April 9, 2010 3:00 am
A big Republican victory in the mid-term US elections this November could spell disaster for the party's hopes in the 2012 presidential poll, according to David Frum, George W. Bush's former speechwriter.
Mr Frum, who was sacked last month from the American Enterprise Institute, Washington's largest conservative think-tank, after he described enactment of Barack Obama's healthcare reform as a "Waterloo" for the Republicans, said a good result in November would only intensify the anger that is gripping the party.
Such an outcome would raise the chances that otherwise "reasonable" and "sensible" potential Republican presidential nominees, such as Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota, would be "Sarah Palinised". (Ms Palin, the former Alaska governor, is herself a frontrunner for 2012, according to polls.)
"That mindset is going to be very strong all through 2010, and if Republicans score gains in 2010, as they look likely to do, it [anger] will be stronger still in 2011," Mr Frum told the Financial Times in a "View from DC"online video interview.
"That sets us up for a very bad situation going into 2012. That is my -nightmare."
Mr Frum - to whom the "Axis of Evil" phrase that Mr Bush used in his 2002 State of the Union address was attributed - left little doubt that he thought he had been ejected from the AEI for having criticised the Republicans' total opposition to healthcare reform.
Other reports revealed that the AEI - which is also home to Dick Cheney, former vice-president, Paul Wolfowitz, former deputy defence secretary, and John Bolton, former ambassador to the United Nations - was bombarded with angry calls from donors after Mr Frum wrote the offending piece.
"The timing is certainly suggestive," he said. "I published my piece on Sunday [March 21 - the day the healthcare bill was passed]. The Wall Street Journal ran an editorial on Monday denouncing me by name. Mid-morning Monday I got a call from the president [of the AEI, Arthur Brooks] . . . I wasn't fired. I was given the opportunity to continue working at AEI with no salary and no office."
Described as a "Republican intellectual", a rarity in a party gripped by populism, Mr Frum decried the lack of ideas in today's conservative movement.
"I see my job as maintaining a landing strip in the jungle, and right now we're not getting a lot of traffic," he said.
He also had some harsh words to say about Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential hopeful, whose healthcare bill when governor of Massachusetts was arguably to the left of Mr Obama's. "You have situations like Mitt Romney . . . having to go around the country saying that nobody hates his healthcare plan more than he does."
Pointing to the British general election on May 6, Mr Frum said the Republicans should take a leaf from David Cameron, leader of the UK Conservative party, which polls suggest could return to power after 13 years.
"Cameron does not have a highly detailed policy platform, to put it mildly," he said. "But the core of what Cameron stands for, in my view, is accepting Britain as it is . . . Not the Britain of 1970 or 1950 or 1910 - but the country as it is. Sarah Palin is not the person to say that [for the US]."
Philip Stephens, Page 9
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