On one hand, I want to associate myself with all those who’ve noted what an inspired pick Ross Douthat is for a New York Times columnist slot. As someone who is often perplexed by conservative hires within non-ideologically aligned media organizations, it’s great to see a deserving writer get this gig — sort of like watching The Wire in horror as all the wrong people wield power in the Baltimore police department, and therefore feeling that much more satisfied when Cedric Daniels gets promoted.
On the other hand, despite the widespread praise of Ross, I suspect that he isn’t quite getting his due, because the Times columnists are hired into ideological slots, so the compliments being offered often end up saying something like, “So young, and still the best conservative for the job.” Here at The American Scene, we know that Mr. Douthat is exceptionally talented when measured against all writers, full stop, as I suspect a whole lot of Times readers are about to figure out. Should anyone doubt my assessment, I’d point out that were someone assembling a stable of columnists from scratch, they’d do far better to pick Ross than quite a few of his new colleagues — Ms. Dowd, Mr. Friedman, and Mr. Herbert being the clearest examples. Were I a liberal scoring the op-ed page for quality of argument and persuasiveness, I’d be getting a bit nervous for my team about now.