Monday, December 03, 2007

Two Cheers for Frum

There's a certain small segment of people for whom David Frum inspires a great deal of bitterness, mostly paleolibertarians and cranks. At bottom, the bitterness amounts to the fact that throughout his career, Frum has been willing to write in the mainstream press and work for mainstream pols, and deal with the notoriety and compromise goes along with that.

It is true that he unfairly criticized columnist Robert Novak for some supposedly unsavory antiwar associations in an article he wrote in National Review back in 2003. For that he ought to apologize, something I very much doubt will be forthcoming.

But in the main it's a bad rap. Frum is one of the most perceptive figures on the Right today, precisely because of his appreciation for what certain political figures can (or can't) do, with the constraints they operate under. For example, in the current issue of National Review Frum reviews _Heroic Conservatism_, by former Presidential speechwriter Michael Gerson. Frum is correct to emphasize that the gap between President Bush's lofty words and faltering actions have resulted in the unfortunately reality that most Americans just mentally tune him out.

I thought of this because, in the latest twist in the Republican Presidential race, Mitt Romney has decided to reprise JFK's speech to the ministers in Houston. I was going to write something about this but Frum beat me to it, and to a substantial extent has already put to pixels what I was going to say anyway.

Frum is correct that nobody is afraid that Romney will be beholden to some elder in Salt Lake City in the same way that people were legitimately afraid that JFK would be conscience-bound to take direct orders from the pope. On the other hand, some of the doctrines of Mormonism are just really weird. And, I differ with Frum to the extent that I think it's perfectly reasonable for voters to hope that Romney can stipulate that they are irrelevant to the performance of duties in public office.

It's a fool's errand in American politics to pretend that voters care about something which they don't, or that they shouldn't care about something which they do. If a substantial enough number of them care about Romney's Mormonism to the extent that it hurts his candidacy, he has to address it. And Kudos to Romney for doing it.

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