August 22, 2009

Though most famous for coining the phrase “axis-of-evil” in President Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address, Frum’s second most famous act was to try to read antiwar conservatives out of the movement. In a 2003 cover story for National Review entitled “Unpatriotic Conservatives,” Frum gave right-wing dissenters from Bush’s foreign policy the Fredo treatment: “War is a great clarifier. It forces people to take sides. The paleoconservatives have chosen – and the rest of us must choose too. In a time of danger, they have turned their backs on their country. Now we turn our backs on them.”

So who were these “unpatriotic,” “paleoconservatives” who had supposedly “turned their backs on their country” by opposing the war in Iraq? Of the names listed, Frum’s most famous targets were Pat Buchanan and Robert Novak.

When Novak’s death was announced this week, much of the focus was naturally on his decades-long career as a reporter and pundit, and of course his involvement with the Valerie Plame/CIA leak scandal in 2003. But on the single issue that defined the Right for the last decade, it cannot be overstated the importance of a man of Novak’s stature swimming against the tide and bravely pointing out that on the Iraq war, the Right was completely wrong.

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