THE REVENGE OF THE GUT….Back in 2001, the widely respected scholar John DiIulio spent about half a year in the George Bush White House as head of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Here’s what he told Ron Suskind about his experience:
In eight months, I heard many, many staff discussions, but not three meaningful, substantive policy discussions….The lack of even basic policy knowledge, and the only casual interest in knowing more, was somewhat breathtaking.
This weekend, six years after serving in the same White House at the same time as DiIulio, former Bush speechwriter David Frum finally decides that maybe DiIulio was right. What’s more, after listening to Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee burble confidently on about absurdities, he concludes that just maybe the entire conservative movement bears some blame for this state of affairs:
Many of us on the conservative side have fed this monster. (Rightly) aghast at the abuse of expertise by liberal judges, liberal bureaucrats and liberal academics, we have sometimes over-reacted by denying the importance of expertise altogether.
….So now instead of holes in our souls, we conservatives are getting candidates with holes in their heads.
Here’s the lesson to learn: It’s always important to respect the values and principles of the voters. But politicians who want to deliver effective government and positive results have to care about more than values — and have to do more than check their guts. They need to study the problem, master the evidence, and face criticism.
Welcome back to the reality-based community, Mr. Frum. Good luck reining in the beast you and your colleagues have spent the past three decades unchaining.
UPDATE: Ross Douthat wonders why Frum only mentions Huckabee and Paul:
If you’re going to be hard on the current crop of Republican candidates for making bogus claims about public policy, it seems awfully unfair to leave out the candidate given to running ads in which he announces: “I know that reducing taxes produces more revenue. The Democrats don’t know that. They don’t believe that.” (They don’t believe it, of course, because in the current fiscal landscape you can’t find a serious conservative economist who thinks it’s true.)
….If you’re looking for cases where the Right’s anti-elitism has shaded into outright anti-intellectualism — for cases where, in Frum’s words, a GOP politician has deliberately failed to “study the problem, master the evidence, and face criticism” — Giuliani’s frequent channeling of Larry Kudlow seems like at least as telling an example as anything Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul are peddling.
He’s right. The Fair Tax and the gold standard are crank ideas that, while they tell us something about the candidates who support them, will never actually become public policy. “Tax cuts increase revenue,” on the other hand, not only tells us something about Giuliani, but about the entire modern Republican Party apparatus. I imagine that’s why Frum didn’t include it.