The Shrum & Frum Show

by Jonah Goldberg

Since I seem to be on a kick about making a big deal about things that don’t matter very much, let us turn our gaze on The Week, magazine that tries to sum up all the important things that were said over the previous seven days.

I generally like the magazine. But it has a very annoying bullpen of columnists. This is not to say all the columnists are annoying, merely the line-up. Bob Shrum is the worst of the bunch — by far. He is relentlessly hackish. Nearly every column is a tendentious spin job (See today’s, for example), that is better suited as a posting at the DNC if not the Democratic Underground. Democrats are always right, facts be damned. Republicans are always stupid and/or evil, facts be damned.

They often seem to pair Shrum with David Frum. The problem is that, whatever your disagreements with David may be, he is no right-wing version of Bob Shrum. Not even close. David is an unpredictable pundit. Of late, he has made it his project to go after the GOP and the conservative base of the party. Often — quite often — his arguments score more legitimate points against the Right than Shrum’s ever could.

What bothers me is that this strikes me as a classic example of the elite liberal media’s idea of “balance.” PBS’s Newshour is another such example: One unapologetic lefty — say, Mark Shields — versus something of an aplogetic righty, say David Gergen or David Brooks. The thinking seems to be: Highly partisan liberals are insightful and so are conservatives who think the highly partisan liberals have a point.

Then there’s the rest of the bullpen. Will Wilkinson is in there and I think that’s good, because smart libertarians deserve more mainstream venues. But Will loathes partisan politics and has a what I think is fair to say an unhealthy contempt for the GOP and conservatism proper. For even more “balance,” they include Daniel Larison. I don’t read his columns often and — surprise — I hear much, much less about the guy now that Bush is out of office. But he is hardly a defender of mainstream conservatism or the GOP. Rounding out the Bullpen: Brad Delong (a very smart, but very partisan liberal economist), Francis Wilkinson (a former American Prospect guy, I believe), and Tish Durkin.

Does this matter a lot? No, no it doesn’t. But it annoys me.

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