Only because I mentioned in an earlier column this week that conservative David Frum had spoken out lambasting Republicans for screwing up the health reform opposition did I find it curious he has been fired.

My reaction was the universally accepted “Big bad conservative think tank axes writer for criticizing GOP intransigence” as Greg Sargent is quoted in today’s First Read political notes. Sargent runs the political blog “The Plum Line” and Frum, a former Republican presidential speech writer, was a featured commentator for the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute.

Sargent, who said he talked to Frum, claimed such conspiratorial assumptions are false.

Frum, on his blog, said he had lunch with AEI president Arthur Brooks when he was told he was terminated just days after Frum’s column. Sargent said Brooks praised Frum for drawing attention to the think tank, but, alas, times were tough and he had to go.

Yeah, right.

The Frum firing raised a question I rarely think about and that is who are these relatively well-known authors who represent these think tanks and hammer home their special interests for their particular political and economic agendas. Frankly, I always believed they were given far too much credence than they deserved for their purposes are so often applying lipstick to a pig.

In fact, I actually learned something today and that is think tank voices are moonlighters. They receive modest pay but the biggest perk is they are provided affordable health insurance coverage they may not receive at their day jobs.

Matt Miller, a self-styled moderate columnist for the Washington Post, said Frum was fired because his critical column of Republicans unleashed a backlash of think tank sponsors threatening to withdraw financial support.

“But in ousting him after a mad overnight revolt among its donors, the American Enterprise Institute has put Frum’s family into precisely the health care hell that Obamacare seeks to remedy,” Miller writes. He explains:

What many people don’t realize about the think tank world is that the policy types who serve as modestly paid fellows do so in large part for the health coverage. In our antiquated employer-based system, middle-aged wonks simply have to be attached to a group to be insurable. If you and your spouse have reached your 40s and have had even modest health bumps along the way, you’ll never be able to get coverage in the pre-Obamacare individual market…

Yucks Miller:

Talk about a two-fer. In one stroke, David Frum has become not only the poster boy for the Republican party’s incoherent tantrums, but for the need for Obamacare itself! It doesn’t get more delicious than this.

I’m not worried that Mr. Frum will find a new gig to supplement his income even though Obamacare’s insurance exchanges Miller talks about don’t kick in for three years.

The spin on political issues never seems to stop.

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  • chipsilicon

    So the purpose of DemoCare is to make sure that screw-ups don’t have to pay for insurance out of their own pockets after they’ve annoyed their employer enough to get fired.

    That’s pretty much what I thought.

    I really don’t think David Frum makes a good poster boy for your cause.

    • TheMagicalSkyFather

      Um I think splitting the health care thing into “winners and losers” is probably not the best way to argue for the GOP line on this issue. It works better with the bailouts or mortgage issues but on this one you sound a bit “let them eat cake” which is something that it is wise for conservatives to avoid if they wish to attract more voters…just saying.

      Making a lack of insurance and therefore access to health care a “punishment” means that you are also arguing to punish all small businesses and contractors that now will have access and did not before. I know its nit picky and not really about the issue but framing is important and I have tired long ago of the GOP being painted as the cruel punishing side of the politics of this nation whether it be coming from the left or the right. Yes we need the left to stop looking to mommy for every problem(the gov) but we also need the right to understand they are not our daddies and therefore if they try to spank us it will not be looked upon favorably. I know this is probably not where you were coming from but it is how it can be taken.

      • chipsilicon


  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    This is a pretty good take on it from my view. I personally can see no issue with “firing” someone that writes an opinion you disagree with when the job of the business is opinion. Not only that people go into and out of think tanks like they have rocket fueled revolving doors and always have.

  • chipsilicon

    I forgot to add that Frum was pulling down six figures for his gig at AEI, and has a reputation for his elegant dinner parties. Why in the world are we supposed to weep at the prospect that he might have to move to a less tony part of town in order to pay his insurance premiums? It’s amazing that the inside-the-beltway crowd can be this utterly tone deaf.

    Frum is actually a poster boy for a strictly means-tested form of health-insurance subsidy, so that people making $50K in Backwater, Arkansas aren’t taxed to support the lifestyle of the David Frums of the world.

    • jkremmers

      Live and learn. I don’t know what Frum was paid and certainly didn’t believe it was in the six figures based only on what Miller, a friend and former cohost with Frum, considered a “modest” salary. If what you say is true, Frum should be able to afford to buy his own insurance on the individual market today or even in three years when it will be a group rate. Again, just guessing. — Jer

      • chipsilicon

        Mediaite and other sites refer to it as Frum’s “$100,000 a year gig.” Here’s more about him from his Wikipedia page:

        “Frum is the son of the late Barbara Frum, a well-known veteran journalist. His father, Murray Frum, a philanthropist and major art collector, was a dentist who left his practice in 1971 to concentrate on his business as a real estate developer. David Frum’s sister, Linda Frum, is a member of the Canadian Senate. David Frum is married to writer Danielle Crittenden, the stepdaughter of former Toronto Sun editor Peter Worthington.”

        I get pretty annoyed at the idea that I’ll be paying some part of Frum’s health insurance because he forgot that the person who pays the piper calls the tune.

        Anyway, thanks for your reply.

  • DLS

    Frum will not leave DC or the related community. On that we can count.

    Don’t be surprised if he does what I have mentioned, joining Sullivan at the Atlantic. It’s perfect for him.

  • DLS

    “I forgot to add that Frum was pulling down six figures for his gig at AEI, and has a reputation for his elegant dinner parties. Why in the world are we supposed to weep at the prospect that he might have to move to a less tony part of town in order to pay his insurance premiums?”

    1. True. It’s not as if he’ll find someplace else to go to to continue to act as he is better qualified (or merely designed) to speak on behalf of the peasantry as well as continue to be part of the inbred DC lifer crowd.

    2. Besides, if health care is a problem, he can always return to Canada.


  • DLS

    The business community is starting to report increased costs and related concerns about the new laws.

    Add that to what we, the public, who matter the least, are learning, piecemeal, about the new legislation.

    As far as policy, what about enormous spending plans the Dems may have still? Does this matter at all?