I was never terribly impressed with David Frum, even back when he was writing the “Axis of Evil” line for Bush 43. Bush is gone and most of the Axis is still there, with Iran on the verge of nuclear weapons, the Norks still pulling the wool over our eyes, the Taliban’s imminent return to power in Afghanistan — good job, guys. No wonder Obama is president.
Like too many of the Bushies, he was a conservative of convenience — Karl Rove, I’m talking to you — one for whom the gig was far more important than the cause. Inconsistent and distressingly self-congratulatory, Frum now sneers at his former “colleagues” on the right, scuttling away ever leftward, at this point about two klicks shy of David Brock country.
Here is part of his Daily Beast obituary for Andrew Breitbart:
He waged a culture war minus the “culture,” as a pure struggle between personalities. Hence his intense focus on President Obama: only by hating a particular political man could Breitbart bring any order to his fundamentally apolitical emotions.
Because President Obama was black, and because Breitbart believed in using every and any weapon at hand, Breitbart’s politics did inevitably become racially coded. Breitbart’s memory will always be linked to his defamation of Shirley Sherrod and his attempt to make a national scandal out of back payments to black farmers: the story he always called “Pigford” with self-conscious resonance.
Yet it is wrong to see Breitbart as racially motivated. Had Breitbart decided he hated a politician whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower, Breitbart would have been just as delighted to attack that politician with a different set of codes. The attack was everything, the details nothing.
This indifference to detail suffused all of Breitbart’s work, and may indeed be his most important and lasting legacy. Breitbart sometimes got stories right (Anthony Weiner). More often he got them wrong (Sherrod). He did not much care either way. Just as all is fair in a shooting war, so manipulation and deception are legitimate tools in a culture war. Breitbart used those tools without qualm or regret, and he inspired a cohort of young conservative journalists to do likewise.
This is pure Frummery, and I’d like to think Frum knows it, although I doubt it. His overwhelming self-esteem, born of resentment, would never cause him to question his moral posturing.
I’ll leave it to the Breitbart crew — and to Chris Matthews! — to continue setting the record straight about the so-called “deceptively edited” Sherrod videos. It’s Frum’s larger point — that for Breitbart “the attack was everything, the details nothing” — that is entirely false. Andrew and I spent nearly every day for more than a year either in person or on the phone together as we were founding Big Journalism and had that been the case, I never would have worked with him. As for the implicit charge of racism — these days, the last refuge of a scoundrel — that is prima facie absurd.
Frum’s sheer churlishness — he begins his obit by observing:
“Of the dead, speak nothing but what is good.”
It’s an ancient rule and a wise one, but one that does not do justice to the life and career of Andrew Breitbart, dead today aged 43.
It is impossible to speak nothing of a man who traced such a spectacular course through the contemporary media.
But to speak only “good” of Andrew Breitbart would be to miss the story and indeed to misunderstand the man.
– doesn’t come close to the vituperation on display yesterday by such leftist hacks and nonentities as Matt Yglesias, who tweeted, “The world outlook is slightly improved with Andrew Breitbart dead.” But the underlying sentiment is the same.
One somehow expects more class from Frum, who appears to be desperately shredding whatever esteem he once enjoyed. But no, here he is today, tweeting on the death of James Q. Wilson:
An actual giant of conservative thought, James Q. Wilson, has died today.
As Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds just noted over on his site: Schmuck.
The one and only.