Frum’s Karma

The firing of David Frum from his position as a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute has provoked such a storm of bloviation from pundits, bloggers, and Washington score-keepers that scientists are now warning the amount of hot air generated could exacerbate global warming. Frum has been taken up by the liberal media as a hero and alleged victim of right-wing "dogmatism" and "extremism," a lone reasonable "moderate" supposedly purged from his post because he urged conservatives to compromise on Obamacare. Frum is battling "rude, reckless extremism," the punditi pontificated: this is surely "the Republican right’s Waterloo," said one, hopefully, echoing Frum.  

The Frum-ster was fired, not because he didn’t do a lick of work for AEI, refused to come into the office, and neglected to write for their blog – as Charles Murray pointed out – but due to the fact that he bravely dared to speak out against "lockstep Republican opposition to the health-care bill [that] sacrificed conservative policy goals at the altar of short-term electoral incentives." David Frum, martyr to high principle – the Republican "principle" of (partially) socialized healthcare – yeah, that‘s the ticket! 

Isn’t it passing strange that none of these "liberals," these fighters against Republican/tea partier "extremism" and "dogmatism, deigned to mention that their hero has been on the other side of the docket in the conservative purge trials, most famously for his denunciation of anti-interventionist conservatives who opposed the invasion of Iraq? Perhaps they didn’t know about it, although that’s unlikely – but that’s what I’m here for, now isn’t it? 

His screed, published in National Review and entitled, with characteristic venom, "Unpatriotic Conservatives," accused Bob Novak and Pat Buchanan, among a number of other conservatives and libertarians (including this writer) of waging a "war against America," and of making "common cause with the left-wing and Islamist antiwar movements in this country and in Europe. They deny and excuse terror. They espouse a potentially self-fulfilling defeatism. They publicize wild conspiracy theories. And some of them explicitly yearn for the victory of their nation’s enemies." 

It was the neoconservative equivalent of the Moscow Trials, and Frum was the neocons’ Vyshinsky, as I pointed out at the time. Instead of engaging the –now vindicated – views of the antiwar right, Frum simply vomited up every epithet he ever knew: traitor, fifth columnist, jihadist, etc. ad nauseam. It was such a disgusting display of vindictive name-calling that the former publisher of National ReviewNeal Freemantook to the pages of the American Spectator to rebut Frum’s disgraceful performance:  

"On each and every point Novak had been right and his opponents had been wrong. In opinion journalism, you would hope that the quality of opinion would count for something. But in those poisonous days, truth was no defense. ‘Unpatriotic.’ It was the cruelest cut you could inflict on a conservative of a certain age. When I put down my copy of NR, I felt a genuinely new sensation. For the first time in my long association with the magazine, I was ashamed." 

Not Frum, however, either then or now, and not the editors of National Review, who, to this day, maintain they were right not only in publishing Frum’s loathsome jeremiad – which grotesquely accused conservative opponents of the war, including the Jewish-born Novak, of "anti-Semitism," as well as sedition – but in supporting the war to the hilt. Frum and his fellow neocons had been agitating for war with Iraq for a decade or so, and if the success of their holy crusade resulted in the ruination of the American position in the Middle East, and the death of tens of thousands, well then no matter, as long as the neocon lust for perpetual war was satiated with a good bloodbath.  

This kind of intransigence – maintained long after the verdict has been passed on the Iraq war as an unmitigated disaster – doesn’t jibe with Frum’s new image as a "moderate," which clues us in as to why the liberals who hail him don’t mention it, and the conservatives who now hate him don’t refer to it. The former because their opposition to "Bush’s wars" has dwindled to nothing as Obama dons his armor and charges off to fight the same battles, the latter because they were wrong, too, and would rather not remind us of that uncomfortable fact.  

The lesson to be learned from all this is twofold: first of all, the liberals who now lionize the "brave" Frum-ster care only about domestic politics: i.e. issues like healthcare "reform," which satisfy their craving for more government control over our lives. That’s why they’re silent in the face of Obama’s war crimes, even as they screeched for Bush’s impeachment on the same grounds for eight long years.  

As for the conservatives, the lesson here is essential and it’s staring them in the face. If they can’t see it quite yet, that’s due to their peculiar ideological blindness when it comes to the question of war and peace. They declaim against Obamacare as "socialism" and decry the advance of Washington’s long shadow over all things great and small, and yet they object not at all to the sort of military socialism that has infected conservative consciousness since the dawn of the cold war. 

It was the founder of National Review magazine, the late William F.  Buckley, Jr., who, at the beginning of the cold war, announced that it would be necessary to give up the conservative dream of limited government in order to carry out a global war against Communism. Writing in 1952, shortly before the founding of NR, Buckley averred that the prosecution of the cold war would require that the US maintain "large armies and air forces, atomic energy, central intelligence, war production boards and the attendant centralization of power in Washington–even with Truman at the reins of it all." Forget about limited government, he advised conservatives, because:  

"We have got to accept Big Government for the duration–for neither an offensive nor a defensive war can be waged … except through the instrumentality of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores." 

Today, that totalitarian bureaucracy goes by the name "Homeland Security," among others, and the Enemy is no longer communism but "terrorism" and its alleged supporters, and the proscription against calling for a real reduction in the power and scope of Big Government remains, at least as far as the David Frums of this world are concerned. Of course Frum wants the Republicans to cave on healthcare, and stop talking about "extremist" ideas like restoring the gold standard (which would eliminate the power of government to impose hidden taxes via inflation), since all he and his fellow neocons care about is war, and more war. In his book, An End to Evil, he and co-author Richard Perle advocated invading virtually every Muslim country on earth, and then some: oh, and we also must be prepared to give up our civil liberties, ditch the Constitution, and hand over power to the National  Security State, which alone can protect us. This is all perfectly consistent with neoconservative ideology, which has always stood for Big Government, albeit a slightly less extravagant version than is called for by the Obama-crats, and the reason for this is simple. 

In order to maintain an empire abroad – the issue that is really dear to neocon hearts — we must maintain our bloated Leviathan on the home front: the two go hand in hand. That’s what the "Big Government conservatism" pushed by such neocon outlets as the Weekly Standard was all about: after all, how can we invade every country in the Middle East and impose "democracy" at gunpoint if the federal government is starved for funds and cut back to its proper size? 

The tea partiers who cavil that the GOP and the official conservative movement are RINOs and sellouts have no one to blame but themselves and their own inability to see the vital connection between domestic and foreign policy. You can’t fight a war to "democratize" the Middle East without plenty of tax dollars to play around with, nor can you pose as the guardian of order and even liberty in the world without denying your own citizenry the right to enjoy the fruits of their labors.You can’t build an empire on which the sun never sets except on the foundations of a federal government that has the power to plunder its citizens and redistribute American wealth throughout the world. Frum and the neocons love Big Government, because their fondest desire is to increase the geographic spread and influence of that government all around the world, with a network of bases, colonies, protectorates, and economic dependents all financed by the downtrodden and fast disappearing American middle classes, who are being handed the bill.  

Which is why the friends of liberty and peace can have but one response to the purging of David Frum, consisting of three words; hip hip hoo-ray! He’s being given a dose of his own medicine, and he doesn’t like it one bit. Tough. Conservatives are slowly but surely waking from their long slumber, and when they finally get their eyes wide open they will see how they’ve been betrayed, and by whom.  

Frum can dish out, but he sure can’t take it. His dismissal from his well-paid position at AEI is proof positive that the concept of "karma" – that we get back what we put out – is fully operational, and there’s some justice in this world, after all.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].