; I wouldn’t presume to do so with anybody of Anne Applebaum’s standing, of course, or David Frum’s, though I’m pretty sure that the Big Tent isn’t quite big enough to include Senator Obama, whatever his other virtues.

    (Reproduced in toto.)

    Now go read Frum in ’03:

    Here’s the short list of the conservatives Frum “read out” of the movement:

    Patrick Buchanan and Robert Novak. Llewellyn Rockwell, Samuel Francis, Thomas Fleming, Scott McConnell, Justin Raimondo, Joe Sobran, Charley Reese, Jude Wanniski, Eric Margolis, and Taki Theodoracopulos.

    I love intra-marxist shiv-fests!

  23. Frum is the same guy who wanted to purge anti-war conservatives. F him.

  24. Not sure whether to laugh or cry at that Frum 2003 article. I especially like where he rakes Pat Buchanan over the coals for daring to suggest that we might not be able to capture bin Laden by invading Afghanistan. And Justin Raimondo for positing that the Iraq War would accomplish little and cost much.

    I’m not giving him any pats on the back until his esophagus is packed with crow feathers, which doesn’t appear to be the case.

  25. Isn’t Frum the asshole who was on the receiving end of Jon Stewart’s all-time greatest “shut the fuck up, you stupid political hack” line?

    Let’s see…

    Oh, yeah! Here it is:

    “You should check into YOUR guy!”

    Frum is a jackass. He’s a somewhat articulate jackass, which is why some people miss the fact that he’s a fucking idiot.


  26. I think they may be a victim of their own push for ideological purity.

    But they don’t push for ideological purity. They don’t want allegiance to any particular idea or ideas. All that’s important is that you support the GOP candidate, and whatever they’re saying at any particular moment in time, regardless of its content.

    They demand obedience, not purity. There’s a difference.

    That’s why they can drum people out of the movement based on a lack of support for Mccain, a person most of them at other times have written and spoken against and derided.

  27. Many right wingers have stalinist mentalities. I had no idea Moynihan was Polish

  28. I don’t think Moynihan is Polish. Applebaum’s husband is.

  29. Conservatives, at this point, can’t demand ideological purity because they have no coherent ideology. They have leaders and they have a party, and so those have risen to paramount importance. If Obama advocated pulling out of NATO, invading Venezuela or expanding unconstitutional surveillance I would take a walk, but would still be considered a democrat. But look what happens when republicans decide they don’t support McCain for various issues.

  30. …which makes it particularly amusing, MAD MAX, to think that just two years ago, Republicans were still congratulating themselves for being “the party of ideas.”

  31. Er, MAX HATS.

  32. Yes. YES!! I love watching this disintegration of the right. Oh, let me taste your tears, Republicans! Mm, your tears are so yummy and sweet.

  33. KT,
    If you’re a libertarian for Obama, you might want to get your tear-tasting in early.

    You might shed a few of your own in the next 4-8 years.

  34. The D-party doesn’t have a coherent philosophy either. Well, beyond “vote for us and we’ll give you money!”, but the Republicans are becoming adept at that one too.

  35. At the rate this is going, there won’t be much of a Republican Party anymore in a few years. As a former Republican, that doesn’t really seem to bother me.

    What bothers me, however, is people in the Republican Party are unwittingly allowing an increasingly anti-personal-freedom Democratic Party to more or less run de facto unopposed, something most of us could do without seeing.

    Why can’t they go back to blowing each other back into the Stone Age like they used to?

  36. The D-party doesn’t have a coherent philosophy either.

    Very true, but that’s why the democratic party doesn’t spend a lot of time demanding fealty. The democratic party sees itself, rightly, as a massive coalition. The republican party sees itself more as a movement.

  37. Concerning the possible crackup of the Republican party:
    While this is probably unwarranted optimism on my part, I think the destruction of the Republican party might be good for libertarianism in the long run. Here’s how.
    With a Republican crackup, I can see some of the more populist Republicans and the “moderate” Republicans would tend to join the Democrats. This would have the effect of bringing a conflict into the Democratic party between its more populist wing, its more moderate/centrist supporters, and its left-liberal base. Meanwhile, without a clear opposition, many libertarian-leaning Democrats (I know, there’s the unwarranted optimism again) could easily leave the party without worrying about handing elections to Republicans. It’s possible that they might join with what’s left of the libertarian-leaning Republicans and some moderates scared off by an increasingly populist Democratic party to form a more libertarian opposition. This scenario assumes of course, that a large number of people become aware that a statist system isn’t a sunshine and roses fantasyland, which is yet more unwarranted optimism. Basically in my unwarranted optimism scenario, the existing left-right dichotomy completely breaks down to be replace by a libertarian-populist dichotomy.

  38. Fun clip: Frum on Rachel Maddow’s show.

  39. I’m not for Obama, I’m just incredibly pissed at Republicans. I’m used to the government being shitty but man, this crowd has really taken the cake.

  40. but you’re not voting for a leader, you’re voting for a government. as i’ve said over and over (and i see that reason is starting to run articles with the same idea), a libertarian’s best hope in the actual world we live in and this actual election is mccain, given the certainty of democrat control (and probably total dominance)of the legislative branch. a mccain victory will result in four years of partisan squabbling, bickering, investigations, scandals, lawsuits, everything except legislating and making policy.

    i could live with that.

  41. Normally I would agree, but a McCain win would essentially be a vindication of the last 8 years. I’m not OK with that. It’s not really about McCain or Obama.

  42. economist | November 1, 2008, 10:06pm | #

    And then New England the Pacific northwest become the swing states, and I become one of those fascinating undecided voters who always gets his butt kissed.

    I love this plan. I’m excited to be a part of it!

  43. McCain will win handily.

  44. If we are seeing anything it is the crack up of the dhimmierat party. Stripped of its thin veneer of civility the deep well of class hatred, racial hatred, and Marxism is revealed. Can a party that holds an Obama as its candidate be more bankrupt or corrupt?

    How long will the average party member admit to voting or supporting Obama. My guess is less than a year oif he wins, and probably less than six months if he losses.

    There is no coherent belief system within the dhimmirat party. Just the worship of power and its seizure at any cost.

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