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Frum Takes on Rush; Conservatives Leap to Condemn Frum

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Frum Takes on Rush; Conservatives Leap to Condemn Frum"

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As part of the ongoing conservative civil war, David Frum took some shots at Rush Limbaugh. And for his trouble, he’s now getting set up for some purging.

Erick Erickson: “Are any of Rush’s critics actual solid conservatives with a record of accomplishment? David Frum worked in the White House for about five minutes and is pro-abortion. Rod Dreher’s writing bursts with contempt for middle America conservatives, Michael Steele is a Christine Todd Whitman Republican, Ross Douthat is busy redefining conservatism, etc.”

Andy McCarthy: “What takes my breath away, though, is David Frum’s rant. He’s got a point of view about reshaping the conservative movement, and while I often disagree with it, he can be very effective making it. But even allowing that he disagrees with Rush, what is the point of the ugly personal insults?”

K-Lo: “David Frum writes: ‘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.’ First of all, I can’t really remember a time in 20 years now when Rush was sidelined.”

I think the sidelining point is clear enough. When conservative movement guys like George W. Bush and Tom DeLay were running the government there was a limited level of interest in what Rush Limbaugh thought about this or that. And if the Republicans were to retake the House in 2010 then, again, the main political story of any given week would be John Boehner’s clashes with Democrats. But with the current configuration of power, the main actors are the swing senators. What hard-core conservatives think is of limited relevance, since there are no hard-core conservatives in control of policy veto points. So when people are interested in a rock-ribbed right point of view, they may as well turn to Rush—he has just as much legislative influence, and a much higher level of name recognition, as an Eric Cantor or a Jim DeMint.

But the sad thing, if you actually care about the country, is how tepid this conservative civil war really is. David Brooks is one of the highest-profile reformists. And so he has a lot of notional disagreements with Rush Limbaugh. But though he used more restrained rhetoric about the stimulus bill, he ultimately agreed with the operational Rush agenda—vote no. And now he’s back with more restrained rhetoric than Rush’s about the budget, but he ultimately agrees with the operational Rush agenda—vote no.

Even in victory, by contrast, progressives are having intramural arguments about actual stuff—strategy in Afghanistan, carbon emissions policy, bank nationalization—not whether or not people should watch Rachel Maddow.

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