One of the Times' favorite putative conservatives, former Bush speechwriter and book author David Frum, has gotten a lot of play in the paper by criticizing conservatives for rejecting Obama-care and listening to Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. Now Frum has become the paper's idea of a conservative idea man. Just like the paper's occasionally-right-of-center David Brooks, he's a "conservative" that Obama and the Times can tolerate - the kind who is constantly criticizing his alleged fellow conservatives.
The latest Times Sunday Magazine features an "Idea Lab" article by Frum, "Post-Tea-Party Nation," illustrated with a drawing of a sleeping elephant. The subhed: "If conservatives are going to wield power responsibly, they first have to learn some hard lessons."
Frum certainly can't be accused of pro-Bush partisanship in passages like this:
Republicans lost the presidency in 2008 in large part because of the worst economic crisis since World War II. Republicans have now regained the House of Representatives for the same reason. In the interval, Republicans ferociously attacked the Obama administration's economic remedies, and there certainly was a lot to attack. But the impulse to attack, it must be recognized, was based on more than ideology; it also served important psychological imperatives. Not since Jimmy Carter handed the office to Ronald Reagan - arguably not since Herbert Hoover yielded to Franklin Roosevelt - had a president of one party bequeathed a successor from another party so utter an economic disaster as George W. Bush bequeathed to Barack Obama. And while the Bush administration took wise and bold steps to correct the disaster, the unpopularity of its Troubled Asset Relief Program bequeathed the Obama administration a political disaster alongside the economic disaster.
Frum passed along five "lessons" for conservatives:
Too often, conservatives dupe themselves. They wrap themselves in closed information systems based upon pretend information. In this closed information system, banks can collapse without injuring the rest of the economy, tax cuts always pay for themselves and Congressional earmarks cause the federal budget deficit. Even the market collapse has not shaken some conservatives out of their closed information system. It enfolded them more closely within it. This is how to understand the Glenn Beck phenomenon. Every day, Beck offers alternative knowledge - an alternative history of the United States and the world, an alternative system of economics, an alternative reality. As corporate profits soar, the closed information system insists that the free-enterprise system is under assault. As prices slump, we are warned of imminent hyperinflation. As black Americans are crushed under Depression-level unemployment, the administration's policies are condemned by some conservatives as an outburst of Kenyan racial revenge against the white overlord.
By Lesson 5, Frum had become personal and rather offensive, demeaning the Tea Party and fans of Bill O'Reilly and Sarah Palin as well-off no-nothings
Non-Tea Party Americans may marvel that any group can think of itself as egalitarian when its main political goals are to cut off government assistance to the poorest and reduce taxes for the richest. But American populism has almost always concentrated its anger against the educated rather than the wealthy. So much so that you might describe contemporary American politics as a class struggle between those with more education than money against those with more money than education: Jon Stewart's America versus Bill O'Reilly's, Barack Obama versus Sarah Palin.
No wonder the Times likes him so much.