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There is a major debate going on in conservative ranks about the role being played by radio and TV talk-show host Glenn Beck. David Horowitz and David Frum have been expressing their disparate viewpoints on their websites, www.newsrealblog.com, and www.frontpagemag.com for Horowitz, and www.newmajority.com for Frum. This morning, both agreed to carry out a formal exchange that you can find here.
Frum argues that Beck often makes unsubstantiated or exaggerated charges. As an example, he points to what he considers a crude and undocumented attack on Cass Sunstein, amounting to the reiteration of the charge that Sunstein, now confirmed as Director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the OMB, favors animals having the right to sue individuals via lawyers representing them against humans.
Frum contends that rather than being a wild-eyed radical, he is a choice conservatives can not only live with, but should support. He notes accurately that Sunstein’s decisions and views have been praised by scores of conservatives and besides, he is the best candidate that they could hope for in an Obama administration. Moreover, Frum argues that Sunstein does not support the rather far out views of Princeton University ethicist Peter Singer on animal rights. Indeed, I have heard Beck continually cite Singer’s views as if they were the same as Sunstein’s. They are not, and to date, Beck has not withdrawn these claims.
Frum says Beck is a right-wing populist, whose rantings create a serious danger for conservatives who seek to reach the American people, especially the middle class and independents who are not conservatives, but who are on the center-right. He’s afraid that by supporting Beck’s reckless style and thereby legitimizing him, conservatives risk further marginalizing the Republican brand. Conservatives, Frum writes, must emancipate “ourselves from leadership by the most stupid, the most cynical, and the most truthless.”
Horowitz responds that the lengths Frum goes to for the purpose of demonizing Beck are indefensible. Moreover, he argues that Glenn Beck is “on our side,” – the side of conservatism. If not for Beck, Van Jones would not have been exposed and lost his appointment, and the ACORN videos would not have had the impact that has forced Congress to vote to defund them, and the Census Bureau to break it contract to use ACORN employees to canvas for the new census. In this, Horowitz is undoubtedly correct. As for Sunstein, he agrees that Beck may have exaggerated or distorted Sunstein’s actual positions. But he argues that Frum ignores the fact that Sunstein is willing to serve with the radicals that Obama has appointed, and has not spoken up about the attempts of the administration to use its power to stop dissent and isolate conservatives from a serious debate.
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