- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 26, 2002

David Frum, credited with authoring the headline "axis of evil" phrase in President Bush's State of the Union address, has left the White House speechwriting staff.
"It has been the experience of a lifetime and it's been the honor of a lifetime to be here during this presidency," Mr. Frum said in a telephone interview yesterday. "I leave with nothing but the highest regard for all of my colleagues."
Mr. Frum said he told the president of his intention to leave in a Jan. 24 letter, five days before the State of the Union speech in which Mr. Bush named Iraq, Iran and North Korea as members of an "axis of evil."
The phrase has drawn criticism from some U.S. allies as well as from some congressional Democrats, but Mr. Frum said such criticism had nothing to do with his departure, which he had planned a month ago.
"I submitted [the Jan. 24 letter] with a month's notice," the Canadian-born writer said.
Mr. Frum specifically denied commentator Robert Novak's claim, made yesterday on CNN's "Inside Politics," that he was ousted from the speechwriting team because the president was angered by an e-mail from Mr. Frum's wife that became public this month.
Author Danielle Crittenden e-mailed friends after the Jan. 29 State of the Union address expressing "wifely pride" that her husband had contributed the "axis of evil" phrase. Mrs. Crittenden's e-mail was published in an Internet journal by writer Timothy Noah.
"Nobody likes having their private correspondence published in the paper," Mr. Frum said yesterday.
He accused Mr. Novak of "making stuff up" in claiming that the e-mail was the reason for his leaving the White House. "At a minimum, [Mr. Novak] should have made a conscientious effort to find out if it was true," Mr. Frum said.
White House spokeswoman Ann Womack confirmed that Mr. Frum had been planning to leave since mid-January and denied that he had been fired.
As for his role in the "axis of evil" speech, Mr. Frum said: "I contributed language to the president's speech. That is what I was paid to do. But what matters is not the language that is proposed to the president; what matters is the language the president decides to use. … The words become important only because the president uses them."
He praised Mr. Bush, saying, "I began [the White House job] thinking he would be a good president, but I go thinking he's proven himself to be one of the great presidents of American history."
His immediate plans are for a 10-day vacation to Mexico with his wife and three children. Mr. Frum, author of such books as "Dead Right" and "How We Got Here," wouldn't say whether he might write a book about his White House experience.
"I'm a writer I'm going to write," he said. "Exactly what and how, I don't know yet."
Bill Sammon contributed to this report.

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