Monday, March 22, 2010

David Frum: Monday-Morning Quarterback

David Frum writes a hard-hitting after-action report of the health-care battle. I'm pretty sure this is the same David Frum who used to be a conservative and wrote for National Review. But it's possible he's being impersonated by some sort of doppelganger. We've known for some time that Frum has divorced from the Buckley wing of the conservative movement, but this column makes me wonder just where he's coming from at all.

...[W]e do know that the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney's Massachusetts plan.

If this is true, then Republicans shouldn't mind the bill all that much, should they? But then why does Frum say: "Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s"? Apparently, this bill is basically conservative, with a few liberal problems tossed in like "redistributive taxes on productive enterprise", "weighing so heavily on small business", and "expanding Medicaid". News to me. I thought conservatives ideas for health care reform revolved around tackling the third-party payer problem, tort reform, and, you know, all those other things that Republicans were offering as counter-proposals to the Democrat bill.

Frum wants to believe that Republicans were the party of "no." I can understand why, if he's listened to the Democrats and the MSNBC media. But if he had watched the health care summit he'd know that Republicans have actually offered lots of ideas. It's just that Obama and the Democrats rejected them out of hand. Democrats have huge majorities in the House and Senate, and the Presidency. That pretty starkly limits the power of the opposition. That the bill came as close to failure as it did attests to the leftward maximalization strategy the Democrats followed when crafting the bill and propelling it through the legislature.

Finally, Frum levels a major accusation of duplicity at the popular mouthpieces of the right:

So today's defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it's mission accomplished.

It's understandable that Frum is bitter, but this is terribly disingenuous. Does Frum seriously believe that Limbaugh, Hannity, Fox News, the NY Post, and the handful of other opinion makers on the popular right were hoping for the success of Obamacare and the rest of the lefty legislative agenda on the way, and are trashing it in a clever, deep game to maximize their markets? If that were true, why does the left want to quash them? Frum is engaging in paranoid fantasy here.

Furthermore, he himself is a member of the conservative entertainment industry. Or at least he purports to be. I'm not sure he's all that conservative or, for that matter, all that entertaining.

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