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January 11, 2008
David Frum: Creator of
the ‘Axis of Evil’ Touts a New Wave of Conservatism
you listened only to talk radio, you might not realize that behind the
conservative ascendancy were some powerful intellectual ideas, honed by
political thinkers such as David Frum. They were the people who gave
direction to the “Reagan Revolution,” but they had been disappointed by
George H.W. Bush and had been stymied by the political skills of Bill
Clinton. And they expected the world of George W. Bush.
George W. Bush, they felt they had a pure Republican, an untrammeled
conservative – a man who would make America respected abroad and rich at
home. As Newt Gingrich, the former Republican Speaker of the House, told
a gathering at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in early 2001,
Bush would be a “transformational president.”
What Gingrich did not say was that AEI, a conservative think tank, would
play a critical role in advising and staffing the Bush administration.
It was the home to many neoconservatives, some old-line men and women of
the right and a cadre of thinkers with very strong views about the
Middle East and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Now, although AEI is still close to the administration, it is also the
home of revisionists who believe that Bush has damaged conservatism and
betrayed some of its core objectives, such as shrinking the size of
Central to the new thinking at AEI is David Frum. He was too young to
influence the Reagan years, but was building a war chest of conservative
ideas during the Clinton tenancy at the White House. Frum writes books
that influence those who call the shots in Washington. A list of their
titles is revealing: “Dead Right,” “What's Right,” “How We Got Here: The
70's,” “An End To Evil” and “The Right Man.” The latter was an
impassioned defense of Bush, which Frum wrote after he left his White
House speechwriting job, and where he entered the pantheon of the
memorable by putting three words into a State of the Union address: axis
Now Frum is the voice of the disillusioned right. And his latest book,
titled “Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again,” is both a call to
arms and a fairly specific assault on what has happened to conservatism
in the country and in the White House.
“Americans are trapped in obsolete politics, engaging in phony arguments
over issues that are in fact largely settled,” Frum says in the book.
“Political partisans fail to learn from their opponents even when they
discover something new and true.”
The nation, according to Frum, has solved many of the problems that
defined the politics of the 1970s and 1980s. New challenges call for new
creativity, he says.
This is his indictment:
“America's war on terror is not being won; the struggle for world
economic leadership looks to many as if it is being lost.
“Standards of living are stagnating for the American middle class
because health care costs zoom uncontrollably.
energy costs transfer the world's wealth to thug regimes, even as
evidence accumulates of serious environmental risks from the fuels we
United States seems increasingly divided by race and class, and
individual Americans express mounting alienation from their political
medical technologies offer dazzling cures and therapies – and present
horrifying moral dilemmas.”
Frum says that instead of addressing these challenges, the political
system seems capable only of polarizing.
believes that conservatives should stop denying realities like the mess
in health care, the insecurity of the middle class, the evidence of
climate change and the rise of China. Also he believes that foreign
policy should be more flexible in order to be more successful. In fact,
the author of the axis of evil told the AEI gathering that the United
States should offer to restore diplomatic relations with Iran.
Other radical offerings from Frum: make private health insurance
available to every American; lower taxes on savings and investment,
financed by higher taxes on energy and pollution; promote federal
policies to encourage larger families; make reductions in unskilled
immigration; launch a compassionate conservative campaign for prison
reform, and government action against the public health disaster of
the reception afterwards, some of the high priests of conservatism were
nodding approvingly, and the books were selling briskly.
© 2008 North Star
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