This business of conservatives going after more noted conservatives is something I confess I just don’t understand.
Unless I do.
David Frum is after Mark Levin — again — and our friends at National Review. All who once upon a time were his friends and colleagues. Does this sound familiar?
For a succinct summation of Mr. Frum, the must-read is Bob Tyrrell’s “Odious Conservatives.”
In the last few days, we’ve caught up with the latest Frumerie.
A reader sent me a link to a piece in that fine not-conservative publication Harper’s (!!) which goes on at great approving length citing the wisdom of Mr. Frum. And what brought Harper’s accolades to Mr. Frum? You know the answer without even knowing the details. Frum is winning these latest plaudits from yet another liberal quarter because, but of course, he’s out there whacking some conservative somewhere. In this case, Frum is trashing — in order so we can keep track this time — 1) Mark Levin, 2) National Review,3) Rush Limbaugh, 4) Fox News.
Sean Hannity escaped this round. Not to worry, I’m sure Mr. Hannity will reappear in Frum’s fire zone. Mr. Frum needs to eat. To smear is to eat.
What Bob Tyrrell has unerringly picked up is a pattern. To quote him directly:
A major proposition that I advance in a book that will be published later this month, After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery, is that there exists an odious subgroup of conservatives who since the beginning of the conservative movement have made their way to prominence in the mainstream media by a cheap act. They disparage with great melodrama other conservatives.
The book is now out, and as if to help Mr. Tyrrell prove his point, right on cue Frum stands up to attack Levin, NR, Rush and Fox. The only thing that changes with Frum is the venue (the television shows of Bill Moyers and Bill Maher, the cover of Newsweek, etc). Frum knows in advance that by doing what Tyrrell pins exactly as a “cheap act” the chances are someone out there in liberal land will buy the act. This time, the buyer was Harper‘s.
What is striking here is the personal bitterness that seeps out. Frum is smart, you see. Just ask him. The foam practically drips off the page as he digs at “the One Correct Way of Mark Levin Thought.” Or tosses similar bitter sentiments at the NR crew.
Next the target was Rush Limbaugh. Again.
“Rush Limbaugh isn’t any worse than he was 20 years ago,” Frum quotes a friend approvingly. If memory serves, Mr. Limbaugh was the subject of a great article — a cover article at that — at National Review when William F. Buckley was still very much in charge. Where was Mr. Frum if he disapproved? Was there a hot letter of disapproval to WFB? A cover article at Newsweek taking Mr. Buckley to task?
The short answer is: are you kidding?
Mr. Frum’s problems give the appearance of being motivated at frustration he is somehow not getting the due he feels his smarts deserve, whatever smarts those might be. His books don’t sell like Mark Levin’s — or Sean Hannity’s new Conservative Victory, now atop the NYT bestseller list after barely a couple weeks on sale. Frum is not even close to Levin in book sales in the ratio of minnow to whale, thousands to over a million. He doesn’t have Levin or Hannity’s or Rush’s influence as popular radio/TV talk show hosts. And so? Like Jimmy Carter fuming that he lost to Reagan, whom Carter then and now considered a lesser being, resentment builds. It is no accident that he has now, in one venue or another, smeared Rush, Levin and Hannity . For good measure, he now hates Glenn Beck too.
Does it really need to be said that what Rush, Mark, Sean and Beck have exactly in common besides philosophy is the clear sense of their audience that they are not being condescended to? This is communication skill 101 — and for whatever reason Mr. Frum doesn’t seem to get it much less have it. They are — and this is what really gets to Mr. Frum — communicating a conservative message intelligently and effectively. Something Frum insists he knows how to do better than they — he just somehow can’t deliver. Why? Quite aside from the fact they have a better grasp of conservatism then Frum does, they respect their audience. And their audience respects them in return. No one that I know in everyday life out here beyond the Beltway cares that Frum thinks he’s a smart guy. They simply don’t care. They have no idea who Frum is, which is not unsurprising. The Frum message has ranged on the surface from Reagan failed to Limbaugh is an idiot to a website salute to…no kidding…Thomas E. Dewey.
The real message received is that David Frum condescends in the same fashion as all the liberals who celebrate him when he turns on his friends and the philosophy he insists he supports. When that message fails to sell, Frum resorts to frenzied attacks on Levin. Or National Review. Or Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and Fox News. Let’s not leave out the martyrdom pose from his AEI squabble with Arthur Brooks. And so on. And on.
Who knows where the fickle finger of Frum will next point?
Increasingly it must be said: who cares?