Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum, a face of the NeverTrump “Republican” establishment, lost the Munk debate in Toronto to Steve Bannon, populist-nationalist CEO of the President Trump 2016 campaign and original Trump White House chief strategist.
Frum is one of the few media-friendly so-called conservatives still clinging to newsprint in the age of Trump by throwing spitballs at the wildly successful Commander in Chief. (He also wrote a book on W. Bush entitled “The Right Man,” lest we forget).
Bannon fans were looking forward to the confrontation.
Watch the full Munk Debate here:
Frum set the scene in his post-debate lamentation in The Atlantic: “Bannon is not a marginal figure. He is a central personality in the history of our times, who helped to elect a president of the United States and is now advising competitive political parties across Europe. If you think his—and their—influence is pernicious, well, that influence does not become any less pernicious if you refuse to argue why it is wrong. The debate in Toronto focused on a prediction: whether the future belonged to populist politics (the polite term for the politics of Donald Trump and the many Little Trumps in power or competing for power across our Earth) or to liberal politics, in the broadest sense of the word liberal.”
Frum found Bannon to be more impressive in front of a crowd than Frum imagined, writing, “As a debater, Bannon proved engaging and entertaining. When one of his lines gained lonely applause from a single audience member, Bannon quipped, ‘Thanks, Mom.’ That lit up the room.”
Frum notes that at the beginning of the debate, the audience supported the Frum position 72-28, but at the end of the debate Bannon won with the crowd, 57-43.
Here is Frum beating himself up about the loss, which is unintentionally hilarious:
“But that loss, although my fault, was not my problem alone. I had by my apparent failure confirmed every criticism of the debate. I had helped to provide a platform in an inhospitable city and country to Bannonism—and instead of offering hope, I had contributed to despair. I had lent my name and my energy to powerfully disseminating and legitimating exactly what I had hoped to expose and refute. I had undertaken a great responsibility and had somehow bungled it.
Worse, I could not even diagnose how I had bungled it. Speak from platforms often enough, and you develop—or believe you develop—a sense of a room as acute as your sense of sight or smell. Through the evening, I had felt the room was with me, and in growing numbers, too. Yet obviously, I had gotten that wrong. I had not only failed, but been blind to my own failure…
It’s the foundation that I had hoped to expose in Toronto. By a cunning plot twist, I did expose it—but in a way that may have strengthened that foundation rather than attacked it.
The formal portion of the debate between Bannon and me was brought to an end by a stroke of the clock. But the strange result ensured that the actual debate continues. Can we reason our way out of the political nightmare into which unreason has led us? That question remains open still.”
Frum passage ends
Hey, don’t go away mad, Frum. Just go away.
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