Filet of David Frum

Welp, Buffalo Beast has the 2011 edition of their annual list of the 50 Most Loathsome Americans up (actually, it’s been a couple of days now). As usual, it’s hilariously schadenfreude-filled, even if most of it is merely speculative or wishful. For anyone who hasn’t read it in years past, it’s an arbitrary listing of the 50 top offenders in American culture, politics, society, etc, as chosen by Ian Murphy at BB. Murphy presents a case-study on each one, with a commented enumeration of the person’s “crimes” (often metaphorical but occasionally literal, as in the case of this year’s #35, Casey Anthony), culminating in the “smoking gun” – usually, a piece of truly stupid and/or venal dialogue the condemned has been quoted as saying in public in the last year (though sometimes, especially pungent quotes from previous years are pressed into service). At the end is the “sentence,” the what-would-happen-in-a-perfect-world summary judgment.

This year’s list is a typical, only-partially-distorted, hilariously snarky take on some of the most loathsome figures to blot the American cultural, political and intellectual landscape. From caricaturing Ron Paul as Gollum (# 23) to the devastating sentence rendered upon Christopher Hitchens (“remembered accurately”), the whole thing is worth your time from start to finish (unless you’re the type of hypocritical prude who thinks the nasty public rantings of Newt Gingrich at the GOP debates is just “discussing ideas” but who finds the public skewering of Newt Gingrich to be just “needlessly mean-spirited,” in which case, you should definitely stay away).

But my favorite this year was an unexpected one, my old bete noire David Frum. It’s worth excerpting in its devastating entirety:

Crimes: As Bush’s speechwriter he gave us the “Axis of Evil,” and now he wants us to believe that, in comparison to today’s insane Tea Party set, he represents an endangered levelheadedness of Republicans past. No, we’re sorry. Remorseful as you may feel for lying the country into a tragically pointless war, you don’t get to capitalize by pitting your purported moderate pragmatism against today’s partisan extremism which you helped catalyze with fear, deceit, and pure political cynicism — and be taken seriously! — without first penning an apologetic tome in your own blood, tattooing said tome across every inch of your naked flesh, and being forced to read it with your too-close-together-eyes every goddamn day for the rest of your scarred and dismal existence. A very sensible demand, considering.

Smoking Gun: While some were quick to blame lax gun laws, Sarah Palin, or mental illness for Jared Loughner’s Arizona death-spree, Frum had the temerity to speculate that the real cause was pot.

Sentence: Found hanging in his closet, pants around his ankles, Abu Ghraib torture pic still glued to his limp semen-coated hand.

Ow. That’s gotta hurt, David.

To be (far more) fair to Frum (than he deserves), I’ll take accurate criticism of the insanity of much of what passes for ordinary discourse and political ideas on the “respectable” right these days – not even the fringe – wherever I find it, including on the pages of Frum’s blog. Frum is quite correct when he points out just how insane and hateful much of it has gotten; how far right the Republican party has gone. But Frum is far from the only person observing such things these days (it’s pretty hard to miss. Bill Maher famously quipped: ‘the Democrats moved right, and the Republicans moved into a mental institution”) It isn’t that I don’t want to hear such words out of Frum in particular or anyone else. It’s not even that I don’t think there’s value in those words coming specifically out of the mouth of a former “fellow traveler” of many of these same insane-righties Frum now tut-tuts. Rather, as the Buffalo Beast piece lays bare in the way that sometimes nothing but sneering invective can, it’s that it’s creepy to hear such charges – accurate though they may be – out of a man who enthusiastically participated in what can now be seen in retrospect as the Bush administration’s inaugural kickoff of the mainstreaming of full-bore right-wing nuttery in political ideas.

If Frum had written any sort of book (or even just a short article) on the order of “confessions of a former….” in which he mostly admitted his own role in creating the current mess, recanted it, and apologized for his part in damaging the dialogue, it’d be a different story. But Frum has not – and will not – do that, because theres more than a small dollop of narcissism about Frum, along with the stubborn conviction that he is somehow better than the rest and the belief that the current mess really ISN’T due to his actions or words in any way. Thus, Frum’s nevertheless-correct pronouncements of extremism upon Gingrich and Palin and other far-right figures of today read more like a high-powered legal defendant who’s trying to rehabilitate his image without admitting fault after plea bargaining or escaping prosecution, than an apology from a genuinely remorseful figure – or even an attempt at making things better from someone who’s aware of and admits his own role.