If David Frum had not taken to the pages of Newsweek, a one-time news magazine now little more than a dead-tree version of left-wing blog to tell us why he thinks Rush Limbaugh is wrong, I would not criticize him.Â His book, Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again, while dry at times and a bit too trusting in government, offers some serious suggestions for party rebuilding.
Indeed, even in his Newsweek essay, he offers a number of good suggestions, notably this one, “We need to put free-market health-care reform, not tax cuts, at the core of our economic message.“Â And he’s right about Limbaugh’s failure to appeal to the kinds of voters Americans need to reach, especially women who find the talk show host’s message “off-putting.”
Not just that, he’s right to fault Rush’s fellow radio talk show host Mark Levin for calling him a “putz.”Â Levin should stick to the style of his conservative manifesto, articulating the ideas of conservatism rather than insulting fellow conservatives.
But, then again, so should Frum refrain from insulting fellow conservatives.Â In his piece on Limbaugh, not only does he bring up Rush’s past personal problems, calling him a “walking stereotype of self-indulgence,” he also buys into the spin of the MSM/White House Axis, calling Rush the leader of the GOP.Â And he claims Rush is invested in Republican failure:
Rush knows what he is doing. The worse conservatives do, the more important Rush becomes as leader of the ardent remnant. The better conservatives succeed, the more we become a broad national governing coalition, the more Rush will be sidelined.
Hardly.Â Yeah, Rush won’t be as prominent as he is now when Republicans regain the White House, heck, even I called him the interim leader of the GOP in the immediate aftermath of the election.Â But, I don’t think Rush would mind being “sidelined” by a conservative president and Congress.Â (I used to listen to him regularly in 1994 and recall how exuberant he was when the GOP regained control of the House and Senate.)Â He loves this country too much to compromise its national interest for the sake of his personal prominence.
As does your humble blogger, Rush believes our nation suffers when liberal Democrats like the incumbent President and the Democratic Congressional leadership run the show.
Now, I welcome David Frum into the party just as I want to be welcomed into the party.Â And I don’t see the inclusion of conservatives like Frum or gay conservatives like myself and much of our readership means the exclusion of any group.Â My goal, as a gay conservative, is to persuade social conservatives to work withÂ people like us in a broad coalition, committed to smaller government and greater personal freedom.
We don’t build the Republican Party by exclusion.Â We need thoughtful conservatives like Frum to develop ideas to meet the challenges America faces today.Â And we need outspoken entertainers like Rush, like Mark Levin, like Laura Ingraham, to rally the base.Â And we’re going to need to find leaders like Reagan who can persuade those increasingly disenchanted with the current Administration of the merits of our alternatives.
It doesn’t, however, serve our cause for conservatives to use arguments nearly identical to Rahm Emanuel’s talking points to trash the most popular radio talk show host because he can be excessively bombastic at times.Â Rush has earned his popularity by being an outspoken conservative.Â And should take a page from him and be unashamed of our politics.
Frum is right that he shouldn’t lead our party, but he does have a place within our ranks.Â We should want him to continue to play a prominent role in our culture.
Now that we’re out of power, we shouldn’t be bashing each other.Â It is Frum’s attacks which have bothered me (and countless other conservatives).Â Amidst his very good ideas for party rebuilding, he has loudly expressed his resentment of a very popular conservative figure.
Alas for him (and his ideas) these attacks often obscure his message.Â And he does have something to say.
At the same time as Frum’s attacks help the Democrats more than they do the GOP, so too do the insults leveled against him in response to his broadsides against Rush.
Wrong he may be to attack Rush the way he has, but a putz he is not.