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Hugh calls out David Frum

Monday, October 26, 2009
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HH: Last week, David Frum, founder of www.newmajority.com, wrote this in his column at his website. “By all rights, the special election in New York’s 23rd Congressional District should be a Republican cakewalk. Stretching across the hunting and fishing towns along the Great Lakes and Canadian border, the district contains Fort Drum, base of the 10th Mountain division, and re-elected its Republican congressman in the disaster years of 2006 and 2008 by margins of 60-plus percent.

“Yet polls show the Republican candidate in serious trouble. State Republican Party leaders prevented an open primary race and instead engineered the nomination of one of their own, moderate, pro-choice Assemblywoman Deirdre Scozzafava.

“Angry conservatives in the 23rd rebelled, rallying to the third-party candidacy of local accountant Doug Hoffman. Hoffman and Scozzafava are splitting the Republican vote between them, allowing Democrat Bill Owen to emerge as the front-runner.

Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt this week offered a stern condemnation of this fratricide on his popular program, calling the third-party candidate:

“…. a wrecker, a selfish “look at me” poser …. It takes an outsized ego to look at poll after poll that puts you behind not one but two candidates by more than 10 points and still declare yourself in the hunt.

“Whoops! Sorry, rewind. Fzzzzwwwwvvvvwwwzzzp. That was an editing error. Hugh Hewitt was not blasting Doug Hoffman, the third-party candidate in New York. In fact, Hoffman is the darling of talk radio and Fox News, which have helped to spread Hoffman Fever for the past few weeks.

“No, Hewitt was attacking the third-party candidate in New Jersey’s gubernatorial race, an independent named Chris Daggett who has drawn votes from the official Republican standard-bearer, Chris Christie.

“From the point of view of most Republican commenters online and on the air, party loyalty is a highly variable principle. As they see it, third-party races by liberal Republicans who want to combine environmental protection with fiscal responsibility are selfish indulgences. But third-party races by conservative Republicans who want to combine pro-life appeals with their economic message? Those are completely different. Those are heroic acts of principle.”

I’m joined now by David Frum. David, I wanted to read the thing to put some context on this.

DF: Yeah.

HH: How are you?

DF: I’m well, thank you.

HH: Now David, did you, do you think it’s fair for someone to read this, as many of my listeners did, and conclude from it that I had endorsed Doug Hoffman, and that I was a hypocrite?

DF: Well, no, I don’t think, I didn’t say that you had endorsed Doug Hoffman. You had gone after Chris Daggett.

HH: I know that. That’s what I know what I did. But many people read this column and concluded from it that you were blasting me as being a hypocrite since you quoted me blasting Chris Daggett, and then went on to condemn supporters of Doug Hoffman.

DF: Well, I would never blast you. I was having a little fun with you.

HH: But do you have any idea of what I’ve said about the race in that district?

DF: No, look, I know you have, you took on a great attack on Chris Daggett, and I thought it would be a little bit of fun to sort of put into context, here we have this question of party splitting, and we seem to have very different views in the Republican Party about how it is that people should exercise their right to defend.

HH: But David, you quoted me, specifically, then you went on to say from the point of view of most Republican commentators online and on the air…and do you have any idea what I wrote about, or have said about the 23rd Congressional district?

DF: As I say, I was using you as…in a way to make a point. I don’t think, I very much doubted that anybody would take this obvious editing error, with the deliberate goof in it, as a literal statement of your views about New York 23rd, about which I said nothing.

HH: Third time around, though. Do you have any idea of what I said about that race?

DF: Doug Hoffman is the darling of talk radio. I was not attributing any particular view to you. And I think we want to deal…if you think you’ve been misconstrued, I’m sorry about that. But I did not attribute a particular view to you. I was using you in order to make an amusing, I hope amusing, point about the way Republicans and conservatives have talked about these two races.

HH: Fourth time…

DF: And so…but the point…

HH: Fourth time, David Frum.

DF: But Hugh, it’s not about you. It’s…

HH: Now David, I didn’t say it was. I just…I’m asking a very specific question. Do you have any idea of what I said about the race in the 23rd Congressional district?

DF: I have not been a follower of your views on this race, but it doesn’t matter. That wasn’t the point of the article.

HH: So it doesn’t matter that I have taken no position whatsoever on this race, that you would quote me…

DF: No.

HH: …because your whole point is…

DF: But I didn’t quote you. I was making what we technically call a joke.

HH: But David…

DF: And I was using your words, I was using your words, which were very apposite on the Daggett thing, as a way of summing it up. And it’s not about you. And really, I mean, if that’s…if you want to say I have, that there is to be no…no use in this way…

HH: No, David, I want to say that you have a total straw man argument here, an absolute, 100% straw man, because unless you can find people attacking Daggett on the same grounds that they are supporting Hoffman, you have no point.

DF: I have no point?

HH: Unless you can find someone who attacked Chris Daggett for being a 3rd party candidate who then turns around and supports Doug Hoffman for the same reason, you have no point.

DF: I’m sorry…that’s absurd. Why do I need to find the same…I can say look, here’s a tendency in the Republican Party where there are a lot of conservatives, Bill Kristol, many others, who have gone and attacked Doug Hoffman, I’m sorry, who have supported Doug Hoffman, and then we have somebody like you who comes from the conservative part of the world, who has very conveniently said exactly an equal and opposite thing about the Chris Daggett race. And in that case, I’m sorry, it’s not about you. I’m not…

HH: I didn’t say it was about me.

DF: I don’t need…and my point is not one of hypocrisy. That’s a word I don’t use, and a charge I don’t make. What I’m saying is we had two races and two standards. And let me say one more thing about this. And I don’t think that the people who are supporting Hoffman are wrong. I’m not saying that.

HH: David, David, I’m saying that’s got nothing to do with it.

DF: I’m saying that we need to…if we’re going to broaden the party…

HH: David, time out. We’re not talking about that at all.

DF: …we have to broaden it to include the Hoffman people and the…

HH: I’m calling you out because you drove off of an on-ramp, you drove off of the highway, you ran by, sideswiped me, left your readers to believe that I was a hypocrite, because whether or not you intended it, it’s…I got calls on the radio saying, ‘why does David Frum think you’re a hypocrite?’ And it’s because you wrote this sloppily, you did no research, you can’t back it up, you didn’t bother to call me. In fact, it is the worst kind of drive-by punditry that I have seen in a long time from you.

DF: All right, I really don’t appreciate that.

HH: Ha!

DF: And I have to say, if you’re going to put it that way, that really is an act of astounding vanity. The point is not to make any point about you personally, It was to use your words to say here is a goof. It is presented as a joke. I did not use a word like hypocrisy at all. And I didn’t…and by the way, in the body of the article, I make the point that the people who support Hoffman and the people who support Daggett both have a point. They both have to be included in the party. And I’m not doing this as a slam. I’m not doing this as a criticism. I’m saying that we have got, we are very ready in the Republican and conservative world to broaden the party to the right. We’re not very ready to broaden the party to the middle. And here, I use your words, which were very ferocious on the subject of Daggett. I wasn’t accusing you of doing anything wrong. I was using them as a way to make a point.

HH: Well, you say, “From the point of view of most Republican commenters online and on the air,” after you’ve just quoted me, “party loyalty is a highly variable principle,” which by the way implies hypocrisy. It is not a highly variable principle for me. It is for me, always, you vote for the most conservative person who has a chance of winning, and you support the party nominee unless, like Lincoln Chaffee, the only time I have never, not supported a party nominee. They have nothing in common. And you know, David, if you’re going to write this kind of stuff, you’ve got to be more careful. This is slapstick.

DF: I…no, I’m sorry. Well…

HH: This is absolutely irresponsible to leave your readers thinking that I was in favor of Doug Hoffman, and against Chris Daggett, and hypocritical in the process. It is really irresponsible of you.

DF: Well, if you’re going to use that kind of tone, and I’ll say this, actually, the column is written extremely precisely. And it did not suggest that you supported any candidate in the 23rd, and it said nothing about your views about that. So it is exactly, accurately written, if we’re going to be precise about it.

HH: We’ll be right back with David Frum.

DF: The fact that it was not written, and it was not written…

HH: Don’t go anywhere, David. We’ll be right back with David Frum of www.newmajority.com.

– – – –

HH: David, I want to go back to your March 8th article in Newsweek, where you wrote, “In the days since I,” David Frum, “stumbled into this controversy about talk radio, I’ve received a great deal of e-mail, most of it on days when radio host Mark Levin or Sean Hannity, or Hugh Hewitt or Limbaugh, have had something especially disobliging to say about me.” David, when have I ever said anything disobliging about you?

DF: You will recall we had some words during the 2005 Harriet Miers debate, and you had some, I would say not, I didn’t say critical, but certainly disobliging things.

HH: Disobliging…

DF: By the way, not that I mind.

HH: But David, when you go on to say about after you name the four hosts, Levin, Hannity, Hewitt and Limbaugh, you write on there that, “most of these e-mails say some version of the same thing. If you don’t agree with Rush, quit calling yourself a conservative and get out of the Republican Party. There’s the perfect culmination of the outlook Rush Limbaugh has taught his fans and followers. We want to transform the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan into a party of unanimous Dittoheads, and we don’t care how small the party has to shrink to do it. That’s not the language of politics, it’s the language of cult.” Now I think that is a particularly ungenerous comment towards Rush, towards Levin and towards Hannity, but especially towards me, since the only time I’ve ever disagreed with you is on Harriet Miers, in which case I was taking the position of the liberal, big tent Republican, and you were taking the position of the conservative ideologue. It just doesn’t add up, David.

DF: Hugh, I really think that…I don’t know why you want to make this conversation about you.

HH: Well David, you name me in your columns. Why shouldn’t it be about me.

DF: ..or even about you and me.

HH: If you’re going to name me in your columns, aren’t you going to be man enough to stand up and back up your aspersions on me?

DF: But I didn’t make aspersions, and I’m not hostile to you, and I’m not being critical of you.

HH: What?

DF: What I said would be that…

HH: You know what? I can’t swear, David. I can’t swear. But I have really had it with this stuff. Your drive-by treatment of fellow conservatives is outrageous. And then not to be able to back it up and defend it by citing line and verse, is outrageous. It’s slanderous. It’s the worst kind of yellow journalism practiced by drive-by leftists who you ought not to have anything to do with. And I am P.O’d about it now.

DF: I’m sorry, are you, you are now saying that, the way, the things you just said, that’s responsible talk?

HH: Yes, I am, because I’ve got you on the air talking to me, and I’ll let you tee off on me. But when you drive-by me in Newsweek, when you put on your blog that in essence accuses me of hypocrisy, you don’t recognize it, and you won’t own it, and you can’t cite anything, David Frum. You are an outrageous example of the worst kind of yellow journalism out there. And the way you treat Limbaugh and Levin and Hannity, who do 50 times the work of keeping conservative principles alive in this country, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

DF: You know, that…I’m afraid that what you just said just demonstrates a core point, that you would set no limits on yourself. So you say, I say you’re disobliging. It’s hard to imagine a milder word of criticism.

HH: In the word that uses cult? Wait a minute. That’s just so absurd, David.

DF: And that…am I’m speaking like…

HH: No, that’s not.

DF: Look, look.

HH: Look, in a paragraph that says it’s the language of cult? You name me in a paragraph that says cult?

DF: I’ve moved from you with that, I’ve moved from talking about you to talking about Rush Limbaugh.

HH: Without a paragraph break.

DF: But when I talk about you, but when I talk about you, I’m sorry, one of the vices…if I have, you know, if you’re going to accuse me of all of these terrible things, if you’re going to accuse me of all these terrible things, we need to have a little perspective here on one of the vices of this medium, which is the invitation to narcissism. I am not insulting you. I did not insult you. I said you were disobliging. Pretty hard to be milder than that. And in the column I wrote, I use your words to make a joke. And I didn’t have anything hostile to say about you. I would certainly never call you these kinds of names, because I do recognize, actually, you’re a different cut of person from a Levin.

HH: I am…wait a minute. I’m not…Mark Levin is my friend. I have practiced law alongside of Mark Levin for 25 years. He is an extraordinary intellect…

DF: Well, I wouldn’t go as far as that.

HH: He is a very principled lawyer. Well, on what basis? How do you slander Mark Levin? On what basis?

DF: How did I…sorry, I’m saying I wouldn’t go quite as far as you just did, but go ahead.

HH: What would you say about him? He is an accomplished lawyer. Are you a lawyer, David Frum?

DF: Well, I graduated from a law school.

HH: And did you pass the Bar?

DF: I didn’t ride the Bar.

HH: You never sat for the Bar?

DF: No.

HH: Then on what basis do you get off and attack Levin’s legal credentials then?

DF: You know, Hugh, I didn’t attack his legal credentials. I just wouldn’t go as far as you said, that he was an extraordinary intellect. I wouldn’t go as far as that.

HH: You know, I saw you coming out of Heritage with Michael Medved just about a month ago…

DF: Yeah.

HH: And I greeted you warmly, and I thought I’ll just put aside the Limbaugh thing. But David, you really have to look at yourself in the mirror and understand…

DF: No, Hugh, I’m sorry. You know what?

HH: …that when you drive-by people like this, it is outrageous.

DF: I’m sorry, for you to say I’m a drive-by in this segment, and you throw in with words like slander and yellow journalism, all are on the basis of the fact that I used one adjective about you, and then I make a joke about your column, and not in a way that is hostile, and not in a way that accuses you of anything. I mean, the thin skin here, and the fact that you will set no limits on what you say of others, and yet anything…

HH: When have I…what do you mean, set limits. I’ve got you right here.

DF: …that, anything as gentle, as gentle…but the fact that anything that is as gentle, and by the way, you’re completely uninterested in discussing the merits of the issue.

HH: Oh, I’ll have you back. In fact, David, I’ve got Tim Pawlenty coming up…

DF: But at the time I’m as gentle as I am provokes you to be this extreme, is a little odd.

HH: I’ve got Tim Pawlenty coming up. You come back at the top of the next hour, and we’ll continue the conversation. I’ve got to talk to T-Paw about Doug Hoffman, who by the way, he endorsed today, which I guess puts him on the side of the cultists, David Frum.

End of interview.

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