“Mainstream” Conservatives Opposing Frumpurge (Quietly, Belatedly)
More than a month after National Review
published ex-White House speechwriter David Frum`s
attack on the various writers and journalists he
"unpatriotic conservatives" (mainly because they
disagreed with him and his fellow pro-Israel
Likudniks on the desirability of war against Iraq),
what remains of the "conservative movement" that
neo-conservatives like Mr. Frum helped destroy at last
is winding up to respond.
A glance at the responses from the "mainstream right"
(as opposed to the
paleo-conservatives Mr. Frum smeared) suggests that
they probably should have kept their mouths shut.
National Review itself, in a rare fit of
broad-mindedness, published several responses from the
mainstream right in its May 19 issue,
online] and not too surprisingly most are
entirely sympathetic to the original article.
Myron Magnet calls Mr. Frum`s piece "blisteringly
clear-sighted," while neo-con Roger Kimball writes
breathlessly that the article "is a bracing
contribution to the library of conservative polemic,"
whatever that means.
But not all responses are so cuddly. Neo-conservative
Jack Kemp, for instance, responds that "never have I
seen the kind of personal invective or so many ad
hominem attacks as were present in Frum`s rant"
against columnist Robert Novak.
Mr. Frum said nothing about Mr. Novak he didn`t say
about the others he splattered, but his clobbering of
the establishment Republican columnist seems to have
angered several people.
The magazine actually retracted the attacks on
Mr. Novak in a later issue [also
not online] and claimed the article never
intended to lump together all the folks Mr. Frum lumped
But of course it meant to do so. Indeed that was the
whole point of the article, which consistently spoke of
the "unpatriotic conservatives" who supposedly
"hate their country" as "they" and "them,"
and in any case Mr. Novak, who opposed the Iraq war, was
one of Mr. Frum`s
The magazine`s "clarification" in effect constitutes
a muted retraction of the whole article.
William Rusher, who strongly disagrees with the
paleo-con critique of American foreign policy, rejects
Mr. Frum`s claim that the paleos are unpatriotic;
they`re just wrong, he says.
That`s a statement we can at least debate civilly,
but it`s also a repudiation of Mr. Frum`s whole thesis.
Mr. Rusher also says it doesn`t really matter that
the paleos themselves have dumped the "conservative
movement" since Chronicles, the main paleo
journal, has a circulation of only about 6,000.
Of course, in a country of 280 million people,
journals like National Review with circulations
of around 100,000, don`t really matter either. Mr.
Rusher ought to know better than to judge the value or
influence of magazines by the number of subscribers.
It`s who reads them, not how many, that matters.
But National Review`s rather obviously staged
"forum" is not the only conservative response to Mr.
Frum. Last week, Don Devine, a former Reagan
administration agency head and now vice chairman of the
American Conservative Union, also took exception to
Mr. Frum`s bloviations in a
memo to his mainstream right colleagues.
Mr. Devine not only deplored that "conservatives
are fighting each other on the front pages of their own
magazines" but also complained that the "conservative
movement" is devolving into a mere mouthpiece for
the Republican Party:
"With George W. Bush`s presidency, National
Review and the [Weekly] Standard both
became cheerleaders, expressing mild encomiums [?]
that it would be pleasant if he moved right domestically
but that it was understandable for political reasons if
he did not. By 2000, there was no opinion journal
heralding the limited-government position represented by
National Review in the 1960s."
That`s exactly what the paleos have been trying to
tell the "mainstreamers" for years.
Mr. Devine`s criticisms of the "movement" and its
domination and misdirection by neo-conservatives are
welcome, as are those of other conservative leaders who
expressed similar views in the Washington Times
last week, but why didn`t they say so a bit sooner?
These ageing warhorses of the right have been around
for decades, and if they had denounced the clear
direction of the "movement" and the neo-cons in the
1980s, we wouldn`t be in the fix we`re in now.
Those who did have the guts and brains to speak
out—namely, the present paleo-conservatives—back then
lacked the stature to stop what was going on within the
Today neither does the "mainstream right" of Mr.
Devine and Mr. Rusher.
Mr. Rusher does me the courtesy (I guess) of quoting
me as writing "they [the neo-cons] can have my
share" of the "conservative movement," and so
they can—but frankly, not only is what remains of that
"movement" not worth staying in; it`s not even worth
CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
[Sam Francis [email
him] is a nationally syndicated columnist. A selection
of his columns,
America Extinguished: Mass Immigration And The
Disintegration Of American Culture, is now available
Americans For Immigration Control.]