Monday, January 6, 2003

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White House staff smackdown, part deux

Matt Drudge has posted an exclusive on the White House reaction to former speechwriter David Frum's new book, The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush. The money quote:

"He's going on the TODAY show to talk about North Korea, Iraq?!" an alarmed Bush intimate told the DRUDGE REPORT on Sunday. "Mr. Frum should seriously consider letting the president speak for himself on these highly volatile matters."

The Drudge excerpt suggests that there will at least be some criticism of Bush and the White House in the book, some of which echoes John DiIulio. (Among the White House staff, there was a "dearth of really high-powered brains,"). Last month, if you'll recall, John DiIulio pulled off a double verbal flip-flop over the accuracy of a Ron Suskind Esquire article on Karl Rove that quoted DiIulio extensively. The final result was DiIulio completely renouncing his remarks and abjectly apologizing to the White House, even though Suskind was quoting directly from a DiIulio e-mail. This led many (click here and here and here) to gasp in awe at the White House's (read: Karl Rove's) ironclad control over its current and former staff.

Will Frum feel similar White House pressure, and, to put it bluntly, will he have the stones to resist? My guess is yes and yes. The fact that a staffer talked to Drudge suggests that someone was trying to send a message to Frum. Furthermore, Frum's quasi-authorship of the "Axis of Evil" tag line will dredge up some potentially awkward questions about why North Korea was added to the list. However, unlike DiIulio, Frum is the author of the source of controversy, he's not a befuddled academic, and he can turn a phrase. Plus, he's a blogger, so he's got the instincts to counterattack fast and hard. He's probably got the incentive and the verbal ammunition to put up an effective resistance.

Frum announced on his blog that he's taking a 10-day break to promote the book. However, I do hope he blogs thereafter about the reactions he gets.

UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times and New York Daily News have more on the contents of Frum's new book. From these excerpts, it seems that Frum has another tactic in his arsenal -- reversing the conventional wisdom on Karl Rove and Karen Hughes. From the book:

Rove was a risk taker and an intellectual. Hughes loathed risk and abhorred ideas. Rove was a reader and a questioner -- a curious man, always eager to learn. Hughes rarely read books and distrusted people who did -- anything she did not already know she saw no point in knowing.

Actually, my favorite quote comes from the Times story: "The television show 'The West Wing' might as well have been set aboard a Klingon starship for all it resembled life inside the Bush White House."

posted by Dan on 01.06.03 at 02:02 PM