Now that Bill Kristol has written his last column for his year-long stint as the conservative voice at the New York Times, speculation has begun about his replacement. Michael Calderon lists a few potential candidates at Politico, and he includes the Barack Obama-appointed Voice of the Opposition. But will the Times bother to maintain a conservative voice at all?
With William Kristol gone from the New York Times op-ed page, that leaves David Brooks — a fan of talking philosophy with Obama — as the lone conservative regularly on the page. Since September 2003, when Brooks joined the op-ed page, there has typically been another conservative or libertarian columnist at the Times, such as William Safire or John Tierney.
Editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal wouldn’t comment to Politico—or his own paper—as to whether he’ll add another conservative voice to the stable of Dowd, Rich, and Krugman.
And should conservatives demand a conservative “slot” at the Times? The Right has made its antipathy to the Paper of Record very clear over the years, and perhaps none so much as 2008. Rosenthal and the Sulzbergers have to ask themselves whether following Kristol with another voice on the Right will gain them any new readers or stop the loss of existing readers. The journalistic impulse would normally be to offer a wide variety of viewpoints on the opinion pages to maintain a claim to editorial objectivity, but that case was lost years ago, and the Times might not be in a position to afford a high-priced writer.
That would eliminate Rush Limbaugh. He would create substantial buzz for the paper and would probably bring a lot more traffic — but Rush would insist on getting paid his fair market value. Since he just got a contract paying him $400 million for eight years, the price tag would probably run far too high for the strapped Times’ balance sheet. Besides, even if the Times did offer a fair-market value for the deal, Rush might not want to do it. He doesn’t need the extra work, and he probably wouldn’t want to lend the Times that kind of conservative credibility.
Some of Calderon’s other possibilities might be a better fit for the paper, but would they generate any extra readership? One possibility is Charles Krauthammer, but he has a regular gig at the Washington Post, a paper with better credibility and stability than the Times. Of his suggestions, David Frum makes the most sense. He’s good, he’s available, and he has a following — but again, will it result in enough extra traffic to matter? Calderon also suggests Peggy Noonan, but she’s already suffering some credibility problems on the Right after her treatment of Sarah Palin, and a Times gig won’t help. However, that might both fit the Times’ budget and generate enough buzz to matter.
Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments. I’m dead certain that Andy Rosenthal will review this thread very, very carefully before making his decision.
Update (AP): Answer: Steyn, of course, but I doubt either he or the Times would go for it. How about Lileks?