the scroll

A friend of theirs once took Christopher Hitchens and his wife Carol Blue to dinner at Palm Beach’s Everglades Club, notorious for its exclusion of Jews.

“You will behave, won’t you?” Carol anxiously asked Christopher on the way into the club. No dice. When the headwaiter approached, Christopher demanded: “Do you have a kosher menu?”

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President Obama’s recent speech on income inequality and upward mobility has struck a chord with many Democrats. If the President keeps using this rhetoric, then it could become a central message of the 2012 campaign. If this happens, I would also bet that Elizabeth Warren will give the keynote speech at the Democratic Convention in 2012.

What’s interesting is that while there is growing awareness that America is a more unequal country, there is less awareness that America is also a less upwardly mobile society.

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For the seventh time this year alone, Congress appears poised to pass another continuing resolution for spending for a fiscal year that has already begun.

If any fact indicts the dysfunction of both the Executive and Legislative Branches, that fact does.

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I Hate Bullies

December 15th, 2011 at 2:00 pm 34 Comments

In recent days, bullying in schools has been a hot topic for condemnation, with little in the way of solutions being offered.

While everyone deplores bullying, a sorry reality is that many people who oppose it are bullies themselves, without realizing it. And bullying takes many forms.

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Don’t Endorse Ron Paul

David Frum December 15th, 2011 at 11:08 am 148 Comments

Andrew Sullivan declares himself for Ron Paul as the GOP presidential nominee, as he did in 2008 as well.

As Andrew himself jokes, the Sullivan endorsement is more likely to hurt Paul than help him. In any event, there is precisely zero likelihood of Paul winning the GOP nomination, although he may well help to stop Gingrich from winning it. Paul is inescapably a boutique candidate, appealing to a very particular fringe within the GOP.

But here’s what does need discussing, in the wake of Andrew’s endorsement of Paul.

Paul has had an outsize appeal to writers and intellectuals dissatisfied with the present state of Republicanism.

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Home News

David Frum December 15th, 2011 at 12:00 am 2 Comments

Between my late mother, my sister, my wife, and me, the Frum family had collectively published 13 books as of the summer of 2011. Only one member of the clan avoided print: my father, Murray Frum. But after years of prodding from my wife and other relatives, my father at last succumbed to the peer pressure and gathered his memoirs of his lifetime of art collecting. The beautifully photographed book was privately printed this fall . In last week’s Maclean’s magazine, Barbara Amiel published a generous appraisal of my father’s writing.

Frum writes about a world that has no rules, namely the world of collectors. The book chronicles Murray’s life in that universe, and like all tales of alternate universes, when the prose is clear and unadorned, the landscape stands revealed. The collection of reminiscences is to collecting as William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade is to film writing—a classic.

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While reading Maureen Dowd’s New York Times column about Newt Gingrich, we learn that the former Speaker of the House is a big fan of the science fiction novels of Isaac Asimov, and not in a good way:

Speaker Gingrich told me that he became a historian because he read Isaac Asimov’s seven-volume Foundation series about a mathematician and psychohistorian from Planet Trantor “who looked at long sweeps of history and tried to understand probable patterns of behavior.”

“I found it a very believable and understandable way of thinking about data,” he said. (Feel free to supply your own joke about Psycho Historians.)

Who else across the entire span of the space-time continuum also shares Gingrich’s fascination for technocratic experts who can save civilization? None other than Nobel Prize winning economist and conservative punching bag, Paul Krugman:

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Truth Hurts

David Frum December 14th, 2011 at 4:38 pm 51 Comments

In my column for The Week, I discuss the recent debate in the left-wing bloggosphere over former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block:

A blogosphere spat is revealing an important fracture in the Democratic Party and liberal institutions.

The spat erupted nearly a week ago. The website Salon.com published a story reporting that Josh Block, a former spokesman for AIPAC, America’s pro-Israel lobby, had collected a trove of provocative quotes from anti-Israel bloggers.

Here’s Justin Elliott’s breathless Salon lead:

The former spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is shopping a 3,000-word trove of opposition research against bloggers critical of Israel to friendly neoconservative journalists.

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Despite what the sensational media coverage might suggest, EU-UK relations did not experience a watershed moment last week.

The EU has indeed become a two-tier organization but the divide has not occurred between the UK and Europe but between the Northern “fiscal hawks” and the slump European South, which has dragged the EU into its financial turmoil.

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She’s Back!

December 14th, 2011 at 1:55 pm 29 Comments

Last night, the most coveted endorsement in the Republican presidential primary was secured by Mitt Romney.

Ending months of intense speculation, Tea Party diva and thrice-failed Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell threw her support behind the former Massachusetts Governor’s bid to secure the nomination on the Sean Hannity Show.

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Three Bankers: Brian

December 14th, 2011 at 1:07 pm 26 Comments

Read Part 1 in the ‘Three Bankers’ miniseries here. Read Part 2 here.

Banker 3: Brian

Brian grew up in a rural state with the cards stacked against him—middle-class, scrappy and short, he overachieved his way into being the top finance student in my class. He taught me how a collateralized debt obligation worked in September of 2008, when no one else had a flipping clue as to why Lehman Brothers was collapsing, using stick figures and diagrams.

(“So wait, the credit rating agencies did what to bad debt?” I shrieked, outraged.)

(“Yep,” he sighed, and handed me a fresh gin and tonic.)

Miraculously he got a job at a major bank. Click here to read more

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Being Irrelevant

David Frum December 14th, 2011 at 9:22 am 49 Comments

The Washington Post covers the O’Reilly-Goldberg Factor segment on my irrelevance.

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One of the raps against President Obama is that he’s in over his head due, in part, to lack of executive management experience.

Here’s one thing Obama could do to shore up his management credentials: find a way to get rid of Greg Jaczko as chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Now would be a good time.

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Three Bankers: Allen

December 14th, 2011 at 12:00 am 12 Comments

Read Part 1 in the ‘Three Bankers’ miniseries here.

Banker 2: Allen

Allen eventually made his way onto Wall Street, working for a midsize firm but pulling in a massive, six-figure salary. I always remembered Allen being a very sweet, if awkward and neurotic guy, prone to throwing money around. The most egregious display came when he took me to Vegas along with a group of other students, paid for drinks and bottle service (we went through three bottles of Grey Goose), and then spent the entire night sweet-talking the sister of a rising tech star. Not as a Sex Trophy. For business. I’m serious.

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The epic collapse of Texas Governor Rick Perry’s Presidential campaign has been much-discussed with an emphasis on how this collapse affects his political future. This is to be expected, but a debacle like this will inevitably take down the fortunes of others.

I’m not talking about people like the staffers who left former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s campaign for Perry’s campaign. That’s too obvious and they are professionals who made their political beds. I’m talking about the innocent victims of the Perry campaign’s decline.

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Remembering Talk Radio’s Best

December 13th, 2011 at 12:06 pm 14 Comments

I first listened to David Brudnoy, the legendary talk radio host and acclaimed Boston University journalism professor, in December of 1993. His guest that night was a thirteen-year-old Framingham, Massachusetts boy who had been the focal point of local controversy: the child had attended a Boston Kwanzaa celebration hosted by a self-styled “community activist” who told the boy (whose late father was African-American) that he could stay, but that his mother (who was white) had to leave, as the Kwanzaa event was supposedly for blacks only.

Brudnoy went on a magnificent tear during that particular broadcast, condemning the addle-brained thought process that led the “community activist” to kick out the child’s mother. It was wonderful listening to Brudnoy denounce the intellectual bankruptcy of the activist’s behavior. I could tell right away that this guy was a genius, and made a point of listening to him nightly.

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It seems only yesterday that Bill O’Reilly, described me on air as a “great American.”

As I look it up, however, I see it was almost 4 years ago. I’d been stalked at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books by a 9/11 truther trying to videotape my conversations. After an escalating exchange of words, we had a final confrontation that ended with me smacking his camera.

At which point the confrontation took a Monty Python turn. The stalker – who was for the record bigger than me – called out some equivalent of “help, help I’m being repressed” and sought police protection, unsuccessfully.

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Three Bankers: Luke

December 13th, 2011 at 2:36 am 31 Comments

Banker 1: Luke

Luke was insane. Like, absolutely, certifiably whackadoo.

There was the clinical mental illness part—talking with his therapist on the phone at all hours, receiving pills in the mail, and shuffling his hulking mass along the hallways of campus as he muttered about The Strokes. I have no idea whether this contributed to his insanity when he was lucid, but when he was, he ended up being…shall we say…arrogant?

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On December 11th, David Frum participated in a radio interview with host Earl Ofari Hutchinson of The Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour.

The interview focused on the race for the Republican presidential nomination. You can read the full transcript of the interview here.

EOH: Will Newt Gingrich be the GOP nominee?

DF: My guess is no.  Gingrich has a lot that appeals to Republican primary voters.  They like that he helped take back the House of Representatives in 1994 and his confrontational style.  But there are a lot of worries about him, strongest among those who know him best.  In Washington he is not known as an effective leader, not well organized, not disciplined.  The man is not good at disciplining himself, which you need in a Presidential campaign.  The Republican campaign is going to be long because they have moved away from their “winner take all” rules.  If you win in New Hampshire, Iowa or South Carolina, you get the majority of the delegates, not all of them.  That’s one thing that kept the Democratic contest going so long in 2008.  Mitt Romney gets stronger the longer the clock runs.

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Mitt Romney’s proposed $10,000 bet with Rick Perry has earned a lot of criticism for the candidate. Given that it was a rhetorical device (albeit a clumsy one) rather than an actual bet and given that a $10,000 is not really a lot of money for a presidential campaign, I’m personally inclined to give Romney a pass.

That said, another story that got much less media attention at the time it happened does really seem to show that he is out of touch on financial issues. Here are the basics: during a campaign stop, a small boy offered Romney a small bird he had folded out of a dollar bill, Romney glanced in his wallet and, at first, the Washington Post reports, could only find a $100 bill. (He eventually found a $5 to give to the boy.)

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