Should the Hacks Succeed?

Katha Pollitt complains about Ross Douthat’s appointment to the NYT op-ed page, finishing with this irritable bit of counterintuitive thought:

So who would I like to see in the Kristol slot? Actually, Kristol. I was livid when they gave him the job, but he was perfect: a dull, complacent apparatchik who set forth the Bush line in all its fact-free glory. His columns were like press releases—you could hardly remember them two minutes after reading them. But his presence on the page reminded readers that David Brooks is not really what Republicanism is all about. Frankly, though, I don’t see why there must be two conservatives on the page.

Now, I’ve made my feelings about Ross’s appointment fairly clear, so take anything I say with a grain of salt, but, assuming Pollitt actually believes this, this strikes me as a deeply cynical exercise in intellectual bad faith. Partisans and hacks may want the other side to put forth their worst defenders, but shouldn’t anyone who considers herself an intellectual hope for the best from her political opponents? I know that, at least when it comes to the world of letters and public debate, I want to see the other side’s best thinkers and writers succeed. Pollitt would no doubt respond that “dull, complacent apparatchiks” who traffic in “fact-free” press releases are actually more representative of what conservatism is. I disagree, naturally, but even if that were the case, why wouldn’t you want to give the loudest megaphones and most prominent positions to those minority voices who don’t represent the abysmal status quo? Strikes me that the humanitarian — indeed, the liberal — view here would be to wish the best for those you disagree with, not angrily curse them to be led by what you think are their worst tendencies.