Horowitz rips into Frum

The ostensible subject of their debate at FrontPage Magazine is: “Is Glenn Beck Good for Conservatives?” But David Horowitz, after an opening compliment of David Frum, makes clear, in scathing language I have never seen him use against another conservative, that the real problem and the real subject of the discussion is not Beck, but Frum himself. (I’ve abridged Horowitz’s comment, but the whole thing is worth reading, as he goes into detail tearing apart Frum’s pious claim that Frum in the past has defended conservatives from liberal attacks.)

Horowitz replies to David Frum:

… But it is the intemperate nature of some of your attacks and the venues you choose to launch them in (Newsweek for a no-holds-barred assault on Rush Limbaugh for example) that I find unacceptable. I also have a problem with the very premise of your efforts. I don’t agree that conservatism is a “very troubled” movement; I don’t think conservative intellectuals are subservient to an entertainment complex, and I don’t think that Fox News has helped to “trap conservatives in a cycle of shrillness, rage, and paranoia that is radically off-putting” to voters. I think this is a slander of Fox and conservatives more suitable to Huffington Post than a conservative website. Fox is a tremendous asset to the conservative movement precisely because it sets the record straight to a mass audience that leftists have so maliciously distorted….

I also have a problem with your basic presumption that Republicans must clean their house before they can appeal to centrist voters and defeat the left. This implies that the left’s attacks on conservatives have merit and will be blunted if we purge our ranks of embarrassments to our cause—the shrill, the enraged and the paranoid—who in your mind—seem to be Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and now Glenn Beck. Did you notice that these are also our most powerful and feared and charismatic conservatives?

Years ago, at the birth of the modern conservative movement, Bill Buckley performed a purge in this vein, declaring no quarter for racists and anti-Semites and also conspiracy nuts like Robert Welch who thought Eisenhower was a card-carrying Communist. This was an important and necessary service to a young movement. It was repeated 15 years ago when Buckley came down hard on the anti-Semitic writings of Joseph Sobran and Pat Buchanan, and that was important too (and I recall that you played a forthright role in that effort). But Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh are not racists or anti-Semites (nor are they paranoid or shrill) and it is your attacks on them that are reckless—untempered as they are by your usual good judgment—and that sound very much like the attacks from our enemies on the left.

Before I get into details let me apologize for the use of the term “armchair aristocrat” to describe you. It was a strained metaphor and probably inept. I was not referring to your pedigree or pocketbook. I was attempting to encapsulate the idea that there are conservatives—you are one, David Brooks is another—who think that if everyone on our team only behaved better, there would be no targets for the neo-Stalinist left to attack. Not a chance. If they were able to demonize George Bush as a liar, a murderer, an idiot, and a religious nut they can do that to anyone. So-called liberals have shown themselves to be shameless, unprincipled, bigoted, intolerant and determined to personally destroy any conservative whom they consider to be politically effective and therefore dangerous to their agendas. That’s where we really differ. If you understood this or believed it, you would not attack a Glenn Beck in the scorched-earth manner in which you did.

You accuse Beck of being motivated by money and fame and not out of concern for his country: “Glenn Beck is not the first to make a pleasant living for himself by reckless defamation.” This is a slippery slope my friend (writing a cover story attacking Rush Limbaugh for the leftist Newsweek isn’t about money and fame? And how is it that you didn’t keep your criticism within the conservative family, if the family is whom you’re really concerned about?) But it is also a ludicrous charge. Since when has going after a Communist in government been a path to money and fame in our “liberal” era, rather than to almost certain demonization as a McCarthyite and marginalization as a crank? It’s been fifty years, as I recall, since someone did that successfully. Was Beck’s successful crusade against Van Jones “reckless defamation?” His crusade against Acorn? You have one case to hand in which you charge him with getting something wrong. But instead of sticking to the example, and correcting him, you want to use it as a hammer to crush his skull. That’s my problem with what you have written.

Here’s the way you sum up your attack on Glenn Beck: “We conservatives, are submitting our movement to some of the most unscrupulous people in American life. This submission disgraces conservatism, discredits Republicans, and damages the country.” Would that you had written this about Jimmy Carter, or Al Gore, or Al Franken, who are unscrupulous and disgraceful and do damage our country. If you had done that, it would have been appropriate. As an attack on Beck it is a reckless slander of an American patriot, and damaging to the country and the cause.

I noted in my original post that I didn’t recall you defending conservatives who have been maliciously misrepresented and maligned by the left with the same passion you reserve for a moderate leftist law professor who never to my knowledge has stuck his neck out for conservatives when they have been maligned by his friends (you may correct me if I am mistaken)….

In fact, this is an exemplary case of exactly what I think is wrong with the conservative movement in contrast to what you think. Franken is now a U.S. Senator in part because conservatives of whom you are typical want to conduct politics by the Marquis of Queensberry rules when the other side is in it as war in which destruction of the enemy is the game. Franken calls us evil. You call him mistaken (and unfunny). And you want other conservatives to do the same. The more conservatives who follow your advice the more we will lose. Personally, I am thrilled with what is happening now in the conservative movement—our aggressive media like Fox and talk radio, the emergence of enraged conservative masses—the tea baggers—as leftist half-wits like to dismiss them. It is this energized, unapologetic, in-your-face (but also civilized and intelligent) conservative base on whom the future not only of the movement but the country depends.

[end of Horowitz comment.]

In other words, who is David Frum to be presenting himself as a conservative counseling other conservatives, after, e.g., his despicable cover article for Newsweek portraying Rush Limbaugh as a mindless, sinister bigot (a cover that Frum proudly posted on the main page of his website) and, through Limbaugh, trashing and seeking to silence all other conservatives as well?

Frum’s pride: the Newsweek cover
as reproduced at his website

Frum is in a similar position to Arianna Huffington some years ago. A self-described conservative, she wrote column after column in which she censured conservatives in the harshest terms and demanded that the Republican party adopt a liberal agenda, and she got no end of play from the MSM as a “conservative” who was “speaking the truth about conservatism,” until, finally, the front became impossible to maintain and she came out a liberal. It’s time for Frum to do the same.

- end of initial entry -

September 22

Note: Several readers said that the original ending of the blog entry, where I quoted a line from Mordecai Richler’s novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and applied it to Frum, was offensive. I personally felt that the description, in the context in which I had presented it, was defensible, and I defended it. However, I also believe that to create offense unnecessarily is wrong. And the fact is that no purpose was served by the comment. So I’ve removed it. I’ve also removed, at least for the time being, the discussion about the comment, since the discussion would make no sense without the comment that set it off.

* * *

Alan M. (who wrote one of the now deleted critical comments, though his criticism was quite mild) writes:

Thanks for the update—the way you handled this is an example for all of us.

LA replies:

Well, that’s very nice of you, to turn the mess I made of things into something positive. Thank you.

David W. (who also participated in the now deleted discussion) writes:

The irony would not be lost on Mordecai Richler, who was a pioneer in scathing attacks on what we would today call political correctness. He was also repeatedly upbraided by Canadian Jews for being “anti-Semitic”, including by the very Establishment Canadian Jewish Congress, for using street language and blunt descriptions of the people he knew growing up.

In one novel, I think, Barney’s Tale (?), he moreover had his character ruminate on that very CBC show which Frum’s mother moderated, wondering whether the endless solicitude for outcast minorities’ struggles extended to “blind air-traffic controllers, preferably Indians”.

In any case, Frum will be around for a while, and the opportunity for satire should re-present itself……

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 21, 2009 04:44 PM | Send

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