Tag Archives: New York Times

Worthy Adversaries

So Katha Politt unleashed a broadside last week, taking the New York Times to task for daring to replace Kristol with another conservative columnist. She also criticized Ross Douthat’s liberal admirers, many of whom had the temerity to publicly applaud his selection. A few quick thoughts:

  1. It’s a bit dishonest of Politt to not only not provide links to the articles/blog posts she’s criticizing, but to include one excerpt from an old college op-ed.
  2. Several of the blog posts Politt criticizes – on female orgasms, masturbation, gay sheep etc. – strike me as examples of the sort of unformed meandering that makes the blogosphere so interesting. Some of this stuff is stupid; some provocative; some completely pointless, but I don’t think the same rigorous standards of appraisal one might apply to, say, widely-published op-eds should be used to assess old blog entries.
  3. I was a bit disappointed by the reaction of two liberal commentators I respect and admire – Matt Yglesias and Ta-Nehisi Coates – to Politt’s criticism. Aside from the value of sparring with a sharp adversary or filling the Times’ mandatory “conservative columnist” slot with a halfway decent writer, isn’t there something to be said for elevating a thoughtful, persuasive advocate of the other side because he might be right? One of the things that really irked me about the Politt column – and, to a lesser extent, other liberal responses – was her absolute certainty that she has nothing to learn from intelligent conservatism. Maybe this is a product of my own intellectual insecurities, but one of the reasons I enjoy reading intelligent liberal outlets is because they may be right, and moreover I’m willing to be persuaded. I wish Politt was similarly inclined.

Note: I’d comment on more weighty matters (the bank stabilization plan), but right now I’m a bit overwhelmed by the scale of the economic crisis. Arguing over the merits of the New York Times’ latest columnist seems trivial in comparison, but at least it’s something I can discuss competently.

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Filed under Politics, The Media

Rush Limbaugh, New York Times Columnist

Leaving aside the merits of his confused article in today’s Journal, it’s now abundantly clear that Rush Limbaugh would be an awful pick to replace Kristol’s Times column because he sucks at writing. I know that “heartland conservatives” scoff at aesthetic considerations, but a good columnist doesn’t make reading a chore. Stick to radio, Rush.

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Filed under Conservatism, The Media

Was The Edge Unavailable?

U2’s Bono is poised to become the New York Times‘ next columnist. Yes, that Bono. And yes, that New York Times.

My own unsolicited advice for newspaper editors can be found here. I didn’t think to suggest the addition of celebrity columnists, but then again, I’m no expert.

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Filed under Culture, Music, The Media

Faith-Based Politics

David Brooks has another McCain op-ed up, and it’s a doozy. His introduction:

I think first of the personal qualities. He was an unfailingly candid man. When other politicians described a meeting, they always ended up the heroes of the story. But McCain would always describe the meeting straight, emphasizing his own failings with more vigor than his accomplishments.

He is, for a politician, a humble man. The most important legacy of his prisoner-of-war days is that he witnessed others behaving more heroically than he did. This experience has given him a basic honesty when appraising himself.

I don’t begrudge Brooks his personal affection for McCain, but does he really have to impose a long-form character reference on the rest of us? I’m not mortally offended by McCain’s recent spate of misleading advertisements – politics, as they say, ain’t beanbag – but surely his choice of campaign tactics also says something about the man’s character. As a friend and confidant, everything I’ve heard about McCain suggests he’d be first-rate, but when it comes to politics he certainly knows how to take the gloves off.

I’m also not sure what the rest of us are supposed to take from this sort of column. Is David Brooks’ personal testimonial sufficient to sway my vote? No, nor should it be. Brooks himself is forced to fall back on McCain’s experience and independence after he admits the candidate’s ideology is borderline incoherent. Candidate McCain is quite different from the McCain who romanced Brooks and every other op-ed columnist circa 2000, and Candidate McCain is who I’m forced to evaluate on the merits. So far, he hasn’t impressed.

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Filed under Conservatism, Presidential Politics, The Media