Ross's Excellent Column

Man, Noah put me to shame just now.

I haven’t written anything about Ross’s new gig because the enormity of the news defies comment. Ross is one of my best friends. We used to live in a house together with our friend Bridge and later our friend Graeme, and we also wrote a book together. We’ve spent more hours than I care to recall watching old episodes of Lost and the 1989 film Deep Blue Sea, eating Popeye’s, and plotting my career as an avant-garde monologist. It is absolutely impossible for me to be anything approaching remotely objective on the subject of Ross. I met Ross fairly late in life — we didn’t really know each other in college — and yet I feel a very strong kinship with him, despite the fact that we are deeply different people. When Ross is criticized, fairly or unfairly, I feel a sharper sting than I feel when I’m criticized, which is something that extends to a lot of my friends. The truth is that I’m not at my best when responding to the criticism of a friend. I have a tribal instinct, I guess.

So with that, I will try to make a substantive comment about Ross’s debut column: it is crisply written, carefully argued, persuasive, and a pleasure to read.

I think Noah makes a reasonable point, but, in truth, I don’t think it detracts from Ross’s central point — that the Cheney worldview should have been tested during the campaign.

I’ll add only that Ross’s argument has, I’m sorry to say, been lost on many readers of the Times, many of whom stopped reading the column after the headline or the headline and the first few paragraphs.

Ross is offering a fairly subtle critique of the Cheney worldview, namely that its continued popularity among rank-and-file movement conservatives represents their alienation from the electoral mainstream. Granted, Ross didn’t offer a frontal critique of the Cheney worldview. He acknowledges its intellectual seriousness as a prelude to bringing to light what you might call the dream palace of the Cheney-ites — the refusal to acknowledge that their view is rejected by most Americans.

So why not offer the frontal critique, i.e., why not explain why Cheney worldview is wrongheaded? Well, that doesn’t strike me as a smart way to introduce yourself to readers of the Times, who overwhelmingly reject the Cheney worldview. That would be preaching to the choir, and it’s my hope and expectation that Ross won’t be doing much of that. My guess is that the Times hired him precisely because he can craft his arguments in such a way as to engage but also to constructively provoke its readers, particularly on questions surrounding the state of the culture and our sexual mores and what an ethic of political compassion ought to look like.

Again, the fact is that Ross is like a brother to me. If we disagree about something — and we disagree about many things — I think long and hard about why and how I might be wrong. My confidence in him is as absolute as it can get before reaching Branch Davidian levels. You can safely predict that my reaction to his columns will take the form of, “Amen!” and “Preach it, Douthat!”