February 9, 2008


Beyond Bush: a review of COMEBACK: Conservatism That Can Win Again By David Frum (ALAN EHRENHALT, 2/09/08, NY Times Book Review)

Frum’s fundamental thesis is that Republicans must move beyond the policies and ideology not only of the Bush years but of the past three decades, even if this means repudiating some of the political axioms that brought it to power under Ronald Reagan in 1980. But it is never quite clear just how much renovation Frum is willing to undertake. Loudly denouncing government, as Reagan did, will not be enough in the 21st century, he proclaims. “There are things only government can do,” he argues, “and if we conservatives wish to be entrusted with the management of the government, we must prove that we care enough about government to manage it well.”

This is interesting, and coming from as deeply rooted a conservative as David Frum, even tantalizing. But he has scarcely finished announcing his breakthrough before he lapses back into vintage Reaganism, urging his readers to “get mad again about the perversities and inefficiencies inflicted by heavy-handed government — and to take up the cause of those victimized and exploited by government-mandated waste.” Frum might have been wise to consider that a new brand of conservatism will need to jettison not only the attitudes of the 1980s but the rhetorical posturing that continues to accompany them. [...]

On social policy, Frum is similarly iconoclastic. He does not like abortion, but he urges Republicans to accept that Roe v. Wade, modified by the restrictions that states have been allowed to impose, is a compromise acceptable to most of the country, and he argues that concerted efforts to roll it back will only prove politically counterproductive. He doesn’t favor gay marriage, but he thinks it is coming and that Republicans ought to stop campaigning against it, and instead come out more positively as the party that believes in a revival of conventional marriage and in “the family as the greatest social welfare institution we have.”

To understand why the neocons opposed W in '00 and Maverick and The Huck this time around you need look no further than that estrangement from the Party on social issues. They liked Rudy and Mitt because they were pro-abortion and pro-queer.

Meanwhile, in his earlier book, Mr. Frum expressed the bizarre opinion that 9-11 had saved the Bush presidency, because he never understood that NCLB, HSAs, civil service outsourcing, SS reform, FBI, etc. were paradigm-shifting policies and that W had transformed the GOP into a full-fledged Third Way entity. He's half-heartedly calling for a change of direction that the President already effected and that every major party in the Anglosphere already espouses.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 9, 2008 12:40 PM

OJ, you know darned well that a lot of New Yorkers (like JPod) backed Rudy because they liked him as Mayor, not because he is a 'cosmopolitan'. That's a snark worthy of Olbermann.

It's difficult to know whether 9/11 'saved' Bush's presidency. It certainly gave him gravity that he never would have received otherwise, and it gut-punched the Democrats in the 2002 election. Who knows what vitriol they would have spewed for all of 2002, going after the shrub who was 'selected, not elected'? It might have been a Republican disaster, especially with the economy sliding after the run-up to Y2K.

Absent the war, Gore probably would have run again - he would have had an easy time in the primaries (despite the Democratic disappointment with him, who would have beaten him?). With no Clinton fatigue, and less on the line, would Bush have mobilized the base as he did in 2004? Probably not.

Posted by: ratbert at February 9, 2008 11:24 PM

Yes, they like the arresting inner city youths bit too. It's a tribal question.

Posted by: oj at February 10, 2008 7:12 AM