Steyn the joking defeatist; Frum the conservative strategist

Count on Mark Steyn to declare premature defeat. Just as he’s said a hundred times, in a hundred different ways, that there’s nothing for the West to do but accept Islamization, now he’s speaking as if the GOP nomination fight is over and there’s nothing to do but resign ourselves to what he sees as the miserable choice between McCain and Hillary. Amazingly, Steyn in this column not only fails to mention the possibility of supporting Romney in order to stop McCain, he doesn’t even mention Romney’s name—just he has never mentioned the possibility of stopping or reducing Muslim immigration into the West, even as he jokingly bemoans the Islamization of the West.

However, while Steyn is the last person in the world you’d want to be in a foxhole with, since instead of fighting the enemy he’d be making jokes about surrendering to the enemy, his column does have some salutary honesty about his neoconservative colleagues and their foolish support for Giuliani, with particular attention on David Frum:

Yet Sen. Edwards can’t even claim the consolation prize of Most Inept Candidate of 2008. The Rudy Giuliani campaign went from national front-runner to total collapse so spectacularly that they’ll be teaching it in Candidate School as a cautionary tale for decades to come. As each state’s date with destiny loomed, Giuliani retreated, declining to compete in Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina. “America’s Mayor” turned out to be Hizzoner of a phantom jurisdiction—a national front-runner but a single-digit asterisk in any state where any actual voters were actually voting.

Giuliani’s fate unnerves me because … Rudy had the support of a lot of my columnar confreres: John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary; Andy McCarthy and Lisa Schiffren at National Review; and David Frum, author of the new book “Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again.” Yet he backed a candidate who took off and barely cleared the runway before nose-diving into the sod.

Steyn sure has nailed David Frum’s political judgment. How reliable can a book on political strategy be that is called “Conservatism That Can Win Again,” when its author endorsed and joined the campaign of a candidate who ended up winning one delegate? As someone said last week with regard to the collapse of the Giuliani campaign, everything the neocons touch turns to ashes. Yet they never learn from their mistakes, they just go on to the next disaster.

It’s like John Podhoretz in 2000, declaring after George W. Bush won the Iowa primary, that the race was over, that Bush was the nominee; and then, when McCain crushed Bush in New Hampshire a week later, Podhoretz declared with equal assurance that the race was over, McCain would be the nominee. The spectacular discrediting of his sweeping prediction after Iowa did not prevent him from making an equally sweeping—and wrong—prediction a week later.

But the chronic cluelessness of the immature and clownish Podhoretz doesn’t count next to that of the more intelligent Frum. As Amazon commenter Theodore A. Rushton points out about Frum’s new book, “Comeback: Conservatism that Can Win Again”:

It’s hard to understand the premise of this book. After seven years of the George W. Bush presidency, why is a “comeback” needed to create a “conservatism that can win again”?

Bush, as I recall from reviewing an earlier Frum book, is “The Right Man.” If Bush is the right man, why is a comeback necessary? If Bush is not the right man to personify conservative values, then why did Frum say he was? He must have really fooled Frum. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

To restate and expand on Rushton’s point, if conservatism is in such bad shape now, after seven years of President Bush, that it needs to “come back,” isn’t Frum saying that conservatism needs to “come back” from the very direction and leadership that Frum himself recommended for it when he called Bush the “right man”? If Frum was so wrong five years ago about what was good for conservatism, why should we give the slightest credence to his latest prescriptions for conservatism?

And this is even more the case if he has not admitted that he was wrong about Bush.

- end of initial entry -

James P. writes:

You write:

“How reliable can a book on political strategy be that is called “Conservatism That Can Win Again,” when its author endorsed and joined the campaign of a candidate who ended up winning one delegate?”

More importantly, how reliable can such a book be when the author endorsed a candidate who was not even a conservative in any meaningful sense? Oh, the irony—a guy who wrote a book on how conservatives can win wound up endorsing and working for a liberal loser. Now, in his blog at NRO, he is agonizing over McCain vs. Romney, as if there is anything to think about from a conservative or a practical standpoint (McCain, enemy of conservatism, disastrous nominee, bound to lose the election).

Why should we listen to what this guy says about conservatism?

LA replies:

“A guy who wrote a book on how conservatives can win wound up endorsing and working for a liberal loser.”

It couldn’t have been said better.

A reader writes:

Good. I disagree that the McCain ascendency is because the war is still a big issue, as Ledeen is cited saying in the article. McCain’s becoming front-runner had everything to do with name recognition, the name recognition that the conservatives might have helped come to Romney if they had not considered themselves too good to support him.

Also, notice how Steyn does not want to give Giuliani’s personal history much weight. He does allude to it but does not emphasize it, because perhaps it would make his “columnar confreres” look even worse, that they were trying to foist that disgrace into the White House, through the Republican Party no less, the party that purports to care more about family values.

But it is true that the abortion and gun control issues were also important. On abortion especially, a Giuliani nomination would have muddied the Republican Party’s clarity on that score.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 02, 2008 12:21 PM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):