David Frum is a Republican, a former speechwriter for George Bush best known for crafting the phrase “axis of evil.” But he thinks for himself, and he doesn’t always like what he sees on the Republican side of the aisle.
When he disagrees with Republicans, he criticizes them. On his blog last Sunday, he issued a harsh critique of the GOP’s strategy of refusing to negotiate on the health care bill:
Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s. . .A huge part of the blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves.
At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994.
Only, the hardliners overlooked a few key facts: Obama was elected with 53% of the vote, not Clinton’s 42%. The liberal block within the Democratic congressional caucus is bigger and stronger than it was in 1993-94. And of course the Democrats also remember their history, and also remember the consequences of their 1994 failure.
This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.
Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? But we do know that the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.
Barack Obama badly wanted Republican votes for his plan. Could we have leveraged his desire to align the plan more closely with conservative views? To finance it without redistributive taxes on productive enterprise – without weighing so heavily on small business – without expanding Medicaid? Too late now. They are all the law.
For that, apparently, he has just been kicked out of his job at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. From the WaPo:
Three days after calling health-care reform a debacle for Republicans, David Frum was forced out of his job at the American Enterprise Institute on Wednesday.
The ouster also came one day after a harsh Wall Street Journal editorial ripped the former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, saying he “now makes his living as the media’s go-to basher of fellow Republicans” and accusing him of “peddling bad revisionist history.”
Frum made clear, in a letter to AEI President Arthur C. Brooks, that his departure after seven years as a resident fellow at the conservative think tank was not voluntary. “I have had many fruitful years at the American Enterprise Institute,” he wrote, “and I do regret this abrupt and unexpected conclusion of our relationship.”
If conservatives can’t tolerate dissent, they’re likely to be wandering in the political wilderness for a long time.