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Frum on Morning Joe: a remarkable 15 minutes of television

He begins with this:

Mitt Romney’s message is I am going to take away Medicare from everybody under 55, I’m going to cut Medicaid for everybody but about a third, and I’m going to do that to finance a giant tax cut for me and my friends, and the reason I’m doing that is because half the country contribute nothing to the national endeavor.

Then about four minutes in, something even more attention-grabbing after Scarborough bloviated about Thatcher and Reagan appealing to the common man:

Since the loss of the election, we have heard an enormous amount of discussion from Republicans on television and newspaper columns about immigration as an issue…but all of us who are allowed to participate in this conversation, we all have health insurance. And the fact that millions of Americans don’t have health insurance, they don’t get to be on television. And it is maybe a symptom of a broader problem, not just the Republican problem, that the economic anxieties of so many Americans are just not part of the national discussion at all. I mean, we have not yet emerged from the greatest national catastrophe, the greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. And what are we talking about? The deficit and the debt. And these are important problems, but they’re a lot easier to worry about if you are wealthier than you were in 2008, which most of the people on television now are again, if you are securely employed, which most of the people on television now are. But that’s not true for 80% of America. And the Republican Party, the opposition party, needed to find some way to give voice to real urgent economic concerns held by middle class Americans. Latinos, yes, but Americans of all ethnicities.

[…]

After five full minutes of inside baseball speculation on Republican leadership games during which Frum looked like he might pull a Howard Beale (check out the look on Frum’s face at 11:09 of the video!), he finally got a chance to speak again

I believe the Republican Party is a party of followership. The problem with the Republican leaders is that they’re cowards….The real locus of the problem is the Republican activist base and the Republican donor base. They went apocalyptic over the past four years. And that was exploited by a lot of people in the conservative world. I won’t soon forget the lupine smile that played over the head of a major conservative institution when he told me that our donors think the apocalypse has arrived. Republicans have been fleeced and exploited and lied to by a conservative entertainment complex….Because the followers, the donors and the activists are so mistaken about the nature of the problems the country faces the nature—I mean, it’s just a simple question. I went to Tea Party rallies and I would ask this question: “have taxes gone up or down in the past four years?” They could not answer that question correctly. Now it’s true that taxes will go up if the President is re-elected. That’s why we’re Republicans. But you have to know that taxes have not gone up in the past. And “do we spend a trillion dollars on welfare?” Is that true or false? It is false. But it is almost universally believed. That means that the leaders have no space to operate.

And to think that the guy who coined the phrase “axis of evil” is now the moral conscience of the Republican Party.

How low they have truly fallen.

(via Hullabaloo)

The very public argument under way — after all, the players have media platforms that give them a megaphone for their views — has significant implications for the future of the GOP. The right has a deep, diverse, and highly influential bench of opinion makers, and its pundits are moving to expand their influence in a sphere suffering from a lack of political leadership from its elected officials and organizational figures.

Obama is mainly just doing to Iran what the American Right wing, including Frum, want done to Iran. But it is that clear, unambiguous policy that is helping drive up prices. The embargo may be causing Iran to export a couple hundred thousand barrels fewer per day than it would otherwise. The embargo, and sabre rattling toward Iran, are driving prices higher.

Frum helped beat the drums for war with Iraq, and maybe he favors another war, this time with Iran. But for him to tell the American people that such unambiguous warmongering would *lower* the price of petroleum is nothing less than a Big Lie.

Rather than workable solutions, my party is offering low taxes for the currently rich and high spending for the currently old, to be followed by who-knows-what and who-the-hell-cares. This isn’t conservatism; it’s a going-out-of-business sale for the baby-boom generation.
David Frum, noted conservative writer and former George W economic speech writer summing up the current situation of the GOP after the rise of the Tea Party. (via oceanicsteam)

Republican commentator David Frum, who recently mortified many members of his party by suggesting that Paul Krugman might be right about the US economy, is back with a long essay in New York magazine.

This time, Frum expresses dismay about how the Republican party has lost touch with reality.

In the space of only a decade, Frum observes, the GOP has gone from being a party dominated by reasonable right-of-center pragmatists to being hijacked by right-wing extremists.

Of course Frum helped set the crazies loose, so I kind of enjoy his discomfort at losing control.

Few economists have been more correct about the economic crisis of the last several years than the proudly liberal Paul Krugman.

Krugman spotted the “liquidity trap” early on (since the problem with the economy was too much debt, cutting rates and creating easier money would not get us out of it).

Krugman shot down the hyperventilation about a coming hyper-inflation, arguing that the global labor glut would prevent easy credit from inflating wages.  

Krugman quickly pronounced the Obama Administration’s stimulus as far too small and said it would not get the job done. 

Krugman scoffed at the idea that interest rates were about to skyrocket as our creditors decided en masse that we were so fiscally irresponsible that they couldn’t possibly lend us any more money.

He has been right on all counts.

Recently, Krugman has denounced the “austerity” push of the GOP, arguing that tackling our debt and deficit problem right now with spending cuts is the worst move we can make. Such cuts, Krugman argues, will put more people out of work and shrink the economy. And this, in turn, will increase, not decrease, the deficit.

Krugman thinks we should tackle the debt and deficit problem later, when the economy is on more solid footing. He points to record-low interest rates as a sign that the world is still willing to lend us as much money as we want, practically for nothing. And he argues that, instead of cutting back, we should be using that money to build infrastructure, strengthen the economy, and put more Americans back to work.

And some Republicans, it seems, are starting to notice.

A couple of months back, Republican commentator David Frum made a startling observation:

Imagine, if you will, someone who read only the Wall Street Journal editorial page between 2000 and 2011, and someone in the same period who read only the collected columns of Paul Krugman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of the current economic crisis? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?

Will Frum be ostracized for that remark?  After all, Paul Krugman is supposed to be Public Enemy No. 1.

Or will more Republicans begin to agree that, although government spending does indeed need to be cut eventually, and the debt problem does need to be addressed, suddenly chopping, say, $1 trillion of government spending next year is not the best way to get ourselves out of this mess?

robertreich:

Every other Wednesday evening for the past few years I’ve been offering commentary on a spritely show on public radio called “Marketplace.” On alternative Wednesdays David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, has been airing his views. 

This past Wednesday, Frum called it quits. He explained to the show’s host, Kai Risdal, that he could no longer represent Republican views.  

I think that there’s a kind of expectation that when you do it that you represent the broad point of view of your half of the political spectrum. And although I consider myself a conservative and a Republican, and I think that the right-hand side of the spectrum has the better answers for the long-term growth of economy — low taxes, restrained government, less regulation — it’s pretty clear that facing the immediate crisis — very intense crisis — I’m just not representing the view of most people who call themselves Republicans and conservatives these days…. And it’s a service to the radio audience if they want to hear people explaining effectively why one of the two great parties takes the view that it does — it needs to have somebody who agrees with that great party.

I respect David’s decision but I disagree with his understanding of his job on “Marketplace.” And I find his decision to leave a sad commentary (no pun intended) on what’s happening to public discourse in America. 

Why exactly was it necessary for David Frum to “represent” the views of conservative Republicans?

I don’t feel any obligation to represent liberal Democrats. Over the years I’ve argued, for example, in favor of getting rid of the corporate income tax, creating school vouchers inversely related to family incomes, and extending free-trade agreements — positions not exactly favored by liberal Democrats.

The American public doesn’t want or need to hear “representatives” from the so-called right or left. It wants insight into what’s best for America. 

Yet over and over again — on the radio, on TV, in print, in the blogosphere, and all over Washington — political ideology is substituting for thought. 

Politicians take oaths and sign pledges. Special-interest groups abide by litmus tests and ideological labels. The media is either assertively liberal or conservative. Pundits are either on the left or the right.   

Meanwhile, the Republican Party has become so extreme that it’s more and more difficult for anyone to rationally “represent” its views. As Frum put in in a post on his website, FrumForum, “Under the pressure of the current crisis — intoxicated by anti-Obama feelings and incited by talk radio and Fox — Republicans have staked out an extreme position on the role of government.” 

What if conservative Republicans believe the sun revolves around the earth? Would someone in David Frum’s position who disagrees feel compelled to stop offering “conservative” commentaries about the celestial bodies? And would a major media outlet then be obliged to find a replacement who agrees with conservative dogma?  (This isn’t such a far-fetched example when you consider what leading Republicans say about evolution or climate change.)

David’s particular break with Republicans has come over what to do about the continuing awful economy. Here’s what he told Kai Risdal:

This is not a moment for government to be cutting back. … Right now we’re watching state governments try to balance all of their budgets at the same time in the middle of this crisis. We’ve seen half a million public sector jobs disappear. Now, if these were good times, I would applaud that. We need to see a thinner public sector — especially at the state and local level. But we’re seeing what happens when you do that as an anti-recession measure and you make the recession worse. And even though we’re in a technical recovery, incomes and employment — all of that remains lagging for people — I think that we’ve rediscovered in this crisis something that I think we all knew. Which is, there’s a reason why the people of the 1930s built some kind of minimum guarantee — unemployment insurance, health care coverage and things like that. And it’s not because they wanted to be nice. It’s because in a crisis when people lose their jobs, if there is no social safety net they loose 100 percent of their purchasing power.

It so happens the vast majority of economists and economic policy experts agree with David on this — even though you wouldn’t know it if you watched or listened to broadcast debates between a so-called “liberal” and “conservative” economists. 

No wonder Americans are so confused. 

David Frum’s voice will be sorely missed. Yet I understand his dilemma. At the start of his interview on “Marketplace” explaining his decision to leave the program, he was introduced this way

David Frum has been a regular commentator for this program for years, offering the voice of the political right against Robert Reich and the views of the political left. 

That introduction illustrates the problem.

… The big issues of 2012 will be jobs and incomes in a nation still unrecovered from the catastrophe of 2008-2009. What does the GOP have to say to hard-pressed voters? Thus far the answer is: we offer Medicare cuts, Medicaid cuts, and tighter money aimed at raising the external value of the dollar.

     No candidate, not even if he or she is born in a log cabin, would be able to sell that message to America’s working class.