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David Frum, onetime coiner of the phrase “axis of evil,” but more recently a persistent critic of the increasing Palinization of the Republican Party, was fired today by the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think tank he’s worked at since leaving the Bush administration. Bruce Bartlett, another reform conservative who was fired by a think tank for being too critical of Republicans, comments:

Since, he is no longer affiliated with AEI, I feel free to say publicly something he told me in private a few months ago. He asked if I had noticed any comments by AEI “scholars” on the subject of health care reform. I said no and he said that was because they had been ordered not to speak to the media because they agreed with too much of what Obama was trying to do.

It saddened me to hear this. I have always hoped that my experience was unique. But now I see that I was just the first to suffer from a closing of the conservative mind. Rigid conformity is being enforced, no dissent is allowed, and the conservative brain will slowly shrivel into dementia if it hasn’t already.

This shouldn’t come as any big surprise. As many, many people have pointed out, the reform bill we ended up with is very similar to both the 1993 Republican counterproposal to Clintoncare and to Mitt Romney’s healthcare plan for Massachusetts. Of course there were lots of honest conservative health wonks who, even if they opposed parts of it, were basically sympathetic to the overall superstructure.

But this wasn’t a battle where wonks were welcome on the conservative side. It was a battle for political dominance. It was a battle to see if Sarah Palin would be the new face of the conservative movement. And now she is.

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