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‘Axis of evil’ author loses job after ‘Waterloo’ comment

By Daniel Tencer
Thursday, March 25, 2010 17:38 EDT
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Blogger: Conservative movement ‘devouring its own children’ ‘in Bolshevik fashion’

David Frum says he wasn’t fired from his job at a right-wing think tank for declaring that the passage of health care reform was the GOP’s “Waterloo,” but many political observers seem to disagree.

What is known for certain is that, as of Thursday, Frum — a long-time conservative columnist and a former speechwriter for George W. Bush credited with coining the term “axis of evil” — is no longer at the American Enterprise Institute, where he had spent seven years.

“At lunch today, AEI President Arthur Brooks and I came to a termination of [our] relationship,” Frum blogged on Thursday.

And what is also known is that in the last several days Frum has ruffled more than a few conservative feathers with a series of harsh criticisms of the Republican Party in the wake of the passage of the Democrats’ landmark health care bill into law.

“Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s,” he wrote after the House passed the Senate health care bill Sunday. “It’s hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster.”

Frum concluded: “[I]t’s Waterloo all right: ours.”

A few days later, he told ABC News’ Terry Moran that “Republicans originally thought that Fox [News] worked for us and now we’re discovering we work for Fox.”

To be sure, Frum has shown an independent streak since the end of the Bush administration, frequently criticizing Republican strategies and talking points. In 2009, he penned a cover story for Newsweek entitled “Why Rush is Wrong,” in which he argued that radio host Rush Limbaugh was leading US conservatives down the wrong path.

But were his most recent criticisms the straw that broke the camel’s back? Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post seems to think so.

“Three days after calling health-care reform a debacle for the Republicans, David Frum was forced out of his job at the American Enterprise Institute on Wednesday,” Kurtz wrote.

“Forced out” is also how the New York Times describes it.

Jacob Heilbrunn at the Huffington Post takes an even more negative view. Heilbrunn argues that Frum’s departure from the AEI is a sign that the conservative movement, “in Bolshevik fashion … is devouring its own children.”

Is Frum really an apostate, a ranks-breaker? No, he isn’t. I haven’t seen any evidence that Frum, a vigorous polemicist, has fundamentally deviated from traditional conservative positions when it comes to Israel or tax rates….

Frum’s saga resembles in reverse the odyssey of the neoconservatives who used to argue that they hadn’t left the Democratic party. It had left them. Now, it seems fair to say, Frum isn’t leaving conservatism; rather, the conservative movement is rapidly leaving Frum behind.

Frum would disagree vigorously. In an interview with the Plum Line’s Greg Sargent, Frum asserted it was financial problems at the AEI that forced him out.

AEI President Arthur Brooks “asked me if I’d like to work for AEI on a non salary basis,” Frum told Sargent. “He said it had nothing to do with my work and that after all these are hard times.”

“‘Big bad conservative think tank axes writer for criticizing GOP intransigence’ is a seductive storyline for our times, but it may not be true,” Sargent concluded.

 
 
 
 
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