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ABC Highlights Frum's Charge Fox News and Selfish Limbaugh to Blame for Health Defeat

Looking at the state of both parties after President Obama's health bill win in the House, ABC's Terry Moran elevated the view of "prominent conservative" David Frum, author a year ago of Newsweek's "Why Rush is Wrong" cover story, who blamed Rush Limbaugh and Fox News for what he's dubbed the GOP's "Waterloo." On Nightline, Moran contended "anger, stoking it, expressing it, riding it...was the Republican strategy to defeat health care. And over the weekend all that anger got ugly, as some Democratic Members of Congress were called vile, racial and anti-gay slurs."

But, he warned, "in the wake of the Democrats' victory, some Republicans are not sure all that anger makes good politics," as if Limbaugh and other conservative leaders advocated yelling the "slurs." Moran relayed how "Frum says the real leadership of the Republican Party during the course of the health care battle was not to be found in the halls of Congress, but on the air waves" since "it was talk radio and Fox News, Frum argues, that drove the GOP strategy." Moran paraphrased Frum's take:

It sounds like you're saying that the Glenn Becks, Rush Limbaughs, hijacked the Republican Party and drove it to a defeat?

Frum rued: "Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we're discovering we work for Fox. The balance here has been completely reversed and the thing that sustains a strong Fox network is the thing that undermines a strong Republican Party."

On his FrumForum blog on Sunday, in a post titled "Waterloo," Frum charged: "We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat."

An excerpt from his tirade against talk radio and Limbaugh for making it impossible for Republicans to make a deal with Democrats, as if that's a bad thing, as Frum claimed Limbaugh really wants Republicans to fail so he has more listeners and can sell more ads:

....There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother? Or - more exactly - with somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother?

I've been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters - but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say - but what is equally true - is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed - if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office - Rush's listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.

So today's defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it's mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, it's Waterloo all right: ours.

From the Monday, March 22 Nightline on ABC:

TERRY MORAN: Today, the day after, some key questions. Have the Democrats really got their mojo back and seized the political momentum? Will President Obama and his party pay a high price at the polls for passing health care? And what about the Republicans? Did they overplay their hand? This morning, Senator John McCain was predicting a backlash.

JOHN McCAIN, ON GMA: The American people are very angry, and they don't like it and they're going to, we're going to try to repeal this and we are going to have a very spirited campaign coming up between now and November and there will be a very heavy price to pay for it.

MORAN: Anger stoking it, expressing it, riding it. That was the Republican strategy to defeat health care. And over the weekend all that anger got ugly, as some Democratic Members of Congress were called vile, racial and anti-gay slurs and one was even spat upon by protesters. But in the wake of the Democrats' victory, some Republicans are not sure all that anger makes good politics.

DAVID FRUM: Nobody ever won an election by spitting at his political opponents.

MORAN: David Frum is a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and a prominent conservative.

FRUM: The anger trapped the leadership. The leadership stoked the anger and then discovered they had no maneuvering room as a result of the anger.

MORAN: Frum says the real leadership of the Republican Party during the course of the health care battle was not to be found in the halls of Congress.

GLENN BECK, ON HIS TV SHOW: Down on health care.

MORAN: But on the air waves.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: We need to defeat these bastards.

MORAN: It was talk radio and Fox News, Frum argues, that drove the GOP strategy.

MORAN, TO FRUM: It sounds like you're saying that the Glenn Becks, Rush Limbaughs hijacked the Republican Party and drove it to a defeat?

FRUM: Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we're discovering we work for Fox. The balance here has been completely reversed and the thing that sustains a strong Fox network is the thing that undermines a strong Republican Party.

MORAN: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi didn't have much maneuvering room, either, as she tried to keep her Democrats in line. Today she looks like a big winner and in an interview with Diane Sawyer, she reflected on the big moment....

Monday night: "To 'Indefatigable' Pelosi, Sawyer Wonders What Her Dad and Mom 'Would Have Said About this Moment?'"

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.