Patterico at Hot Air | Main | Steele, Emasculated
March 08, 2009

Audio: Mark Levin vs. David Frum


I think Frum has something to add to the debate -- even if he's wrong, then proving him wrong is important, and will help the conservative movement.

However, Frum continues "spicing up" his more substantive columns with gratuitous slams against his own personal enemies list. For example, in discussing the reasons the public lost confidence in Republican governance -- chiefly Katrina -- he gratuitously adds "And that was before the nomination of Sarah Palin."

He offers no argument on this proposition. He doesn't seem interested in advancing any agenda -- including his own -- so much as he's interested in provocations against the base. Unnecessary ones, I might add. It may be a necessary and useful argument to have regarding whether there's as much political juice in tax cuts as there may have once been, but I do not see the usefulness of gratuitously cheap shotting a woman who, as far as I can tell, lost her bid to be Vice President and now is doing what even Frum and his kind admit she was competent at doing previously, governing the state of Alaska.

These various issues are all necessarily emotional to one extent or another, but when the target is someone well-liked by the base, the emotional part of the reaction is the primary one. Frum claims that he's only interested in having a policy debate -- a purely intellectual, rational debate -- and yet spits in the eyes of the very people he's trying to convince by derailing what should be a debate on abstract issues into a passionate scrum about real, living, tangible human beings. And, as much as we might like to believe we're a party of ideas, not men, people have a natural and unsuppressible instinct to defend members of their family. Even "adoptive" members of the family, like Sarah Palin.

So why keep on doing this? If Frum's case is so critically important to the future of conservatism, and if, as he claims, he's dedicated to advancing the conservative cause, why does he constantly insult and demean people beloved by the base he's trying to persuade?

Frum raps Limbaugh for putting his ego ahead of the party -- which I will now risk the wrath of my readers by noting my own sympathy to that critique. And yet in column after column, in blog post after blog post, Frum elevates his own ego -- his own need for vindication, his need to take down those he has personal (and cultural) antipathy towards -- ahead of his self-announced mission of saving the Republican Party from its own instincts.

Well, David, if that really is your mission, perhaps you could manage to stop cocksucking it up for two minutes, stop with the traffic-bait and hit-whoring provocations, and realize that the first step in actual persuasion is building a rapport with those you wish to persuade, rather than insulting them by proxy by insulting people they just flat-out like.

But he can't stop. Because as much as he might accuse of Rush Limbaugh of adding gas to a fire which is destructive to the party for purposes of goosing his own ratings, Frum is doing the exact same thing. Albeit -- no offense -- on a vastly smaller scale.

Frum knows damn well every time he slams Sarah Palin he raises ire and, consequently, traffic; thus his almost Sullivanesque fixation on a woman who is currently not in national politics at all, except through others speculating about her.

Frum's critique of Limbaugh is that he unnecessarily alienates those we need to persuade -- the moderates and almost-conservatives -- by engaging in gratuitous provocations which are more cathartic than forensic. And yet when it comes to the people Frum first needs to persuade -- the mainstream of the conservative movement -- he engages in precisely the same style of "debate" through invective.

Physician, heal thyself. It's like an insurance salesman trying to sell me on a fixed-rate annuity while sporadically referring to my wife as "that bitch-whore who's eyeballing me."

This whole controversy is a traffic boost to anyone talking about. It's all anyone wants to talk about, it seems, because it is, ultimately, about personalities, people, scrapes, sniping, emotion and draaaamaa.

You don't need a lot of analysis or heavy intellectualizing to enjoy this debate, or get in on it. Just pick your side and go to town.

I've tried to avoid the subject myself, by and large, because while I could certainly garner a few hits by wholeheartedly embracing one partisan camp and bashing the other, I find the entire argument tedious.

Oh, some will say the fight for core principles is crucial and not tedious at all; to which I'd reply, "Oh? We're having a fight about core principles, then? I thought we were just watching a bunch of men acting childishly hurling insults at one another with 'core principles' as the pretext for why these petty personal spats are somehow elevated and ennobling."

And it's not just tedious -- it's destructive.

I think some of the self-style "elites" might have some worthwhile ideas to contribute -- again, even if these ideas are discarded as wrong, the process of figuring out why their wrong, and why another idea is right, is helpful.

But what debate can we have when those seeking, by their own declaration, to shape and change conservative opinion attempt one or two desultory efforts at actual argument, become frustrated to find their powers of persuasion rather more lacking than they imagined, and so begin simply insulting those who are so uncouth as to not agree with them?

Rush is tossing out red meat against Obama and the liberals -- and some of that red meat is of poor quality.

But Frum and his fellow base-baiters (like "Crunchy Con" Ron Dreher tossing out an unnecessary insult to good guy who dared to ask a question, Joe Wurzelbacher, asking "When did Joe the Plumber become the Whittaker Chambers of the Mongoloid Right?") are doing the same, except they're tossing out red meat for liberals, who of course feast on their attacks on conservatives.

Frum of course got the Strange New Respect he's been angling for recently, as the very partisan liberal Newsweek asked him to submit a 4 page essay on why conservatives suck. They didn't even mind that one-quarter of it was merely a complete cut-and-paste from a blog-post he wrote. A blog post, of course, that called Limbaugh, for no particularly good reason, a fat divorced drug-addicted fatso fat-ass.

And yet he sits there playing victim, scratching his head at all these terrible besmirchments of his character, wondering why it is we just can't sit here like sensible adults and hash these issues out in a dispassionate manner.

Hey Frum -- um, maybe it's because you're putting your SiteMeter and sudden favor with Newsweek above what it is you claim is your actual mission.

Lay off with the fucking nonstop baiting and insults, recognize, as any sane person will, that when you personalize an argument you've just ended the intellectual segment of the debate and begun the emotional name-calling part of it, follow your own counsel, and stop playing the sweetheart batting your eyes innocently as you ask, "Why can't we just discuss these things in a calm, measured way?"

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posted by Ace at 02:42 PM

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