David Frum

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David Frum is a Canadian-born attorney and journalist, and is an advocate of American conservatism and of restructuring of the U.S. political right. Until March 2010, he was Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a position that he said he left involuntarily.[1]. He was a special assistant and speechwriter to George W. Bush, but left the job after a year and has criticized that Administration for violating conservative principles while seeking Republican electoral victories.

His biography, on AEI, said "...warns that the conservatism of the 1980s will have to revise and reinvent itself to compete in twenty-first century America. In 2007, the British newspaper Daily Telegraph named him one of America's fifty most influential conservatives." [2] He speaks and writes for conservative principles, and is a columnist for the Canadian National Post , and a contributing editor for The Weekly Standard. He was a contributing editor for National Review but resigned after Barack Obama's election, and runs the NewMajority.com website, "dedicated to the modernization and renewal of the Republican party and the conservative movement."[3]

Firing by AEI

A few days before leaving AEI, he had written, on his personal website, that Republicans had

suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.

A huge part of the blame for today's disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves. At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994.

Only, the hardliners overlooked a few key facts: Obama was elected with 53% of the vote, not Clinton’s 42%. The liberal block within the Democratic congressional caucus is bigger and stronger than it was in 1993-94. And of course the Democrats also remember their history, and also remember the consequences of their 1994 failure.

This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.

He blamed the defeat on following the most radical voices in the "party and movement".

There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother? Or – more exactly – with somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother?

I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say – but what is equally true – is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.

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. For the cause they purport to represent, it’s Waterloo all right: ours.[4]

Bruce Bartlett compared Frum's firing, for apostasy regarding the Republican party line, to his own 2005 firing by the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Political background

He was a Reagan campaign volunteer in 1980, and attended every Republican convention since 1988, and worked on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal.

In his year at the White House, during George W. Bush's first term, he is credited with the phrase "axis of evil". [5] He left the White House immediately after this speech, and there is argument if his leaving was voluntary. His wife had sent out messages crediting him for the words, and there is a convention that the words are the President's and the speechwriter is not mentioned. On the other hand, there is evidence he was planning to leave, having just had a third child and looking for more lucrative employment. Nevertheless, the publicity may have speeded his departure, not the words themselves. [6]

Subsequently, he criticized Karl Rove's second term strategy, for doing what was needed for "...Republicans win elections after Bill Clinton steered the Democrats to the center?" but not "What does the nation need — and how can conservatives achieve it?" Frum said Rove targeted specific constituencies with often-inconsistent promises, emphasizing party-building over governance. The problems of governance this created hurt, he says, the Republicans in the 2006 Congressional elections. [7]

2008 Presidential campaign

In 2008, he worked in the Rudy Giuliani campaign and voted for John McCain in November.

He questioned the wisdom of selecting Sarah Palin, seeing McCain's need to build trust in the base of the Republican Party. " The party right likes her fierce pro-life convictions. (She is the mother of five. Her youngest has Down's syndrome.) The right approves of her support for opening more of Alaska to oil drilling and her broad libertarian approach to public policy. At the same time, she qualifies as a maverick because of her battles with Alaska's notoriously corrupt local Republican organization - and her very unusual background...[she] reaches out to those working-class women who supported Hillary Clinton's candidacy - and who may not be reconciled to Barack Obama." On the other hand, McCain was 72 and had health questions. "Ms. Palin's experience in government makes Barack Obama look like George C. Marshall..."[8]

Republican and conservative revival

He has written of his concern with the effects of self-identified conservative media commentators, especially Rush Limbaugh, in an article beginning with an attack on Frum by radio host Mark Levin and mentioning Sean Hannity, and the correspondence he receives, telling him to get out of the Republican Party (United States) if he disagrees with them.

There's the perfect culmination of the outlook Rush Limbaugh has taught his fans and followers: we want to transform the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan into a party of unanimous dittoheads—and we don't care how much the party has to shrink to do it. That's not the language of politics. It's the language of a cult.

I doubt Limbaugh and I even disagree very much. But the issues on which we do disagree are maybe the most important to the future of the conservative movement and the Republican Party: Should conservatives be trying to provoke or persuade? To narrow our coalition or enlarge it? To enflame or govern? And finally (and above all): to profit—or to serve?[9]

In 2003, he wrote a controversial article, in National Review,[10] proposing that paleoconservatives had moved out of the conservative movement. This brought a wide range of conservative responses. [11]

International relationsm

Frum, then a speechwriter for George W. Bush, called Richard Perle within minutes of the 9-11 Attacks. Frum had been, along with the rest of the staff, evacuated from the White House and was using Perle's office at the American Enterprise Institute. Perle said he cannot remember all the conversation, but he said that Frum said that President Bush should say "he will not distinguish between the individual terrorists and the countries that support them. I didn't identify the attack with a specific group since there are multiple groups that cheerfully could have done this. But I had felt for a long time that chasing individual terrorists was a losing proposition. Terrorists could hide, but the countries that accommodated them couldn't." [12]

He has said that the Middle East Media Research Institute is both valuable and short of funds.[13]

Frum coauthored the 2003 book, An End to Evil, with Richard Perle, which advocates a strong policy against terror. [14] The book treated Saddam Hussein as the greatest single foreign threat threat.

In the US, the authors call for improvements in three areas:

  • Denying terrorists entry into the US
  • Curtailing terrorists' freedom of action while in the US; they recommend not ethnic profiling, but profiling based on behavior
  • Denying terrorists material and moral support

Border security and immigration policy

Frum looks at border security and immigration policy in both security in political terms. He looks at border security and immigration policy in both security in political terms.On his webpage, Frum recently pointed out that a past, moderate Republican ideology traded strict border security for relaxed legal immigration.[15] In 2004, he wrote uncontrolled immigration is bad for the Republican Party. He does, however, write that the stability of Mexico is vital to the national security of the United States. [13]


He defended increased surveillance, with safeguards, in a National Public Radio debate:

We are here to uphold a new level of surveillance, that is not made up of new techniques; it is made up of very familiar and traditional techniques, as my partners will argue, that is not onerous, that is not burdensome, that leaves all legitimate freedoms and privacies intact, and that is abundantly worth it, and in fact has proven over the past half-decade, has proven in the acid test of experience its merit. The terrorists are finding it harder to coordinate, they're finding it harder to communicate with each other; they are under crushing international pressure.[16]

Frum was especially disturbed over revelations of financial intelligence, over which Dan Rather was fired by CBS News. He regarded this as a minimally invasive program that had had specific results in apprehending terrorist suspects, and "I think it would be hard to come closer to the classic definition of publishing the departure time of a troop ship in war time and inviting the enemy to shoot a torpedo at it than this. Here's a program where there's no allegation of abuse." [17] The program provided the United States intelligence community with copies of international wire transfers, which fall into the category of having one end of the communication outside the US, potentially making it accessible to communications intelligence. Privacy questions do emerge if either party were a US citizen.


Born in Canada, he holds M.A. and B.A. degrees from Yale University and a law degree from Harvard University. At Harvard Law, he was president of the Federalist Society chapter.


  1. Howard Kurtz (25 March 2009), "Republican commentator David Frum loses job after criticizing GOP health-care strategy", Washington Post
  2. David Frum, Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
  3. About, Newmajority.com
  4. David Frum (21 March 2010), Waterloo
  5. David Frum (January 2003), The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush, Random House
  6. Elisabeth Bumiller (4 March 2002), "White House Letter; A New Washington Whodunit: The Speechwriter Vanishes", New York Times
  7. David Frum (14 August 2007), "OpEd: Building a Coalition, Forgetting to Rule", Time
  8. David Frum (August 29, 2008), "David Frum: Palin the irresponsible choice?", National Post
  9. David Frum (16 March 2009), "Why Rush is Wrong: The party of Buckley and Reagan is now bereft and dominated by the politics of Limbaugh. A conservative's lament.", Newsweek
  10. David Frum (7 April 2003), "Unpatriotic Conservatives", National Review
  11. "Special Section: Frum Forum.(Letter to the Editor)", National Review, 19 May 2003
  12. Alan Weisman (2007), Prince of Darkness: Richard Perle: The Kingdom, the Power & the End of Empire in America, Union Square Press, ISBN 978402752308, pp. 163-165
  13. 13.0 13.1 "David Frum's Diary: A Question for the Sheikh", National Review, 25 August 2005 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "NRO" defined multiple times with different content
  14. David Frum & Richard Perle (2003), An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror, Random House, ISBN 1400061946, p. 9
  15. David Frum (29 January 2009), The GOP’s Forgotten Moderate History
  16. "Better More Surveillance than Another 9/11", National Public Radio, 25 April 2007
  17. "Bob Schieffer on Dan Rather's Departure from CBS; Did Media Aid, Abet Enemy?", CNN, 25 June 2006