The Axis of Amnesty Is Back, But So Is David Frum
Steve Sailer writes: David Frum replied at length (1,859 words) to this article here. I didn’t see a lot in it, other than the usual point and sputter about You can’t say that! But I’m biased so maybe I’m missing something worthwhile.
As Dr. Frankenstein used to say:
Just as I warned last week, the Kennedy-Bush-McCain Axis of Amnesty reanimated their patched-together monster in the Senate … although it’s definitely not back by popular demand.
In Washington, no one can hear you scream.
We’re going to have to scream loud enough this week before the crucial cloture votes to be heard even in Washington.
The politics of amnesty, however, would make a natural suspense thriller film:
Establishing Shot: Ted Kennedy drives a blushing Republican Party girl down a moonlit dirt road.
Cut to: His car lurches off a bridge.
Pan: Senator Ted swims away while the bubbles from the sunken car die out.
Amnesty is so unpopular these days that even President Bush’s old speechwriter David Frum has lately gone on the immigration restrictionist warpath after years largely missing in inaction. In the June 25th National Review, Frum explains “How I Rethought Immigration” way back during the first Bush Administration of 1989-1993. (You can read it online here.)
Frum is wonderfully lucid writer—except, unluckily, on those topics that most engage his personal passions—so it’s quite a fine article. He explains how his ancestral open borders prejudice crumbled around 1990 under the weight of evidence:
“So what happened? The short answer is: It’s all Bob Bartley’s fault. The legendarily pro-open-borders editor of the Journal liked to give his staffers “beats.” Bartley assigned me the income-inequality debate.”
The reality, Frum discovered, was not what he (and Bartley) had believed:
“In stark contradiction to all my preconceptions about immigration, the immigrants who had arrived in the United States since 1970 were not doing very well. They were arriving poor, and they were staying poor for decades. Ominous warning signs were gathering that their children would stay poor too. … I also began to learn that you could hardly name a social problem without discovering that immigration was aggravating it to the point of unsolvability.”
Still, while this is all well and good, it does raise the question: If Frum was so expert over 15 years ago, why was he essentially a no-show in the immigration debates back when his influence was at its peak in the first half of this decade?
(Hint: It’s VDARE.COM’s fault!)
For example, in a 2004 VDARE.com essay, John White summarized Frum’s non-contributions to a Center for Immigration Studies panel discussion on “Does Current Immigration Policy Doom American Jewry“, designed to showcase the work of CIS scholar Stephen Steinlight, who thought yes:
“Frum’s surprisingly vague contributions were consistently directed at evading the issue. He seemed extremely unwilling to discuss immigration at all, let alone whether it threatened the Jewish community, or if anything could actually be done about it.”
Nobody takes Frum terribly seriously any more, not after all the foreign policy catastrophes he’s helped inflict upon America in recent years.
But a few years ago, he could have made a difference.
Regrettably, he was otherwise occupied.
Frum’s main impact as a Bush speechwriter stems from his making up the first two words of the notorious term ” Axis of Evil.” (He came up with “Axis of Hatred.”) This analogy between the German-Italian-Japanese military alliance of WWII notoriety on the one hand, and the random assortment of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea on the other, has been perhaps the most disastrous phrase in the history of American diplomacy.
By January 2002, following the tragedy of 9/11 and the exemplary destruction of the Taliban government of Afghanistan, America’s prestige and influence were at historic heights. Then, alas, the self-evidently preposterous claim in the President’s 2002 State of the Union address that two countries whose governments famously hated each other, Iraq and Iran, along with the North Korean hermit kingdom somehow comprised an “axis” suggested even to sympathetic observers around the world that the White House either no longer held enough of “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind” (as Jefferson put it in the Declaration of Independence) to avoid lying brazenly—or was not quite right in the head.
Or, perhaps, both … a suspicion that subsequent events have done little to dispel. (Ironically, as a result of the American invasion, Iraq is far more closely allied with Iran today.)
After Frum left the White House, National Review Online gave him a daily soapbox, where he whooped for us to invade Iraq.
In late 2003, he published with fellow AEI fellow Richard Perle, former chairman of the Bush Administration’s Defense Policy Board, An End To Evil, a book that marked the peak of the Invade-the-World delirium.
And while war fever was boiling in the spring of 2003, Frum took the opportunity to try to purge conservatives skeptical of his war, accusing them of anti-Semitism. His memorable April 7, 2003 National Review article Unpatriotic Conservatives concluded:
“War is a great clarifier. It forces people to take sides. The paleoconservatives have chosen — and the rest of us must choose too. In a time of danger, they have turned their backs on their country. Now we turn our backs on them.”
“When Richard Perle appeared on Meet the Press on February 23 of this year , Tim Russert asked him, “Can you assure American viewers . . . that we’re in this situation against Saddam Hussein and his removal for American security interests? And what would be the link in terms of Israel?” Perle rebutted the allegation. But what a grand victory for the antiwar conservatives that Russert felt he had to air it.”
The antiwar conservatives’ “grand victory” was one question on Meet the Press—while the poor neoconservatives had to make do with their measly little trillion-dollar war in Iraq.
Frum made sure to lump VDARE.com in with his “Unpatriotic Conservatives” despite our emphasis on domestic policy rather than on the war that consumed him because of a letter to the editor:
“On March 17, 2003, for example, VDare.com prominently posted on its homepage an anonymous letter celebrating [evolutionary psychologist Kevin] MacDonald’s work and quoting his allegation that the Iraq war “is being fomented by Jewish neo-conservative activists based in the Bush administration, congressional lobbying organizations, and the media.”
In other words, deep down for Frum, it’s all about his ethnocentric fixations.
Of course, in today’s celebrity-driven punditry business, it has been easier for Frum to hurt his adopted country (he was born in Canada, his citizenship is obscure) than to hurt his career. Being wrong on a world-historical scale hasn’t sapped Frum’s bank account: he’s currently a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a contributing editor of the Weekly Standard, a columnist for the Toronto National Post, a public radio commentator, and he still posts a ” Diary“ on NRO.
Sadly, though, he has wrecked the credibility he once could have brought to the immigration debate.
So, where was Frum on immigration all these years? In his new National Review memoir, he implies that his going mostly AWOL was the fault of his old friend Peter Brimelow, who helped him get his job at Forbes magazine in 1992. (Frum acknowledges this help in his eloquent NRO obituary for Peter’s wife Maggy, who died of breast cancer in 2004.)
Frum talks about VDARE.com rather as Harry Potter’s pals refer to their enemy Lord Voldemort as “He Who Must Not Be Named,” but for anyone familiar with the complex Brimelow-Frum relationship, it’s easy to read between the lines in which Frum calls immigration restrictionists “Right but Repulsive.”
“The just-hatched Internet then started to sprout websites devoted entirely to the immigration issue. All too often, the immigration reformers decided to perceive no-enemies-to-the-racialist-right. They might be exclusionist at the borders of the nation; at their own port of entry, however, they lifted their lamp to welcome people who wanted to argue the intellectual inferiority of African Americans …”
Yup, that would be VDARE.COM, and me. And, uh, David … I’m sure this will come as a huge shock to you, but the most famous social scientist at the American Enterprise Institute where you work is Charles Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve.
The reason I write about Murray’s research pointing out the importance of group differences in average IQ is because … it’s important. You can’t understand the modern world without paying attention to the issue. Take illegal immigration, for example—the fairly low average IQ of illegal immigrants provides an important explanation of why, as Frum observed in 1990, “Ominous warning signs were gathering that their children would stay poor too.”
While Frum is an admirably clear thinker on questions that don’t engage his emotions, he is all too frequently disabled by his ethnocentric obsessions.
I doubt, for instance, that Frum actually cares much that blacks might be offended that psychometric research reports that they average lower IQs. Instead, I suspect, he wants IQ research silenced because it shows that Jews average higher IQs, as AEI’s Murray recently noted in Commentary. For example, back in 2003, one of VDARE.com’s sins was mentioning this. Frum put us on his little blacklist of “Unpatriotic Conservatives” in part because:
“More generally, MacDonald said — and VDare.com repeated — ‘the most important Jewish contributions to culture were facilitated not only by high IQ but by closely cooperating, mutually reinforcing groups of Jews who were centered around charismatic leaders and excluded dissenters.'”
Of course, excluding dissenters was exactly the point of Frum’s “Unpatriotic Conservatives” article (which concluded, you’ll recall, “Now we turn our backs on them.”) So, VDARE.com had to be excluded for the dissent of noticing that Frum and friends wanted to exclude dissenters!
Frum’s ethnocentric preoccupations can take on bizarre forms. Last year, for instance, Frum was invited to give a d’var Torah at a synagogue to commemorate his 18th wedding anniversary. His sermon started off as a sweet tribute to his wife, writer Danielle Crittenden, but then veered off into the neocon fever swamps in a manner you have to see to believe.
In 2004 on NRO, he unintentionally demonstrated the neocon worldview in a nutshell while writing about his ” friend Dean Godson, for many years the chief editorial writer of Britain’s Daily Telegraph.“
“His father was an American Jew born in Russia, so you might have expected him to concentrate his attention on the Arab-Israeli dispute. Instead, for no reason that any outsider could easily discern, Dean became profoundly concerned with the Irish quarrel—and passionately committed to the lonely struggle of what may qualify as the world’s least popular political constituency, the predominantly Protestant Unionists of northern Ireland.” [ Irish Lesson David Frum’s Diary, National Review Online, June 21, 2004]
Think about that for a minute.
Frum says nobody could understand why the editorial writer of the leading Conservative newspaper in the United Kingdom chose to concentrate his attention on the guerilla war going on within the United Kingdom rather than on the problems of a distant land from which some of his ancestors had migrated a couple of thousand years ago!
Furthermore, it’s hardly bizarre for the chief Tory editorialist to support loyalists in Northern Ireland who wish to remain subjects of the Queen. It would be far stranger if the Telegraph’s editorial voice didn’t mind the prospect of the dismemberment of his country.
Yet Frum just didn’t get it.
This helps explain why the neocons were so surprised that many ordinary young Iraqi guys were steamed that foreigners were occupying their country: the kind of blood-and-soil patriotism that the great majority of humans feel is relatively foreign to them, since the focus of so much of their national enthusiasm is directed toward another country overseas. Further, the neocons couldn’t identify with occupied people enough to understand how the Iraqis would feel because the neocons so totally identify with the occupiers of the West Bank.
In contrast, the great majority of American Jews are as patriotically focused upon America’s welfare as Godson is upon the UK’s. The obsessives like Frum form only a small coterie—but one with influence disproportionate to their insight.
In his Farewell Address of 1796, George Washington (assisted by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay) explained with prophetic clarity the dangers of the neoconservatism that inspired Frum’s crusade to silence “Unpatriotic Conservatives”:
“Sympathy for the favorite [foreign] nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification… Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake … Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.”
Apparently, we here at VDARE.COM are “suspected and odious” in David Frum’s view. But we have George Washington’s word for it: it’s because we’re “real patriots”.
As for Frum, well, let’s just say his recent writings on the folly of the Axis of Amnesty are steps back in the right direction. For all of us, however, it’s too bad that he wasted his potential during his peak years on fomenting hatred toward patriotic conservatives.