When You Value Talking Heads More Than Governing

In a recent broadcast, Fox News performance artist Glenn Beck began targeting the academic Cass Sunstein, who is currently serving the Obama Administration inside the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. As a result, David Frum wrote a defense of Professor Sunstein, arguing persuasively that Mr. Beck’s attacks are inaccurate, and that conservatives should be thrilled by the appointment:

For those who champion free competitive markets, Cass Sunstein is about the best possible choice to be hoped for from a Democratic administration. I arrive at this opinion through first hand knowledge. I studied in one of Cass Sunstein’s seminars at Harvard Law School, and witnessed for two hours per week the fair play of his mind. But it’s not only my opinion. It’s the opinion of: Chris DeMuth, past president of the American Enterprise Institute; of the Wall Street Journal editorial page; and of the editors of Cato’s Regulation magazine…
Had Cass Sunstein somehow been stopped, the next OIRA nominee would certainly have been less favorable to markets, enterprise, and competition. The next nominee would not have supported John Roberts and Michael McConnell, would not have chaired seminars with the American Enterprise Institute, might not have been endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, and very likely would not have shared with conservatives so many of the values that Beck purports to uphold but in fact betrays.

Mr. Frum goes on to explain why Mr. Beck’s campaign nearly did significant damage to the country, the conservative cause, and Professor Sunstein:

Republican senators know the truth about Cass Sunstein – that’s why only 33 Republican senators voted “no” on the cloture vote on his nomination, the vote that mattered. Yet unfortunately they also fear the wild disinformation broadcast by Fox News and credulously believed by millions of Fox viewers. So the final vote on the nomination of this best friend conservatives are likely ever to have inside the administration was 57-40, with only a handful of Republicans voting in favor.

Here’s where things get interesting. Having read that defense, commentator David Horowitz agrees that Mr. Beck’s attacks on Mr. Sunstein are inaccurate. “I don’t have a big quarrel with Frum’s view that Beck’s view of Cass Sunstein is ‘over the top’ or off target,” he writes, adding a sentence later, “Frum is right that Sunstein is not a raving leftist.”

So how does Mr. Horowitz characterize Mr. Frum’s post?

It is a betrayal of the conservative cause (much as his unseemly attack on Limbaugh was, too). Without voices like Beck’s and Limbaugh’s — and Ann Coulter’s for that matter — the conservative cause and the cause of this country would be hugely damaged. On the other hand, if Frum’s website were to fold, nobody would notice.
Our country is under assault by a determined, deceitful and powerful left which will stop at nothing to realize its goals. Facing them, I would rather have Glenn Beck out there fighting for our side than 10,000 David Frums who think that appeasing lefitists will make them think well of us. No it won’t. It will only whet their appetite for our heads.

Yes, that’s right, if we stop lying about Cass Sunstein the leftists will come for our heads! Only by fooling people into thinking that Professor Sunstein is a leftist radical can we save the country.

In his atrociously reasoned passage, David Horowitz is openly siding with mendacity. Having conceded that the attacks on Professor Sunstein are inaccurate, Mr. Horowitz proceeds to characterize criticism of the lies as “appeasing” leftists. How galling that he also cites Ann Coulter as a figure without whom the conservative cause would be hugely damaged. What empty nonsense. The exchange is particularly telling because Cass Sunstein is an obscure figure for most Americans. His qualifications aren’t a subject about which grassroots conservatives have pre-existing views. Any popular revolt against him would be a top down affair stoked by elites like Mr. Beck.

As it happens, Mr. Beck decided to attack Mr. Sunstein. Thus a tension arose between the degree to which conservative insights would be represented in government, on one hand, and loyalty to a conservative cable news television host on the other hand. Confronting that tension, Mr. Horowitz basically said to hell with better governance, the important thing is staying loyal to Glenn Beck. This isn’t a responsible reaction.

On redirect Mr. Frum writes:

…this right-wing Leninism exacts a terrible moral price. Notice that David Horowitz calls the left “deceitful” in his blogpost. Presumably that’s a bad thing. Likewise, when Rep. Joe Wilson shouted “You lie” at President Obama, he did not intend that as a compliment. So truth is important to conservatives, or at least we talk as if it were. Yet now David Horowitz tells me that it’s 10,000 times more important to “fight for our side.”

Not just to fight for the conservative side — but to do so via Glenn Beck!