The Corner

Defending David Frum

Richard Vigilante, a former editor at National Review and an old friend of mine, defends David Frum’s honor on his website, CapitalismBetrayed:

Judging motive is always a disaster. Even if one gets it right, the net effect is to allow one to dismiss the arguments of one’s opponent without engaging them. Judging motive shields the intellect from dissent. It makes people dumb.

When the critic gets the motive wrong, and obviously wrong, the whole thing just gets downright embarrassing. Despite Tunku’s “what I call a ‘polite-company conservative’” phrasing it’s not as if his charge was in any way original. We’ve heard the same argument for decades, applied not only to the two Davids, but to George Will, William Safire, even Bill Buckley (mentor to not only both Davids but me as well) or almost any conservative writer more influential, more famous, and more talented than the critics.

It sounds so plausible—unless you spend more than two seconds thinking about it. After two seconds you remember a few things. Like David Frum is roughly fifty years old, comfortably circumstanced, has a great career, is well-connected socially here and in Canada and DOES NOT EVER WANT TO BE INVITED TO ANOTHER COCKTAIL PARTY or at least not to one hosted by liberals showing off apostate conservatives.

Ditto David Brooks, George Will and the rest. They are famous and successful because they are enormously talented. They don’t suck up; they get sucked up to, an experience sadly denied to most of their critics. . .

Andy and I have known David Frum for almost 35 years (since Yale where we hung out with all the other elitist conservative conspirators who now run the world.) In all that time neither of us have ever seen any indication that David even a little bit craves the company or approval of liberals. Not to tell tales out of school, all the evidence in our extensive files suggests he doesn’t like them very much. In our experience his own dinner and cocktail parties are populated mostly by distinctly unfashionable but very bright people who don’t like liberals any more than David (or Danielle) do. (Or maybe we are just on their distinctly unfashionable but very bright list, which we could live with.)

David isn’t pretending to be anything, for anyone. He is today what he has been since he was seventeen: a gentle man of very conservative views, who is more inclined to seek agreement than argument. Unlike your humble authors he does not glory in conflict for its own sake. (This occasionally put us on different sides back at Skull and, oooops, I mean Yale. At least half the time, David was right.)

All the more honor then is due David for the times when he has not only gone to bloody battle but led the charge. Or are we confused? Was that Tunku what’s-his-name who stopped Harriet Miers cold when “real conservatives” like the leaders of the Federalist Society (also friends, also Yalies, also part of the conspiracy) were doing all they could to put a conservative hack on the Court.

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