Bruce Barlett amends some of his earlier comments about David Frum’s firing. Was AEI muzzling its healthcare experts’ views on Obamacare as Bartlett, based on what Frum had told him privately, thought? Frum goes on record to downplay the claim: “I did not report as fact that scholars were laboring under any restrictions. What I did say was that AEI was punching way below its weight in the healthcare debate. I wondered, not alleged, wondered, whether AEI scholars were constrained by fear of saying something that might get them into trouble.”
What’s more interesting than Frum’s I’m-not-retracting-it-but-I-won’t-outright-affirm-it accusation, however, is a circumstantial argument Bartlett points to in support of the contention that AEI doesn’t trust its own experts. He cites New York University economist (and sometime AEI guy) Daniel Shaviro writing of the institute’s healthcare scholars, “I would be surprised if they were NOT sympathetic to the approach of mandating health insurance coverage, given this idea’s deep roots in (without restriction to) conservative, Republican, and generally pro-market circles, along with the fundamental argument in support of the mandate as a response to adverse selection (a central problem in promoting the general availability of adequate medical treatment).”
What? Mandating health insurance has roots in “conservative, Republican, and generally pro-market circles”? Well, of course it does, as I argued last Sunday — which funnily enough earned me a rebuke from one of Frum’s minions, who declared the argument, “The Dumbest Thing You’ll Ever Read on Healthcare Reform.” Turns out that Frum and company are just as shy as his ex-employer to own up to certain embarrassing truths about the roots of Obamacare, at least when someone they don’t like makes the case. But that’s hardly surprising: whatever kind of dissidence Frum might present himself as wanting to foster over at his forum, this is still the fellow who tried to silence antiwar conservatives in 2003 and who a decade before that was attacking Pat Buchanan for his deviations from conservative groupthink on free trade and NAFTA. Throughout his career Frum has been an enforcer of ideological orthodoxy — it just happens that his orthodoxy this season is different from the one that prevails at AEI.