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Ron Radosh

Who to Pick? The New York Times Conservative Slot

January 30th, 2009 - 1:39 pm

Who will fill the conservative slot on The New York Times op-ed page, now that the paper has not renewed Bill Kristol’s contract?  With a way out of sync predominance of left to liberal op-ed page regulars (Paul Krugman, Nicholas Kristoff, Bob Herbert, Maureen Dowd and Tom Friedman and on Sundays Frank Rich ) the once highly regarded “paper of record” desperately needs a conservative of note and import to restore a semblance of balance to its editorial pages.

There has been a great deal of speculation on conservative websites about who will get the coveted post, a person who will appear once or twice a week alongside the liberal’s favorite conservative, David Brooks. Brooks is a first rate writer, a man of intelligence and grace. But his own unique brand of conservatism is considered by many conservatives to be so moderate that it hardly qualifies him as conservative.

So here are my suggestions for Bill Keller and the other Times editors. They are presented not in any order of preference. My list includes:

1. Victor Davis Hanson, well known to readers of PJ Media and National Review Online. Hanson is a brilliant scholar who is also a first-rate writer and observer of our national scene. A military historian of the ancient world by profession, he is able to use his knowledge of the past to shed light on our dilemmas of the present, perhaps as few other scholars can. He also writes on many different present-day issues, from culture to foreign policy to politics. I would be more than happy if the Times would consider giving Hanson a large Sunday column in “The Week in Review,” where he could have the kind of space only given to Frank Rich, and in which Hanson could have the space necessary to make a strong case for his arguments.

2. Mark Steyn. Now writing a regular column for the print version of National Review, as well as a syndicated column that appears in Canada and elsewhere, Steyn’s searing prose and sharp sense of humor has the bite and toughness that would appeal to the paper’s readers, even if they disagree with him. Recently on trial in politically correct Canada for his critique of radical Islam, America’s non conservative readers could be well served to read Steyn for the first time in our country’s major newspaper.

3. David Frum. Frum, an independent minded conservative and committed Republican, has now set up his own website, www.newmajority.com, a site devoted to presenting a dialogue among conservatives about what can be done to rebuild a serious Republican alternative to the growing Democratic majority. Readers of the site know that he is fearless in criticizing sacred cows among conservatives, such as Rush Limbaugh, who yesterday Frum argued was playing an “actively dangerous” role that could condemn Republicans to a permanent minority status for decades. He wants a party that will be what he calls “businesslike, sensible” and “responsible,” and that will have resonance with the middle class. From a man like Frum, Times readers could discover a Republican with whom they might disagree, but whose argument they might learn from.

4. James Kirchick. Currently an Assistant Editor at The New Republic, Kirchick might be considered by some as too young for the choice. But he has already established himself as a first rate editorial columnist in scores of op-eds he has written for major newspapers like New York City’s Daily News and websites. Politically, he combines the stance of a moderate neo-conservative who is also known as a gay activist, who writes for Washington, D.C.’s weekly gay newspaper, The Washington Blade. Kirchick has an independent mind and handles all sorts of issues and topics in his commentaries. In an age where Barack Obama’s chief speechwriter is no older than Kirchick, the paper would do well to consider him.

5. Seth Lipsky. Seth Lipsky is a major American journalist, who singlehandedly created the English edition of The Forward, once the influential daily Jewish newspaper originally published in Yiddish. When Lipsky was ousted by its board for being too conservative, he created the now defunct daily, The New York Sun, which took the name of a paper that once had been a city institution. Created intentionally as an alternative to the liberalism of The New York Times, Lipsky often scooped the Times with stories they had to cover and attribute to the Sun. He wrote many of the paper’s editorials, as well as his own columns. Before his own endeavors he worked for years at The Wall Street Journal. It would be a touch of humility for the Times to give an editorial slot to one of its fiercest critics.

6. Cathy Young. Now an editorial columnist for The Boston Globe (a paper owned by the Times), Young would be a terrific counterpart to all the liberal feminist writers employed by the paper. She writes on women’s issues, foreign policy and cultural issues. Her writing is sharp and pointed, and she calls her own shots, and is beholden to no kind of party line. The paper could well use another women’s voice that is not the same as all the others its readers know so well.

Let’s hope that when Keller makes his announcement, his choice will be someone as good as any of the above. These are just some of the many good choices Keller and company could make.

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