Ross Douthat Does Exactly What Was Expected of Him

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Photo: Courtesy of the New York Times

Ross Douthat, the Times' new conservative columnist, late of The Atlantic, has officially moved into Bill Kristol's former space — and repainted the walls, retiled the kitchen, bought new furniture, hung up new paintings, and changed the locks. Whereas Kristol was usually a fairly reliable mouthpiece for the Republican Party, Douthat uses his first column, "Cheney for President," to take the GOP to task. What would have happened if Cheney, the "diamond-hard distillation" of the modern Republican Party, had run for president last year? Well, for starters, they would have lost horribly, and hopefully that would have "jolted" them into some serious self-reflection.

But Douthat doesn't pile on Cheney the whole time. Instead, he argues that Cheney now has an important role to play in the national debate on torture. In fact, many conservatives will be pleased that Douthat didn't pass judgment on torture. We need to learn more about it, he writes, but only to determine whether it was effective and formulate our policy, and definitely not to prosecute. So, judging by his first column, Douthat won't be a Kristol-esque GOP cheerleader, but he won't suddenly lurch leftward to impress his new co-workers, either. Which is pretty much what the Times was hoping for when it hired him in the first place.

Cheney for President [NYT]