Taking the ‘think’ out of think tank

TAKING THE ‘THINK’ OUT OF THINK TANK…. David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter and a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, has been urging the Republican Party to be tactically smarter. He’s also publicly lamented the fact that the party seems to be taking dictation from Fox News, rather than the other way around.

Today, the American Enterprise Institute, a major think tank on the right, parted ways with Frum, after seven years. He emphatically denies that his departure was the result of his criticism of the GOP, and I have no evidence to the contrary. But Bruce Bartlett has a piece worth reading this afternoon:

Since, [Frum] is no longer affiliated with AEI, I feel free to say publicly something he told me in private a few months ago. He asked if I had noticed any comments by AEI “scholars” on the subject of health care reform. I said no and he said that was because they had been ordered not to speak to the media because they agreed with too much of what Obama was trying to do.

It saddened me to hear this. I have always hoped that my experience was unique. But now I see that I was just the first to suffer from a closing of the conservative mind. Rigid conformity is being enforced, no dissent is allowed, and the conservative brain will slowly shrivel into dementia if it hasn’t already.

Sadly, there is no place for David and me to go.

Consider the larger pattern here. A few years ago, John Hulsman was a senior foreign policy analyst at the right’s largest think tank, the Heritage Foundation. Hulsman was a conservative in good standing — appearing regularly on Fox News and on the Washington Times’ op-ed page, blasting Democrats — right up until he expressed his disapproval of the neoconservatives’ approach to foreign policy. Heritage showed him the door. The Cato Institute’s Chris Preble said at the time, “At Heritage, anything that smacks of criticism of Bush will not be tolerated.”

About a year before that, Bartlett was fired from the conservative National Center for Policy Analysis. His transgression? Bartlett criticized Bush’s incoherent economic policies.

And now Frum is gone from AEI. Intellectually, modern conservatism is facing a painfully sad state of affairs.