I come to my biggest personal beef with David’s piece, his sermonizing about rhetoric. David acknowledges that he has been on a soapbox for a while, arguing that “hysterical” talk radio, etc., has “overheated” the debate and done harm to the conservative health-care cause. Nonsense, I say. Passionate “extremism” is part of any political debate, and the more of it the better. I especially don’t want lectures about excessive rhetoric from the man who wrote “An End to Evil,” and whose post-9/11 cover story in National Review called a whole cluster of tough-minded conservatives “unpatriotic” (mostly, in the end, because they had criticized Israel). Among the vilified group was Robert Novak, who fought in Korea. Unpatriotic!
Finally, may I end with an observation on what makes David so attractive to the bien-pensant crowd? It is the fact that he comes coated with the delicious flavors of apostasy. This has happened a lot with Bush: Scott McClellan, Matt Latimer… David Frum. Anybody who was inside, didn’t like what he saw, and then came out and took a shot at the boss is immediately exalted as a wise man. The press is especially vulnerable to this pattern, seeing the whole thing as a battle for conscience in which truth prevails, while conveniently turning a blind eye to the opportunism that’s usually involved.
Which is why David will continue to write and be published, his conservatism tailored to East Coast tastes—and will continue to be read in polite company, far removed from all that is shrill and from a party he once embraced.