Oct 14 2005
David Frum has a big ego, that has been obvious for a while – just watch him on TV. And he trys to parlay his gifts [speech writing] into a deep wisdom on all subjects big and small – like all of humans do I admit. But he also may be pushing this country, and the conservative movement specifically, into political fight over what might be simply a personal vendetta. Now don’t get all up in arms, this is speculation and I lay out my case, and I would accept without any hesitancy that I might be wrong. I honestly hope I am.
I had read about the Mathew Cully Op-Ed on many blogs, but the one thing that just struck me when I finally got around to reading it was the opening paragraphs. See, Cully is a speechwriter too like Frum. But he understands the positives in constructive criticism. Most people don’t. They don’t like criticism and critiquing of their work, especially from someone they do not respect or is in a position they think is inferior. Read this and cogitate on it for moment:
WHITE House speechwriters first learned the name Harriet Miers in January 2001, when drafts started reappearing full of corrections, instructions and particularly annoying requests for factual substantiation. In the campaign, life had been simpler, the editing and fact-checking a little more casual. Now the old ways wouldn’t do anymore because “Harriet said” this or “Harriet said” that. Who was this woman, and could the staff secretary please confine herself to secretarial duties?
We had a few things to learn about the job of the staff secretary – the person who controls all paper passing through the Oval Office – and above all about the caliber of the woman behind the editing. And now that fellow conservatives in Washington are asking variations of the same question about President Bush’s nominee to the Supreme Court – Who is this “crony,” “cipher,” “hack,” “functionary” or, as my former speechwriting colleague David Frum has called her, this “petty bureaucrat”? – I think I can help with the answer.
I am going back to my own personal experiences here to give a different view on this whole mess – at least for Frum. Some people react very angrily to criticism. I see it all the time. I admire it, it means someone took the time to provide me some tips. I see it as an honor. Most do not.
I never understood why Frum left the White House after only a year or so (2001 – 2002). There was some issue with his resignation 13 months into a brand new presidency. In fact, it is probably not fair to associate Frum as an unabashed Bush backer. His recent book highlights a lot of negatives about Bush, which could possibly be illustrating how prickly Frum is to high standard organizations.
How much you want to bet Frum’s high strung anger at Miers is driven by his unwillingness to respect her position and her role over the speechwriting process in the WH. I see the tell tales of an inner office war which Frum lost, because Miers was not going to be going anywhere given her position with Bush. He himself clearly indicates how he felt at the WH:
With the exception of chief political aide Karl Rove, Frum views Bush as surrounded by genial lieutenants–few of whom impressed the author with their intellectual power.
He says Bush is often glib. He also often uses quirky language, for instance referring to environmentalists as “green-green-lima-beans.” Frum also describes Bush as “often uncurious and as a result ill-informed” on some matters that Frum does not specify.
Frum was not impressed with most of Bush’s staff.
“One seldom heard an unexpected thought in the Bush White House or met someone who possessed unusual knowledge. Aside from the witty and ingenious Mitch Daniels at the Office of Management and Budget and, of course, Karl Rove, who played the unusual dual role of political guru and leading intellectual, conspicuous intelligence seemed actively unwelcome in the Bush White House,” he writes.
As a workplace, the Bush White House is formal–strictly blue and gray suits for men, few bright colors for women. Language is clean–even a mild “damn” is frowned on.
Frum, a self-described “not especially observant Jew,” found himself working in “the culture of modern Evangelicalism” that prevails.
“The television show The West Wing might as well have been set aboard a Klingon starship for all it resembled life inside the Bush White House.”
Folks, has NRO been plagued by a personal vendetta? Is Frum trying to get back at someone he was at odds with in the WH? I am not claiming this is fact – unlike the anti-Miers crowd, I note when I am speculating. But the evidence is there to indicate this is a possibility.
Et tu Brutus?