Health Care Fallout

You wouldn’t think I’d get too bent out of shape about this story. And actually, I’m not really too concerned about it, at least from Mr. Frum’s or Republican’s personal point of view, but is is a story worth getting press, because, like the hypocrites in the religious arena, there are hypocrites everywhere. There is a overlap between the religious Right and conservative Republicans, so it’s makes sense that we’ll see hypocrisy within that overlap too. This story has free speech ramifications that should concern us.

David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush the Lesser, was sacked from his job with the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, after he had the temerity to criticize Republicans for their no-compromise position on the Health Care Reform bill. He basically opined that the Republican Party shot itself in the foot. And he said so on his blog, calling it the Republican’s “Waterloo“.

For “breaking the ranks” he was soundly criticized by the Wall Street Journal, who called Frum the “media’s go-to basher of fellow Republicans”, as if that was a bad thing.  Frum used to work on the editorial board of the WSJ, and as he replied, it should

credit me with the acuity to know where the highest price is paid: and that it’s not where I’ve raised my flag.

A few days later, as he relates it, he was told that he could still work for the AEI, but without a salary and without an office.  Subtle, weren’t they?

Now, even Frum doesn’t take that too hard, defending their right to fire him. And, again, from an employment point of view, they have that right. Most employment in this country is “at will’, so few people have the right to continuing employment.

But it certainly says a lot about a “think tank”, where opinions and discourse are the stock in trade of what they exist for, when they sack someone who has impeccable credentials simply because he disagrees with some peripheral aspect of the thinking, on his own time and on his own blog. Here is an organization

dedicated to research and education on issues of government, politics, economics, and social welfare.

They have scholars on their masthead from all colors of the political spectrum, from Newt Gingrich to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Yet if the Wall Street Journal (another Rupert Murdoch publication) deigns to attack their scholar, the wayward thinker is unceremoniously ejected from the tank.

Do you think that might send a signal to the rest of the scholars to perhaps modulate their opinions in the future, especially if they have mouths to feed? Is that a rhetorical question? Does the Pope shit in the woods?

I don’t necessarily always agree with David Frum, but I certainly hate to see his voice squelched over something like this. By all rights I should be standing on the sidelines, cheering another conservative Republican tasting dust.

But somehow the taste of dust is in my mouth.


And in the interest of fair and balanced reporting of hypocrisy, I note that the ACLU royally fucked up, when it rejected a contribution from the American Humanist Association to help organize an alternative prom in the Mississippi town that canceled their prom rather than allow a lesbian couple to attend.  It did so because, and I quote

Although we support and understand organizations like yours, the majority of Mississippians tremble in terror at the word “atheist”…

Mississippi, of all places, should be prepared to tremble; and then get over it.

Hypocrisy should be denounced wherever it raises its ugly head.

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11 thoughts on “Health Care Fallout

  1. You mistake the role of think tanks. Think tanks are not some sort of commercialized version of an idealized academia, where lofty philosophers do abstract thought along a directed path. Think tanks exist to perform two tasks:

    (1) To provide justifications for positions already decided on and actions already taken by whatever group(s) sponsor the think tank. (If you’ve read “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency”, then think of the program named “Reason” which Richard MacDuff describes in chapter 8. That’s more or less the way it works.)

    (2) To come up with plans of attack on the perceived enemies of whatever group(s) sponsor the think tank, usually via press campaigns.

    Notice something? In neither of these two goals do think tanks do any sort of policy-making or long-term planning.

    Right-wing think tanks are funded by the very wealthy (and often by the very wealthy whose wealth rests on shady practices) and by the wealthy members of the far right. The purpose of this funding is to take the dubious positions and generally evil intent of the far right and protect them from repercussions or even serious scrutiny. They aren’t supposed to say “wow, we really screwed up, let’s go a different direction.” Their sponsors want to hear “okay, we really screwed up, here’s how we make sure nobody realizes it.”

    • You mistake the role of think tanks.

      Perhaps. But if I take them at their word:

      The Institute’s community of scholars is committed to expanding liberty, increasing individual opportunity, and strengthening free enterprise. AEI pursues these unchanging ideals through independent thinking, open debate, reasoned argument, and the highest standards of research and exposition. AEI’s purpose is to serve leaders and the public through research and education on the most important issues of the day in the areas of economics, culture, politics, foreign affairs, and national defense. Without regard for political ideology, party, or prevailing fashion, AEI dedicates its work to improving society and government, toward the goal of a more prosperous, safer, and more democratic nation and world. AEI’s work is addressed to government officials and legislators, teachers and students, business executives, professionals, journalists, and all citizens interested in a serious understanding of government policy, the economy, and important social and political developments.

      They would seem to fall a bit short of their objectives.

      • If you send in enough proof of purchase seals of Ovaltine, you get the Right-Wingnut decoder ring to see what they’re really saying….

        liberty : 1. the freedom afforded to businesses to do as they please free of government regulations
        2. the right to exercise the special privileges due to those of ample wealth

        individual opportunity: 1. the opportunity to fund your own health care
        2. the opportunity to fund your own education free of government assistance
        3. the opportunity to rough it on your own until you stop being lazy and find a job
        4. a. the opportunity to retire on your savings
        b. the opportunity to invest your SS in the stock market

        independent thinking: individual development of strategies to advance the fundamental thinking of the Institute

        serve leaders and the public: serving the leaders (the rich) ultimately serves the public (see “trickle down”)

        Without regard for political ideology, party, or prevailing fashion: the willingness to say or do anything to advance the goals of Right-Wingnuttery (see “ends justify the means”)

        the goal of a more prosperous, safer, and more democratic nation and world: under the control of real Americans, the world will simply be a better place by the grace of God.

          • No. I can see him sitting at the kitchen table in his parents’ house, wearing his cute little feather headdress, with his plastic tomahawk at his side, vigorously stirring his Ovaltine. That shit never quickly dissolved in milk.

  2. I would agree. They’re not think tanks so much as propaganda tanks or to put it in terms we’re more familiar with here, they’re apologetic tanks.

  3. That is, by far, the most coherent I have ever heard Frum (though he did sound a bit shaken up). I actually appreciate it when institutions like the WSJ and the AEI let their cover slip a little to show that they will destroy dissenters. When you call something like the Cato Institute or AEI a think tank, people understand them to be something different from what they are.

    As for the ACLU

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