Frum, David 1960–
Frum, David 1960–
PERSONAL: Born June 30, 1960, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; son of Murray Bernard (a business executive) and Barbara Ruth (a television journalist; maiden name, Rosberg) Frum; married Danielle Crittenden, June 26, 1988; children: three. Education: Yale University, B.A., M.A., 1982; Harvard Law School, J.D., 1987.
ADDRESSES: Home—Washington, DC. Office—American Enterprise Institute, 1150 17th St., NW, Washington, DC 20036.
CAREER: Writer, journalist, editor, columnist, and commentator. American Enterprise Institute, visiting fellow. Speechwriter and special assistant to President George W. Bush, 2001–02. Worked as commentator for National Public Radio. Yale University, New Haven, CT, visiting lecturer, 1986. Guest on television shows on networks such as CNN, Fox News, and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Worked variously as weekly columnist for the Toronto Sun, editor at the Wall Street Journal, and columnist for Forbes.
Dead Right (nonfiction), Basic Books (New York, NY), 1994.
What's Right: The New Conservative Majority and the Remaking of America, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1996.
How We Got Here: The 70s, the Decade That Brought You Modern Life (For Better or Worse), Basic Books (New York, NY), 2000.
The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush, Random House (New York, NY), 2003, published as The Right Man: An Inside Account of the Bush White House, Random House Trade Paperbacks (New York, NY), 2005.
An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror, Random House (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor of articles to newspapers and periodicals, including Financial Post, Harvard Journal, Law and Public Policy, National Review, American Spectator, Commentary, Foreign Affairs, Reader's Digest, Spectator, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, National Post (Canada), and Daily Telegraph (London, England).
Author of daily column, National Review Online. Saturday Night (magazine), Toronto, Ontario, Canada, associate editor, 1988–.
SIDELIGHTS: David Frum, one of North America's new generation of conservatives, takes on the old guard in his first book, Dead Right. "This is one tough book," commented Susan Lee in the New York Times Book Review. "David Frum, a former writer for the Wall Street Journal's famously fierce editorial page, is furious … with right-wing conservatives—politicians and penseurs alike." Frum's anger emerges from what he sees as a failure by the right to live up to its principles and take advantage of its position of power during the 1980s. As Alan Pell Crawford pointed out in the Nation, "conservatives held the White House for twelve years. They dominated the Senate for six years, and by the end of the decade they controlled the federal courts. Yet in all that time, Frum notes, not one major federal program was eliminated."
In the New York Times Book Review, Lee observed that "the message of economic conservatism was abandoned in favor of social conservatism." As a result, the Reagan and Bush administrations pushed the public debt even higher. "For Mr. Frum," commented Hadley Arkes in the National Review, "the record of the Reagan years is a record that finally discredits any claim by the Republican Party to be the party that seeks to scale down the powers of the government and enlarge the perimeter of the free economy." Frum's view is especially harsh for those on the right hoping to relive the Reagan years for, as Max Boot wrote in the Christian Science Monitor, "having offended quite a few conservatives by blistering Reagan, Frum proceeds to step on a few more toes with his criticism of Reagan's would-be successors." Frum also deflates the new right's pet projects. "He concedes … that our social problems will not be dissolved by 'enterprise zones' or vouchers, or by a massive growth in the economy powered by cuts in marginal tax rates," wrote Arkes in the National Review. "Our political problems are, at their core, moral problems."
Frum's answer in Dead Right "is for conservatives to refocus their energies on cutting the size of government," noted Boot in the Christian Science Monitor. Specifically, the future success of the Republican party lies in its return to its "ideological roots, which stress minimal government intervention, individual freedom, self-reliance, personal probity, fiscal responsibility, and actual (rather than rhetorical) cuts in federal spending," summarized a contributor to Kirkus Reviews.
Lee suggested in the New York Times Book Review that "although [Frum] is severe in his judgments and stern in his admonishments, perhaps he'll excuse me for calling his anger a form of tough love." Crawford concluded in the Nation: "Frum is a smart young fellow with many productive years of conservative punditry ahead of him, and he has taken more than his share of risks. Watching him flirt with excommunication is part of the fun of this refreshing and rather brave book."
In How We Got Here: The 70s, the Decade That Brought You Modern Life (For Better or Worse), Frum proposes that although the 1960s are generally recalled as the years that ushered in sweeping changes in our society, it was actually the 1970s that redefined modern culture. The sixties, claims Frum, were full of flash and noise but little substance. The idealistic rhetoric of the sixties was replaced with sour cynicism in the decade that followed, but during the seventies, real and permanent changes took place—transformations that "left a country more dynamic, tolerant, socially equal and sexual, but also less literate, less polite, and almost infinitely fractious," in the words of Time reviewer Lance Morrow. Frum believes the country drifted far from its traditional ethics of responsibility and productivity to a new ideal of self-indulgent narcissism.
In his Commentary review of the book, Dan Seligman called How We Got Here "engrossing" and endorsed Frum as "a classy writer, witty and incisive…. Proceeding not chronologically but by way of successive takes on assorted happenings of the decade, he places less emphasis on politics and economics and more on the realm of popular culture, where he displays a marvelous eye for the emblematic movie plot, song lyric, and dopey bestseller." Seligman faulted Frum for failing to explain why some aspects of the 1970s have endured and others have not, and added that the author is "a bit blurry on the question of whether the 70s were, in the end, a good time or a bad time." But Scott H. Silverman, a reviewer for the Library Journal, found no such ambiguity in How We Got Here. He declared: "Certainly, for anyone who graduated from high school between 1975 and 1979, his painful evocation of the oil embargo, busing conflicts, and the Tehran hostage crisis will dim whatever nostalgia remains for an America innocent of AIDS or the knowledge that cocaine kills."
From 2001 to 2002, Frum served as a speechwriter for President George W. Bush. Among his other accomplishments, Frum was chiefly responsible for coining the phrase "axis of evil" to describe the major enemies of the United States. As one of those professionals who helped forge the words that the president spoke to the country, Frum had an insider's perspective on the workings of the Bush presidency and the character of the cabinet. In The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush, Frum offers a memoir of the Bush presidency and his place within in. The book serves to evaluate George Bush and "assess his suitability for the presidency in terms of character, temperament, and vision," noted National Review contributor Lou Cannon. He relates in detail how presidential speechwriting functions and what his role was within the speechwriting corps. He is "deeply sympathetic to Bush, giving it credibility with the large audience that buys right-wing books," observed E.J. Dionne, Jr., in the American Prospect. Frum compares the administration's performance in the days before and after the 9/11 attacks, and reaches positive conclusions about Bush's performance as a wartime president.
Frum also provides insight into the character and performance of a number of Bush cabinet members, from communications director Karen Hughes to the person some consider the architect of the Bush presidency, Karl Rove. Frum "is at his best when he applies his powers of observation to Bush" himself, observations and insights that only someone deep within the cabinet could provide. With his loyalty to Bush still very much intact, "Frum has left the White House without the White House leaving him," Cannon remarked. A reviewer in PR Week called the book a "great look inside the secret world of White House PR." Frum "makes a persuasive case that Bush, for all his faults, is the right president to lead our country in these perilous times," Cannon concluded.
Frum turns again to questions of national security and to thwarting the country's new terrorist enemies in An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror. Written in collaboration with Richard Perle, the book outlines a sweeping plan to confront and defeat the multitude of threats now faced by the United States. Thoroughly steeped in neo-conservative ideology, Frum and Perle note that the country must consistently renew its resolve against the enemy and stay the course with the war on terror. They also caution against giving in to any form of defeatism, and warn "the reader to beware of the counsel of small-thinkers, defeatists, bureaucrats, and other bad sorts that the authors feel are standing in the way of an easy victory," commented W. Andrew Terrill in Parameters. Unfortunately, Terrill noted, those negative types include those who have long encouraged caution, restraint, diplomacy, and reason in the war on terror. "By attacking the State Department, uniformed services, and intelligence community, Frum and Perle are moving against the potential voices of caution that they desperately want to silence," Terrill observed. Other reviewers expressed similar sentiment, such as American Prospect contributor Karl E. Meyer, who remarked on the "audacious agenda" offered by Frum and Perle. "Clearly, balance and containment are not their style for dealing with the evil of terrorism, and the prose reflects it," commented Harvey Sicherman in the National Interest. They sharply criticize Muslim fundamentalists but do not mention how those same fundamentalists were considered friends when Afghanistan was in conflict with Russia and the United States supplied arms to them through Pakistan. It was in this atmosphere, Meyer noted, that Osama bin Laden emerged and rose to prominence. Notably, "it was not the Democrats but the Reagan administration hard-liners who illegally sought to trade arms for hostages, pandering to the very ayatollahs the authors now denounce," observed Meyer. However, Meyer also concluded that "In truth, no U.S. party or president is without sin in the Middle East." Ultimately, d"the authors, however, never state opposing views fairly, rarely deal with contrary facts, and offer only the most sketchy evidence in support of their own positions," Meyer stated. In the war on terror, Sicherman concluded, "timidity will guarantee defeat. But so will cheap hawkery—excessive rhetoric supported by underwhelming force."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Frum, David, The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush, Random House (New York, NY), 2003.
American Prospect, April, 2003, E.J. Dionne, Jr., "The Co-Presidency," review of The Right Man, p. 52; April, 2004, Karl E. Meyer, "Return to Empire," review of An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror, p. 54.
American Spectator, September, 1994, Robert D. Novak, review of Dead Right, p. 67.
Booklist, June 1, 1994, Gilbert Taylor, review of Dead Right, p. 1734; May 1, 1996, Mary Carroll and Gilbert Taylor, review of What's Right: The New Conservative Majority and the Remaking of America, p. 1474; February 15, 2000, Mary Carroll, review of How We Got Here: The '70s, The Decade That Brought You Modern Life (For Better or Worse), p. 1059.
Canadian Business, October, 1994, Peter Foster, review of Dead Right, p. 140.
Canadian Forum, September, 1995, Brian Fawcett, review of Dead Right, p. 36.
Christian Science Monitor, August 30, 1994, Max Boot, review of Dead Right, p. 13.
Commentary, February, 2000, Dan Seligman, review of How We Got Here, p. 70.
Current, February, 1995, Edward S. Shapiro, review of Dead Right, p. 36.
Fortune, October 3, 1994, David R. Henderson, review of Dead Right, p. 154.
Insight on the News, September 5, 1994, Chi Chi Sileo, review of Dead Right, p. 30.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 1994, review of Dead Right, p. 751.
Library Journal, February 15, 2000, Scott H. Silver-man, review of How We Got Here, p. 178.
Maclean's, September 12, 1994, Carl Mollins, review of Dead Right, p. 65; November 21, 1994, Peter C. Newman, review of Dead Right, p. 38; May 27, 1996, Peter C. Newman, "A Positive View of Conservatism's Future," p. 42; June 17, 1996, "Right at Home," p. 11.
Nation, December 5, 1994, Alan Pell Crawford, review of Dead Right, pp. 698-700.
National Interest, summer, 2004, Harvey Sicherman, "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?," review of An End to Evil, p. 163.
National Review, August 15, 1994, Hadley Arkes, review of Dead Right, pp. 64-66; February 24, 2003, Lou Cannon, "The Book on Bush," review of The Right Man, p. 47.
Newsweek, September 5, 1994, George F. Will, "Up from Geniality," p. 76.
New York Times Book Review, October 2, 1994, Susan Lee, review of Dead Right, p. 9; March 12, 2000, review of How We Got Here, p. 13.
Parameters, winter, 2004, W. Andrew Terrill, review of An End to Evil, p. 140.
PR Week, April 7, 2003, Douglas Quenqua, "Bush Speechwriter Talks for Himself," review of The Right Man, p. 24.
Public Interest, winter, 1995, Jeremy Rabkin, review of Dead Right, p. 115.
Publishers Weekly, June 20, 1994, review of Dead Right, p. 84; May 13, 1996, review of What's Right, p. 66; January 10, 2000, review of How We Got Here, p. 53.
Reason, October, 1994, Rick Henderson, review of Dead Right, p. 58.
Saturday Night, December, 1994, Malcolm Gladwell, "Frum the Right: David Frum Comes from a Great Canadian Liberal Family …," p. 35.
Time, February 28, 2000, Lance Morrow, review of How We Got Here, p. 99.
Washington Monthly, September, 1994, Christopher Buckley, review of Dead Right, p. 46.
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research Web site, http://www.aei.org/ (April 8, 2006), biography of David Frum.
David Frum Home Page, http://www.davidfrum.com (April 8, 2006).