As the old saying goes, if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. Perhaps that's why the Frum household now has three.
I've been married to David Frum for nearly 22 years -- or just under half my lifetime -- and have lived through numerous controversies that have resulted from his speaking out for the ideas he believes in, regardless of the personal consequences to himself. Right after we met, when he was a budding journalist in Toronto, I watched him challenge Canada's then-ruling Liberal establishment on the issue of Free Trade. It was a huge and hysterical issue back then -- as big as health care is here today -- but at that time the hysteria was entirely on the left. Nerdy girl that I was (and am), my head was quite turned by this young man who quite literally waded into throngs of hostile crowds and patiently debated with them as to why the North American Free Trade Act would be good for Canada. And at the end of these debates, even those who remained unpersuaded (and of course there were many), expressed grudging respect for David's willingness to engage them in a discussion, and not a shout fest.
So fast forward to this week, when conservative hell erupted over David's now infamous "Waterloo" column on the GOP health care defeat. For days I've been sitting here in the bunker beside him (and our three dogs), watching the whizzbangs land all around. What is distressing is not the predictable hate mail he has been receiving -- and thanks to the internet, he's been receiving it in hundredfold; we've both seen that before. What is distressing (to me, anyway) are the dishonest slurs on his character and integrity by people who know him, and in some cases have known him for many years -- truly ugly suggestions that David is motivated by cynicism or sycophancy, or both. (If he were, maybe he'd still be employed...)
We have both been part of the conservative movement for, as mentioned, the better part of half of our lives. And I can categorically state I've never seen such a hostile environment towards free thought and debate -- once the hallmarks of Reaganism, the politics with which we grew up -- prevail in our movement as it does today. The thuggish demagoguery of the Limbaughs and Becks is a trait we once derided in the old socialist Left. Well boys, take a look in the mirror. It is us now.
David of course doesn't need my defense -- and a defense coming from his wife probably isn't worth much (although I can categorically state this has been posted without his authorization, approval or even, um, knowledge -- he's flying somewhere over the country right now). My role right now is to pass him the flask in the trench.
But to return to Washington and dogs: Along with the bile, there has been an equally considerable outpouring of support and defense, from friends and foes alike, who -- whether they agree with David or not -- are horrified by the guillotine that is being set up in the public square of democratic debate. They understand that nothing good can come of this, for anyone of any political stripe.
For this support, we are both very grateful. And while I wouldn't have thought it possible to admire David more than I do, I have to say he is still turning this old girl's head.