David Frum, the Canadian-born conservative pundit who has been harshly critical of the Republican battle plan against President Barack Obama's health-care overhaul, is unapologetic after being fired Thursday from a right-wing think tank.
"I'm going to remain a conservative whether they want me or not," Frum told The Canadian Press on Thursday night following his ouster from the American Enterprise Institute, adding he was saddened by the turn of events.
"In a democracy, there are competing teams, and each team has to bring its best game to the table ... health-care reform is here to stay, it isn't going to be repealed, and it was within our grasp to help formulate it and we failed to do so. Instead, we decided to do whatever we could to make Democrats look wicked and evil."
On Sunday, Mr. Frum wrote on his website, FrumForum, that health-care reform had been a debacle for the Republican party, saying they'd "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," he wrote. "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."
While Republicans predicted months ago that health-care reform would be Mr. Obama's "Waterloo," Mr. Frum wrote: "It's Waterloo all right: ours."
Politico reported Friday that Mr. Frum said he was axed from the American Enterprise Institute because of pressure from donors.
"There's a lot about the story I don't really understand," Politico reported Mr. Frum as saying. "But the core of the story is the kind of economic pressure that intellectual conservatives are under. AEI represents the best of the conservative world. [AEI President]Arthur Brooks is a brilliant man, and his books are fantastic. But the elite isn't leading any more. It's trapped. Partly because of the desperate economic situation in the country, what were once the leading institutions of conservatism are constrained. I think Arthur took no pleasure in this. I think he was embarrassed. I think he would have avoided it if he possibly could, but he couldn't." In a statement, AEI president Arthur Brooks suggested Mr. Frum wasn't fired, but rather left the institute on his own accord.
"While AEI makes it a practice not to discuss personnel matters, I can say that David Frum is an original thinker and a friend to many at AEI. We are pleased to have welcomed him as a colleague for seven years, and his decision to leave in no way diminishes our respect for him."
The White House press secretary gleefully Tweeted Mr. Frum's blog post on Sunday. His ouster from the American Enterprise Institute came a day after the Wall Street Journal assailed Mr. Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush and son of late Canadian broadcaster Barbara Frum.
"Mr. Frum now makes his living as the media's go-to basher of fellow Republicans," the Journal wrote. "But he's peddling bad revisionist history that would have been even worse politics."
In a piece on The Huffington Post, Danielle Crittenden, Mr. Frum's wife, decried the reaction to his column, saying she has "never seen such a hostile environment towards free thought and debate". The Friday post is entitled "Put Down Your Pitchforks, People."
"What is distressing (to me, anyway) are the dishonest slurs on his character and integrity by people who know him, and in some cases have known him for many years - truly ugly suggestions that David is motivated by cynicism or sycophancy, or both. (If he were, maybe he'd still be employed...)," she wrote.
Mr. Frum posted a copy of his resignation note on his website, which made clear he was surprised by the "abrupt and unexpected conclusion of our relationship."
Mr. Frum said while he was sad about the dismissal, he'd been in a similar situation before, albeit north of the border - at odds with the conservative movement for an unpopular but ultimately correct stance.
"Back in '95, I said that PCs and reformers were going to have to come together and to work together, and I didn't say that because I was a liberal. History proved me right," he said.
Mr. Frum, now a U.S. citizen, made a name for himself in Washington for penning Bush's "axis of evil" remarks in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. In recent months, he's angered some conservatives for his criticisms of Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin.
With files from Jill Mahoney
More excerpts from Frum's "Waterloo" blog post:
Barack Obama badly wanted Republican votes for his plan. Could we have leveraged his desire to align the plan more closely with conservative views? To finance it without redistributive taxes on productive enterprise - without weighing so heavily on small business - without expanding Medicaid? Too late now. They are all the law.
We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.
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?
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