Jim: "At least as good [as Bill Kristol] on social conservatism"? I don't recall Bill Kristol ever calling himself "squishy" on life issues, as Douthat is quoted in the NYT's report of his hiring:
On abortion, he said in an interview, “I’m sort of a squishy pro-lifer,” interested in finding areas of compromise. He initially favored the war in Iraq, but later opposed it.
Maybe the Times here was trying to clip Douthat wings from the outset. Maybe Douthat was merely playing possum. But I also don't recall Kristol ever cutting and running, New Republic style, regarding Iraq.
That finally brings me to what irks me most here: much of the commentary about the Douthat hiring goes out of its way to take cheapo shots at Kristol and how awful he was as a NYT columnist. The fact remains, he brought 20 plus years of seasoned political experience to his work, an astute and intelligent insider who also always had his eyes on a bigger picture. There's no substitute for that, at the Times or anywhere else.
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