Competence versus Populism

A number of people are pointing to David Frum’s seeming come-to-Jeebus realization that Conservatives should beware of picking incompetent hacks in the guise of political loyalty.

Here’s the lesson to learn: It’s always important to respect the values and principles of the voters. But politicians who want to deliver effective government and positive results have to care about more than values — and have to do more than check their guts. They need to study the problem, master the evidence, and face criticism.

It’s not only conservatives who succumb to gimmicks of course. The left still feels a lingering attachment to socialism, the most disastrous gimmick of them all. Tough-minded conservatives slashed that illusion to pieces decades ago. But since then, we have begun to go a little easy on ourselves. And over the past half dozen years, the consequences of our militant anti-elitism has come home to roost.

If elitism means snobbishness, then of course it is a vicious thing. If it means being impressed by credentials instead of evidence, then again: good riddance. But if it is elitist to expect politicians to be able to see through glaringly false and stupid ideas — well in that case, call me elitist.

But few note where Frum’s criticism is directed: to those who support Mike Huckabee or Ron Paul.

The currently front-running candidate in Iowa, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, has built his campaign on a plan to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and replace the federal income tax with a national sales tax.

Economists and tax experts virtually unanimously agree that the plan is beyond unworkable — that it is downright absurd. (It does not help that it was originally drafted by the Church of Scientology.)

[snip]

Just a little lower down in the polls is a libertarian candidate named Ron Paul. Paul is best known for his vehemently isolationist foreign policy views. But his core supporters also thrill to his self-taught monetary views, which amount to a rejection of everything taught by modern economists from Alfred Marshall to Milton Friedman.

Mind you, I’m not here to defend the competence of Mike Huckabee or Ron Paul. But I can’t help but notice that Frum’s rant happened to target two guys who happen not to believe in corporatism. So while I’m all in favor of Republicans considering competence in their selection of politicians and candidates, I’m not convinced Frum is looking any further than a person’s adherence to his own (Frum’s) ideology as a measure for competence. If you’re going to talk about economic failures, after all, why not talk about Alan "Bubbles" Greenspan, who talked up ARMs so he could sustain an unsustainable housing bubble, and who is the man most responsible (among thousands of responsible men and women, no doubt) for the housing crash that is devastating our nation’s economy.

Mind you, now that Bubbles is advocating bailing out big shitpile, maybe Frum will begin to find him "incompetent" too. But for the moment, Frum’s call for competence is nothing more than a call for ideological purity.

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  1. emptywheel says:

    Oh, we’re definitely heading toward fratricide. The Republicans have repressed the economic needs of the Reagan Democrats for too long for that not too happen. Add in no longer contained religious bigotry (toward Romney), and we’re guaranteed at least one month of real fratricide.

    But then, it’s the logical consequence of the ideological fiction the Republicans have managed to pull off for the last 20 years, and will only get worse as the economy gets worse.

  2. JohnJ says:

    “Bubbles”…. I love it!

    This could be the most entertaining election in my life time, watching the Goppers crash and burn. Unfortunately, there is too much at stake to just sit back and enjoy the show.

  3. Leen says:

    The hypocrisy just does not stop. David “axis of evil” Frum telling others
    Here’s the lesson to learn: It’s always important to respect the values and principles of the voters. But politicians who want to deliver effective government and positive results have to care about more than values — and have to do more than check their guts. They need to study the problem, master the evidence, and face criticism.”

    Is just too much to take.

    David Frum profile
    http://rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/1155

    I was able to get through a question to David Frum when he was on Washington Journal as a guest several years ago. I asked him “since you were so supportive of the pre-emptive invasion of Iraq and sending young American soldiers to this unnecessary war will you be encouraging your own children( I believe he has two teenagers) to join the military so that they can serve in the war that you helped start”. David Frum’s answer was a fumble filled with hypocrisy which runs in Frums veins.

    When you google David Frum on you tube here is what came up.



  4. Downpuppy says:

    politicians who want to deliver effective government and positive results

    After 30 years of Conservatives pretending there’s no such thing as effective government, who the hell does Frum think he’s writing about?

  5. JohnForde says:

    EW, I just had a thought.

    It seems pretty clear to me that the torture tapes were ordered to be destroyed by either Cheney or ‘Waterboarding George’ as a matter of self protection. I’ve really got to believe that those copies were digital and copies still exist.

    I also read that Bush SIGNED documents ordering specific instances of waterboarding. Those two items: the video and the document in combination are so vivid and so criminal that they would almost certainly send Cheney and ‘Waterbarding George’ to prison.

    Don’t you think behind the scenes there are some noble CIA folks, one with the document and one with the video, frantically trying to find each other?

  6. Minnesotachuck says:

    A quotation from Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism:

    “As political scientist Michael Wolf puts it, ‘Conservatives cannot govern well for the same reason that vegetarians cannot prepare a world-class boeuf bourguingnon: If you believe that what you are called upon to do is wrong, you are unlikely to do it very well.’” P 354

    John Dean made essentially the same point in Broken Government.

  7. Leen says:

    More of David Frums hollow wisdom. Here is a comment from Mr. “Axis of Evil” about Common Cause and “anti americans”
    http://www.nationalreview.com/frum/frum031903.asp.

    “Common cause: The websites of the antiwar conservatives approvingly cite and link to the writings of John Pilger, Robert Fisk, Noam Chomsky, Ted Rall, Gore Vidal, Alexander Cockburn, and other anti-Americans of the far Left.”

  8. skdadl says:

    It’s always important to respect the values and principles of the voters. But politicians who want to deliver effective government and positive results have to care about more than values — and have to do more than check their guts. They need to study the problem, master the evidence, and face criticism.

    Frum’s on-the-one-hand is “the values and the principles of the voters,” which he implies (overgeneralizing vastly) are “populist,” whatever he means by that. His on-the-other is the direct address of current “problems,” which needs to be left to experts.

    There’s something missing from that geography of politics, and it would be commitment to democratic principle and structure — y’know, the Constitution? Neither voters nor experts ever care about that?

    Frum is a glib superficiality, and I would apologize as a Canadian for sending him to you, except we’d just as soon you not send him back.

  9. FrankProbst says:

    To me, one of the best things about the Republican primary is that, no matter who wins, there are going to be a lot of sore losers with even sorer supporters. They’re going to alienate an awful lot of their voters just by having their primary.

  10. freepatriot says:

    loyalty equals competence in repuglitard reality

    lack of loyalty equals incompetence

    what else do you need to know

    beside the fact that Cartesian Science has these guys in the cross hairs as we speak

  11. Neil says:

    David Frum believes lawless corporatism is the most preferable alternative. The alternative for which he reserves the most distain is the “gimmicky” socialism. I guess that would be a dig would be against his native Canada and all the US presidential candidates who are offering health care plans for the uninsured.

    Frum hates being called a neocon. Watch this 1 minute video of Frum and Heather Hurlburt, both former presidential speechwriters. NB: Heather’s reaction to Frum’s allegory about being called a neocon. If anyone can figure out what Frum is trying to say, please tell me.

    Heather says she enjoys debating Frum because he does not engage in ad hominem and out-shouting his counterpart.