Frum: Worse Than Rush?

by John Mark Reynolds [author, academic]

David Frum reminds his readers that there are worse things than being the wrong messenger.

You can have the wrong message.

Saying something badly is sad, but saying something bad is wicked . . . especially when you know better. Rush wants to save conservatism by preaching to the choir, but Frum apparently will save pro-family ideas by abandoning them.

Frum performs this valuable task in a sanctimonious piece that makes me wish I did not agree with anything in it. Sadly, he is right that Rush is the wrong messenger for the times. He is right that we need to adapt new means to get out the conservative ideas that we believe. Frum is correct that we need new solutions to old problems, but he is wrong that the principles need to change.

The application of conservatism will change, but not the Big Ideas.

Frum is wrong, dangerously and morally wrong, when he throws basic truths under the bus in order to win. Conservatives favor small government and liberty. Historically liberty has been the absolute freedom to do good and not the right to do wrong. If these ideas are mistaken, we need new ideas. If these ideas are unpopular, we need new educators to persuade the public.

Abandon these ideas to win and conservatives will have won nothing when they win. Conservative ideas may not be popular now . . . but the President has only started his decline.

(You read it here first: as much as one wants to root for the President, the first few months have not been promising. People are not going to like what they are going to get . . . and then we will see what happens politically. Obama is not polling particularly well at this point in his administration.)

Rush is the wrong messenger for the days that will come, but his message is often the correct one. That is what is sad about his inability to change his style and tone for the times. Of course, since his style and tone appeal to a huge number of people, as a radio guy he has no financial reason to do so.

Frum wants to change style and ideas. If my choice is between the bombastic man of principle, who is a bit of a hypocrite, and the slippery man for whom victory in an election is the final test of virtue and who picks his principles by opinion poll, give me . . . neither.

A defense of life and family are not negotiable for a conservative. Frum is apparently petrified that the “young people” aren’t pro-life or pro-family. Instead of educating young people, finding a way to persuade them, Frum wishes to the throw the ideas under the bus.

In the world according to Frum having a pro-choice Veep would have saved McCain by forcing millions of pro-family voters who could barely stand the man to abandon the GOP. This is dubious practical strategy, but horrific moral advice.

Abortion is a great moral evil and the only possible political compromises are incremental steps to ending it.

Traditional conservatives need fewer Frums who are politically expedient and don’t need another Rush to remind people my age what we already believe. We need better communicators for a new generation. We don’t have to choose between the two as some of the bright young minds at Evangelical Outpost prove.

Rush says good things badly for a new generation. ExileStreet

copyright 2008 John Mark Reynolds

John Mark Reynolds is the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Biola University.His personal website can be found at and his blog can be found at

Frum says bad things well.

This is no choice at all.

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