So sharp is the author he might arouse some resentment from his peers.
David Frum is hardly a nobody. He in fact was a speechwriter for George W. Bush, which should instantly make many of you dismissive about much of what he says. He prides himself on being a conservative. Again, don't stereotype please. Frum has emerged as very much his "own man." He is a conservative with the proper motivations. He is totally outside any sort of "herd."
While I may disagree with him in some key ways, I applaud the clear lens he insists on looking through. So now Mr. Frum is out with a book entitled "Why Romney Lost." So spot-on is his analysis, the eventual treadmill book from Heilemann and Halperin will fade in significance. You'll remember the "tag team" gave us "Game Change." It was an over-hyped book that resulted in a movie of the same name. How could the movie fail when you had the opportunity to present Sarah Palin?
Our Morris Public Library obtained the book "Game Change" very soon. Heilemann and Halperin are to be applauded on their hard work. But we're already well familiar with the key events and personalities in any such book. The new stuff I would argue is merely some newly revealed quotes with potty mouth language in them. A few quotes like this can get the book in front of the public. Even Bob Woodward (or should I say his publisher) has come to master this ploy. I won't get out my wallet just to read some potty mouth quotes. But to each his own.
"To each his own" certainly describes the tastes of people who consume political commentary. And therein lies the basis for one of David Frum's central assertions. He coined a term we should all file away in our minds. It's "conservative entertainment complex."
Let's just toss out one name: Rush Limbaugh. From there could be added a quite extensive list. These people aren't sharing sincere opinions so much as they're catering to a class of people who scare easily about government.
Let's emphasize here that Frum is not part of the TV political commentary mainstream, whether we're talking right or left. Heilemann and Halperin are in that mainstream and are Beltway guys all the way. Good for them. But as with any groupthink, the lens can get clouded. Occasionally someone outside the mainstream comes along and triumphantly says the emperor has no clothes. This is exactly what Mr. Frum, who's a bit of an eccentric, has done. He isn't hostile to the mainstream but he's clearly outside it.
Such people don't consciously decide to go outside it, it's just the way they are. The fact Frum is seen as a contrarian was evident on two MSNBC shows last week. Because Frum's theories are the type that would win receptiveness on the left-leaning (supposedly) MSNBC, you'd think it would be totally friendly territory. It's not so simple.
Here's the problem: Frum has written a book with definitive assertions about the presidential campaign. He beat "good old boys" Heilemann and Halperin by a country mile. The "tag team" often appears on the panel of "Morning Joe" (Scarborough). Yes, Halperin got spanked once, saying something that constituted a faux pas. But the tag team authors are most welcome in the established TV ecosystem of political talk. Frum? He's just an independent thinker. You'd think that would be benign. But you don't realize how self-protective that ecosystem is, how even the adversaries are comfortable with each other when the cameras are off (just like in professional wrestling).
Mr. Frum gives no thought to "taking a role" and finding a place. He just wants to be honest. People like this can break through when what they have to offer just can't be ignored. And that appears to be happening now.
Chris Matthews seemed to put Frum on the defensive last week, suggesting the book was a "rush job" right at the end of the campaign. Frum bristled, suggesting that he worked hard for about six weeks. He obviously saw what was coming: the Romney failure.
The most interesting conflict was on Joe Scarborough's "Morning Joe." Frum introduced his "conservative entertainment complex" term. Someone on the panel - I later read it was Scarborough himself - interrupted and barked "name names!" Frum then said something that interviewers hate: "It's in the book." But I don't blame him. "Naming names" was a ridiculous exercise when all of us know full well who these parties are. At the same time "Morning Joe" airs, we have "Fox and Friends" on the most notorious right-leaning "entertainment" enterprise of Fox News. So Frum didn't bother starting a list, rather he wanted to continue making his points.
Why would Scarborough, a guy I normally think highly of, want to disrupt Frum's flowing commentary with an asinine question? Why did Matthews say something that seemed to reflect an urge to diss the book? Well, here's my answer: Political commentary shows and networks represent an ecosystem with its own interests to protect.
Have you ever heard the saying "Don't kill the category?" It's why there are limits on how far McDonald's and Burger King will go, criticizing each other. They don't want to "kill the category." If there were no Fox News, there would be no MSNBC. Maybe we'd just have news networks that report the news.
But once the commentary ecosystem gets established, it has its own interests. Frum's incisive and spot-on assertion about the "conservative entertainment complex" might be said to run contrary to the political commentary ecosystem, because it basically diminishes or counters one side. Frum does so by suggesting, as if we don't know (and it appears we don't) that entertainment has its own clear ends. The Fox News crowd does its job very well. It reaches its substantial target audience effectively. But it's not in the business of thoughtfully weighing everything to bring out the truth for the betterment of our country. I can't even write this with a straight face.
Scarborough was following his instincts of being defensive for "his crowd" of people who spew political thoughts for a living. "Don't kill the category." McDonald's shouldn't say that Burger King puts rat poison in its hamburgers. Frum shouldn't talk about the "conservative entertainment complex" like it's merely a cynical and manipulating machine. The whole house of cards might come down.
In the meantime, here's one voice, mine, that totally applauds Mr. Frum and his book "Why Romney Lost." I hope Romney doesn't catch Frum in an unguarded moment, pin him to the floor and forcibly cut off his hair.
Frum says today's GOP is isolated. It's the party of yesterday's America, and instead of re-examining that stance, has seemed to want to "double down" with its message. He considers many Republican leaders "cowards." He feels the base has been "lied to and fleeced" - strong words - by that "conservative entertainment complex." Fear-mongers have overrun the GOP, he asserts.
Frum is a little idiosyncratic like Keith Olbermann. These guys are strong political thinkers who have a hard time getting assimilated with any group or constituency that might help them. Frum was supposedly fired from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a D.C.-based free market think tank. Frum had gone against the grain, suggesting the GOP should have considered compromise on health care.
Was he really fired? Does anyone really get "fired" anymore? Isn't "Mr. Spacely's" style just a stereotype now? I laughed when I read Frum wasn't really fired, he was just told he wasn't going to get paid anymore! Leave it to Republicans.
Frum felt the AEI came under donor pressure after a blog post he wrote. The AEI asserts that Frum simply "wasn't working hard enough." Yeah, I can sort of smell what happened. I made a forced departure from a company once, a company that would probably laugh at any suggestion it was forced. The employer holds all the cards in these things.
For now, Frum is breaking through any sort of fog or rejection that might be thrown in his path. Forget about the personality, read the book. And Scarborough should just let Mika Brzezinski talk more.