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NYT Makes Right Move with Douthat

Ever since the New York Times parted company with Bill Kristol in January, speculations abounded on when and if the Grey Lady would pick another conservative columnist. Let's face it, at the moment, every one of the NYT's op-ed columnists voted for Barack Obama, including the purportedly center-right David Brooks.

Then, on Wednesday, the Times made a surprise and bold move - a brilliant one, perhaps, by picking Ross Douthat to succeed Kristol.

The Atlantic was effusive in its praise for Douthat (pronounced DOW-thut). From associate editor Marc Ambinder:

Ross is late-twenties-year-old public intellectual with the sensibility of a 60-year eminence grise, the range of a Hitchens, the pitch of a conservative AJP Taylor, the conscience of a Neibuhr and the intellectual honesty of his frequent sparring partner, Andrew Sullivan.

It's heretic for a new media pioneer to say this, I guess, but the New York Times remains the most influential journalistic force in the modern world, and its opinion columnists consistently shape policy, government and public opinion. ... The Atlantic has been a fabulous perch for Ross, but the Times offers a vantage point that is irresistible.

Douthat, who will turn 30(!) this year, is a Harvard graduate who's written for a number of conservative publications, including as a film critic for National Review. Contributors to NR's blog 'The Corner' also chimed in on the Times' choice:

From Mike Potemra: I feel the way conservative Catholics felt the day Ratzinger was elected: what a bold, surprising, great choice. Congratulations to Ross, and the NYT.

From Yuval Levin: Ross Douthat will be a fantastic columnist, and one of very few reasons to read the New York Times. A young man with an old soul, a sharp pen, and a deep sense of the connection between culture, politics, and the great human questions. He's a friend, so I'm not objective, but I'm sure I'd think it even if he weren't: Good for the Times and good for the rest of us.

Eyal Press at the liberal-progressive The Nation, has a problem with the choice - he thinks Douthat is not conservative enough:

So what's the problem with this hire? The problem is that it will not give readers of The Times any clue what most Republicans today - certainly those holding the reins of power - actually think. America's preeminent newspaper will now have two conservatives (David Brooks is the other) chiming in to argue that government isn't always evil, that tax cuts aren't always good, that something really does need to be done about health care, that markets aren't always wonderfully virtuous, and so on. This will make it a lot easier for progressives to put down their coffee in the morning without feeling queasy. It will also make it that much easier for conservatives to argue - accurately - that The Times is out-of-touch with their beliefs.

Douthat will start his online columns in mid-April, with columns in print to follow shortly after. He'll also, according to the Times, blog for the paper as well.