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Rick Salutin (Deborah Baic)
Rick Salutin (Deborah Baic)

Rick Salutin

CBC and Frum: Ships in the ideological night Add to ...

Point 1 about David Frum, who was set adrift this spring by much of the U.S. right, for mildly criticizing them: He acknowledges he has changed. As he told The Globe's John Ibbitson, "On some of the issues, I have different answers than I would have had a decade ago." That's impressive in someone who is primarily an ideologue, and has been his entire adult life.

Point 2: He hasn't changed a lot. He still rues the "anti-Zionist hard left" which "can bleed into outright anti-Semitism," though even that is more nuanced than calling all criticism of Israel the "new anti-Semitism." He still rails against "horrific" budget deficits and other catchwords. But this too is impressive. Incremental change is the most believable kind. Wholesale personal conversions are suspect, and often imply ulterior motives.

Point 3: He doesn't seem embarrassed by having changed and even seems to take delight in it - as if it proves his mind is still alive. Can it have to do with outgrowing a normal overreaction against highly public parents who, though not remotely left-wing, were somewhat liberal or Liberal? Hard to say.

Point 4: Obamacare and the Canadian connection. Was it the gross distortions of Canadian health care as communist or worse, during the U.S. health debate, that aided this shift? Having grown up here and staying in touch, he knew how absurd the claims were. Did it lead to the intellectual return (or just turn) of the prodigal con, or Cancon? He could have stayed quiet, or been a dishonest witness for the prosecution. He did neither. He still opposes Obamacare, mild as it is, and says Canada's system "shouldn't" work - showing a true ideological mindset - but compares it to the bumblebee that shouldn't be able to fly. He says it works in Canada anyway because Canadians somehow overcome human nature and don't apply for all the benefits available to them. He doesn't trust Americans to behave that way.

I find this an amazing insight, especially from a right-wing ideologue. It's like saying that Canadian health care isn't something imposed by governments or visionaries, but is the embodiment of a sort of collective national desire that our society had and then collaborated on in order to make it real. It makes me feel our quite unique public health-care system is also our most impressive achievement, Canada's true National Dream.

Final point: the standing-still factor. It's amazing how far you can move by staying where you are while the world shifts under you. Anyone who stood still for the past 30 years as the world edged and then careened to the right, was bound to wind up farther left than they'd begun. It applies to David Frum.

Counterpoint: Consider the CBC, where David's late mother reigned, and which Harperites accuse of being left and Liberal. Should leftists defend the CBC? Hell, no, they should attack it - for being so far to the right. Look at CBC's prestige political panel: two of three members are Andrew Coyne, of hard-right Maclean's, and Allan Gregg, who polls for Preston Manning to show how right-wing Canada now is. Its chief pundit is Rex Murphy, now also at the National Post. Take former journalists in the Harper government, like minister Peter Kent and senators Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin - they all had serious CBC careers. Is CBC training right-wing media agents? The case is at least as strong as the Pakistani Taliban being behind the Times Square bomber. The only Liberal media senator is Jim Munson, who came from CTV! CTV is now where I go for left-wing analysis. CBC management is so daft they may believe they are left because Harperites say so, prompting them to add even more conservative stuff, as they drift ever further to the right, at some point passing David Frum, still standing still, like ships in the ideological night.

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