David Frum’s Wrong Direction
Obama is, and must remain, the issue.


Stanley Kurtz

Did Obama take his socialist endorsements and run? Not at all. Obama “endorsed” his socialist mentors for years through the immense efforts he devoted to increasing their foundation funding, not to mention his attempts to glamorize what he knew to be a stealth-socialist profession during the 2008 campaign. Here is another error based on Frum’s mangled presentation of my views.

Furthermore, I see nothing in Frum’s reply about my detailed critique of the premises of his No Labels project. I objected to Frum’s root assumptions and posed hard questions about how No Labels would actually operate. No reply.

Frum tries hard to separate me from the folks he most wants to delegitimate, but it won’t work. If I’ve got a point, they do too. And it’s simply false to say that Limbaugh, Beck, and the rest don’t care about evidence in general, or the evidence in my book in particular. Limbaugh recently read the book and is a fan. He’s got an extended interview with me out in the latest edition of the Limbaugh Letter. Beck has already drawn on the book, and I’ve been interviewed for a Beck show to air later this month. Beck regularly provides far more documentation of his assertions than Frum and “Eugene Debs” had on offer in their evidence-free attacks on my unpublished book.

The root of the problem, I think, is that Frum’s analysis of conservatism’s dilemma in 2008 has served him poorly. Frum’s ostensible purpose is to “build a conservatism that can win again.” But we already won, and did so by taking a very different route than that recommended by Frum. A look at Frum’s 2008 book Comeback helps to measure the distance we’ve traveled in two years. In Comeback, Frum warns against reviving a “more principled” Reagan-style conservatism — as the Tea Party has just done, with great success. “Most Americans [want] the federal government to spend more rather than tax less,” said Frum in 2008. On issues like health care and the environment, Frum declared, “conservatives find themselves on the less popular side of the great issues of the day.”

Obama’s radicalism changed all this, reviving conservatism and uniting all wings of the party. Comeback was about changing with the times. Well, the times now demand a very different approach than Frum recommended in 2008. Two years ago, Frum founded a website dedicated to pulling Republicans toward the center. Since then, he’s been unwilling to acknowledge Obama’s radicalism, because that’s what has rendered his 2008 critique of conservatism moot and counterproductive. By rashly attacking his party’s base, Frum has unnecessarily isolated himself from his fellow conservatives. The result is No Labels, an ill-conceived attempt to suppress the very truth about Obama that has upended Frum’s plans.

No one can gainsay Frum’s intelligence, or his contributions to conservatism. To take but one example, Frum was a leader of the movement to sink the Harriet Miers nomination. Frum’s book on the Seventies will stand the test of time. But Obama changed everything. Obama is now the issue, and rightly so. What we need is an honest and informed debate about Obama’s political beliefs, not the speech police.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and author of Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism.


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