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March 01, 2012

That About Wraps It Up For David Frum

Andrew Breitbart died today. But he took David Frum's last shred of credibility with him.

In fact, it’s hard even to use the word “issues” in connection with Andrew Breitbart. He may have used the words “left” and “right,” but it’s hard to imagine what he ever meant by those words. 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 politicians with a different set of codes. The attack was everything, the details nothing.

...

And this is where it becomes difficult to honor the Roman injunction to speak no ill of the dead. It’s difficult for me to assess Breitbart’s impact upon American media and American politics as anything other than poisonous. When one of the leading media figures of the day achieves his success by his giddy disdain for truth and fairness—when one of our leading political figures offers to his admirers a politics inflamed by rage and devoid of ideas—how to withhold a profoundly negative judgment on his life and career?

Especially when that career was so representative of his times?

We live in a time of political and media demagoguery unparalleled since the 19th century. Many of our most important public figures have gained their influence and power by inciting and exploiting the ugliest of passions—by manipulating fears and prejudices—by serving up falsehoods as reported truth. In time these figures will one by one die. What are we to say of this cohort, this group, this generation? That their mothers loved them? That their families are bereaved? That their fans admired them and their employees treated generously by them? Public figures are inescapably judged by their public actions. When those public actions are poisonous, the obituary cannot be pleasant reading.

We shall say of them that their legacy consists of more than three words -- "Axis," "of," and "Evil."

We shall say of them that they were warriors, and not bitter Vichyites mourning their loss of -- loss of? was it ever even possessed? -- relevance and reach.

From the dawn of time the primitives in the woods envied and feared those with the Magic of Fire.

David Frum exceeded Andrew Breitbart in one measure only, span of life.

But not in life.

David Frum will die as he lived, gray, timid, small, spiteful, cramped in thought and bent in spirit, slender of talent and obese in self-regard, unloved, unnoticed, unremembered and unread.

Better to live outrageously for only a short spell than to hiss from the shadows, content to live within the niggling license of Master's Leash.


If Andrew Were Alive... and I mentioned to him that David Frum had lit into him, I have to imagine he'd say, "Who now?"

I'd then say "oh, he's been making his rent off of 'Axis of Evil' for ten years," and Andrew would say, "Oh, okay. I liked the 'of.' "

"The Man in the Arena." A commenter recalls his TR.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

What was truly charismatic about Breitbart was his never-ending enthusiasm and energy. He spoke fast because he thought fast. He changed topics quickly because he had six or seven plans in mind at any one time.

He actually did things. He was instinctual. Athletes cannot afford the deliberation of thought. They move by instinct and training and muscle memory. They act.

Why did Breitbart sign a lease for a pricey townhouse in DC? Because, he said, "it feels mischievous." It felt mischievous to establish and Embassy of citizen empowerment in the capital of statist overreach.

He had ten plans a month. He accomplished five of them a month. He acted.

He took over the Weiner press conference because it felt like something he ought to do.

He was brazen. He was bold. The right had no more enthusiastic champion and the left had no more implacable foe.

On the other hand there's David Frum.

He writes blog-posts for a liberal rag which doesn't even get published on paper. His most notable "conservative" colleague at this very non-prestigious posting is Meghan McCain, who's primary mission in life to prove that Rick Santorum spoke too charitably when demeaning the value of college.

Breitbart was a busy man. If his heart did not kill him, one day an airplane mishap would. He was constantly on planes, rallying the troops in this city or that. Agitating. Moving. Changing. Persuading. Defending. Attacking. Rebutting. Remaking.

On the other hand, as I say, there's David Frum.

As I type this, Breitbart is more alive than David Frum has ever been.

I doubt very much that will change as the years march on.

It is the nature of the rat to envy the lion.

We should not fault the rat overly for this. For what else can the rat do?

But we should say that there are lions, and there are rats. And they are easily distinguishable.

And they are as different from each other as the sun is from the mirror that reflects it.

Scavengers have their place. They serve a function.

But scavengers know their place.

And scavengers only challenge the lion when it lies, safely, dead.

Breitbart had two things that men envy: Guts, and drive.

I almost can't blame Frum for resenting Breitbart for having balls.

I resented Breitbart for having such balls. It's natural to resent your betters.

It is, however, an embarrassment to commit petty jealousies to print.

David Frum had a revelation today.

But sometimes it is wiser to conceal than to reveal.



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posted by Ace at 02:41 PM

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