Wednesday, December 2, 2009

David Frum on Obama's Speech False Equivalency

Although this post is about David Frum and a column he wrote today, my post is actually longer than his column. As I read it over, I realize that I am actually responding to many of the conservative pundits I have been listening to in the past couple of days, especially on the subject of President Obama's speech about Afghanistan. So, although specifically about Frum in many ways, I will leave its length because I believe it can be extrapolated to many of the villagers instructing us progressives on appropriate political behavior.

Conservative columnist David Frum writes about President Obama's speech last night from his usual pedantic pillar of certitude, always taking the high road, instructing us in the appropriateness of our political intercourse. Frum is often as concerned with style as with substance, something he made clear when he presented us with the conclusion he reached last night after hearing the speech, and the conclusion he reached this morning after reading it. One wonders if he reads his own writing before submitting it for publication. If so, he might have realized that the equivalency he reached between Bush and Obama is false.

In his commentary, Frum analyzes the decision Obama made and approved the clearness of purpose, mission, and strategy, but like many others, argued against the decision to set a deadline for withdrawal. Interestingly, like many other conservative pundits and the Republican leadership, he falls into the fatal lockstep of believing that being a good American and supporting the troops means supporting the President. Period. Had others been a little less eager to support President Bush, perhaps been a tad more deliberative and asked that he spend more time considering his options, we might have avoided President Obama's need to speak last night.

In his column, Frum said: [emphasis added]

"Having urged the president to honor his commitment to the Afghan war, we Republicans must honor our commitment to support him as he fights it ... I know many Republicans and conservatives will say: “Hey – the Democrats did not give President Bush support when he most needed it.” Correct. They didn’t. And the country suffered for it. The right way to react to that dereliction of duty is not by emulating it, but by repudiating it..."
For weeks, conservatives have been lambasting President Obama for not making a decision fast enough. They have cited his lack of military experience, his supposed lack of concern for the troops, evidenced, they say, by not immediately giving General McChrystal everything he asks for (ignoring that McChrystal's mission and concern is Afghanistan, only, while Obama must consider the military in its entirety - two wars, potential hot spots, recruitment, etc.), his traveling the world apologizing for past U.S. actions (a total mischaracterization as they know full well). Instead of appreciating the calm, deliberative process he was undertaking, he was accused of "dithering."

What Frum has completely missed as he criticizes Democrats of failing to support Bush, is that Democrats did not support Bush because they did not agree with what he was doing. Bush had almost universal support for his actions in Afghanistan. Had he actually stayed there and finished the job, he most likely would have enjoyed continued support - even from Democrats/ He lost support because he made poor decisions. Republicans should support Obama's decision because it is the one they have been demanding that he make. Should they now object, it will be just one more example of the Republican agenda of making sure that there are no successes on the Obama ledger, regardless of the needs of the American people (or our troops).

Frum then goes on to discuss Obama's treatment of Republicans and what they should be able to expect for their support: [emphasis added]

"...Republican leaders are entitled to close consultation on war policy and the larger national security strategy – and to more attention and respect generally than they have received from this administration to date..."
I find this last comment somewhat astounding myself. The progressive side of the Democratic Party has been quite vocal over the last year over Obama's penchant for bending over backwards to accommodate the Republicans and conservatives in general. His first social engagement with the media was with conservative pundits. He risked the wrath of a large segment of his base by inviting Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration.

The healthcare bill was held hostage at length by Senator Snowe, at Obama's wish. The discussions began in a committee that gave Republicans an equal voice, ensuring that the bill that made it to the floor will be essentially worthless before any votes are ever taken. Many other decisions have been made that have been frustrating and incomprehensible to members of his own party in his desire for bipartisanship.

The response from the Republican Party? Obstruction, back-stabbing, name calling, smears, lies and distortions, and when it came down to it, 100% party line votes against anything on the Obama agenda. I believe that people are to be respected because they are human, but in the context of Frum's statement that the Republican leaders deserve more attention and respect than they have received from this administration to date, his words are simply ludicrous. He has crafted a column that shows himself as the arbiter of political style, and is condescending to show President Obama, most likely because he is new in town and all, the way it is done, what is expected, and how to get along.

As anyone who has ever written a college term paper knows, you cannot count on spell check. You need to re-read what you wrote to ensure that it makes sense. Frum's column simply does not.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

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