To add to the sorts of compliments that he finds to be "undeserved," I think the New York Times has made an exceedingly wise and, frankly, exciting choice to tap The Atlantic's Ross Douthat as its new op-ed columnist. It's an upgrade in so many critical categories, including intellect and overall seriousness. It's also an upgrade because Douthat will take the "conservative columnist" spot recently vacated by Bill Kristol, who was tiresome, idiotic, wrong about every blessed thing he put his mind to and whose work for the Times was so appallingly phoned-in that it's a wonder the paper wasn't sued for malpractice.
Douthat will change all of that. He's got great respect for his audience. He's reasoned and cool-headed. And frankly, he's a much more formidable thinker to go up against in this great political debate of ours. Again, a relative comparison to Kristol obscures the nuances of this truth, but it's true all the same.
Interestingly, the addition of Douthat adds to the overall state of righty-media intrigue. Coupled with David Brooks, the Times now has a conservative axis that is very reform-minded. The book he penned with Reihan Salaam, Grand New Party, has been shouted out by Brooks, and its thinking dovetails very closely with fellow conservative-in-exile David Frum. So look for Douthat to draw his share of fire from both the leftward tilting columnists of the mediasphere as well as the GOP's dead-ender crew. As someone has already remarked to me: "The Corner is all plaudits, no doubt to curdle after Douthat's first anti-Rush remark." Of course, if the Douthat-Brooks-Salaam-Frum types end up renewing the Republican Party, the Times is going to look awful smart for making the investment.
For the time being, however, the Times will content themselves by simply looking interesting, and young, and innovative, and committed to new media. I'd definitely echo the sentiments of his former Atlantic colleague, Matt Yglesias, who notes that Douthat "will generate a conservative column that progressives will have reason to read and take seriously." Moreover, I read this moment as something of a breakthrough: with any luck, this will open doors for the Yglsiases and Kleins and McArdles of the world. With that in mind, I'd heartily urge the Sunday talk shows to give some thought to booking Ross, as well.
At any rate, my sincerest congratulations to Ross Douthat. I look forward to working with you!