Sunday, March 28, 2010

GADFLY: The Frum Affair and the GOP's "Dummy-Up" Philosophy

Posted By on Sun, Mar 28, 2010 at 11:35 AM

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If the battle over health care “reform” this past year has taught us anything, it's that Republicans are much better at getting their people to toe the “party line” than Democrats are. Democrats are like a bunch of feral cats, wary of any kind of discipline, who aren't as interested in loyalty to their party's principles as they are in preserving their own turf. As result, just like cats, they're hard to herd. Just look at what happened in both the House and Senate with several Democrats telling their party to go fuck itself on healthcare reform. Democrats are a headstrong lot. Will Rogers immortalized that when he famously said he wasn't a member of any organized political party, he was a Democrat.

Republicans, on the other hand are a lot more like sheep; they fall into line behind their leaders, whether that be Rush Limbaugh or John Boehner, and are always dependably “on message” when it comes to spewing the party line. As I listen to the likes of Marsha (“Tennessee Barbie”) Blackburn or Eric (“Stray Bullet”) Cantor, it makes me wonder whether the Republicans have figured out how to transmit subliminal messages to their members, or perhaps have implanted a chip in them that makes them robotically mouth their party's talking points. In any event, their pliability makes them, obviously, much easier to herd than the Democrats.

Republicans have no equivalent to the Democrats' “blue dogs.” With Arlen Specter's recent attempt to seek asylum from the Democrats, the term “moderate Republican” has become an oxymoron. They certainly have no equivalent to someone like Joe Lieberman. The closest anyone's come to Joe's attempted self-immolation by actively campaigning against his party's nominee for the presidency in 2008, is Zell Miller (surprise, surprise—-also a Democrat), the whacko who supported George Bush over John Kerry in 2004. Who can forget when Miller challenged Chris Matthews, the MSNBC blowhard, to a duel, a challenge Matthews probably deserved, but one that Miller's party probably would have preferred not be on national television. Neither Miller nor Lieberman suffered any punishment or retribution from their own party for their arguably treasonous acts. Lieberman even got to keep his committee chairmanship, for chrissakes. Democrats are so nice, aren't they?

If a Republican, on the other hand, strays too far from his party's ideology (and I'm just talking about straying, not freaking out, like by endorsing the opposing party's candidate), one way or another, he feels the party's wrath. Neither Republicans nor their ideological icons brook anything that even remotely resembles criticism. Remember how abjectly several Republicans apologized after they had the temerity to utter critical remarks about their titular leader, Rush Limbaugh? No sir, no Republican can criticize his party, or its idols, and expect to get away with it.

So, what happened to reliably conservative commentator David Frum after the health care bill was signed into law was no surprise. Frum, the former speech writer for Bush II, had the balls to suggest that the Republicans had made a fundamental mistake in their “just say no” approach to health care. He received a lot of media exposure for saying that the Waterloo Republicans hoped health care reform would be for Obama would end up being their own epitaph. Frum's punishment for this seditious act was swift and unequivocal: he was unceremoniously dumped from his position with the right-wing think tank, the American Enterprise Institute.

Now, David Frum has achieved (and deserves) a modicum of sainthood in conservative circles. He did, after all, put words in George Bush's mouth (most notably, the famously inane ones, “axis of evil”), and that was no mean feat, considering how badly Bush mangled many of those words. Telling George Bush what to say must have been like telling Prince Mongo what to wear. Frum was such an iconic conservative, he was even on the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, the fertile crescent of conservatism, and yet, so total was his excommunication as a result of his spasm of disloyalty that even that publication saw fit to call him “the media's go-to basher of fellow Republicans." Republicans are so mean, aren't they? Oh well, I'm sure he can find a sinecure with some liberal media outlet as its token pundit, like David Brooks or Ross Douthat at the New York Times, or Charles Krauthammer at the Washington Post. I mean, after all, look at all the liberal commentators Fox “News” or the Washington Times have, right?

Frum's downfall is a familiar fate for Republicans who don't fall into line. Paul O'Neill, Bush's first treasury secretary, suffered a
similar consequence
by dint of his disloyalty, as did General Eric Shinseki for differing with Bush about the Iraq war. The Republicans still haven't forgiven Florida Governor Charlie Crist for his show of affection for Obama. And now, Tennessee's very own Bob Corker is in danger of suffering the consequences for criticizing his own party's handling of the financial regulatory reform law now working its way through Congress, and indicating he might support it in spite of his party's slavish obedience to the financial services industry. Now, that'd be a corker, wouldn't it?
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The moral of the story? For Republicans, it's if you have any ideas of your own, dummy up about them,' and for Democrats it's 'you can learn a lot from dummies.'

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