Love Me, I'm a Conservative
Liberal blogger men are thrilled with the New York Times's appointment of 29-year-old Atlantic blogger Ross Douthat to replace William Kristol on the op-ed page. Douthat is best known for his conservative Catholicism (abortion is murder, frozen embryos are children, contraception kills romance) and for Grand New Party, written with Reihan Salam, which argues that the Republican Party should appeal to lower-middle-class "Sam's Club voters" by supporting policies intended to shore up marriage, parenthood and work. Because what the party of big business wants most of all is to help working people live secure and prosperous lives. That's why it's spent the past three decades telling them their only problems were Hollywood, Harvard, Planned Parenthood and black people.
"Smart move," says Matt Yglesias. Ezra Klein and George Packer agree he's "brilliant." At TheNation.com, Chris Hayes calls it a "fantastic choice," and Eyal Press looks forward to "thoughtful commentary."
Right. Thoughtful commentary like this, on the female orgasm:
You could spin this out further and point out that it also makes adaptive sense for women to have a certain amount of difficulty having orgasms, because then they're more likely to seek out a long-term monogamous partner who knows their body well, which in turn dovetails nicely with the general female interest in having only one partner, the better to keep that partner around when the children come along.
On those pesky WMDs:
It goes without saying that [Saddam Hussein], too, is busy trying to acquire a nuclear bomb, to supplement his extensive collection of biological and chemical weaponry.
On "the business of embryo killing":
Also, to the extent that pro-lifers do accept the current fertility-clinic culture as a given, I still think there's a worthwhile moral distinction to be drawn between "pointlessly" freezing the embryos left over from an attempt to have children, and just handing them over to be killed. Yes, a frozen embryo will probably be destroyed eventually, and the pro-life gesture involved in freezing it is probably just an empty gesture. But there's still a difference between a situation in which death is probable and a situation where it's inevitable....
On that whiny Michelle Obama:
There are many sorts of populism, from the optimistic (think Reagan, or LBJ) to the angry and doom-ridden (think John Edwards). But a self-pitying populism, in which a Princeton-educated, upper-middle-class woman--or a wealthy woman, really; Michelle Obama earned roughly $400,000 in 2005--equates her own struggles to pay off her college loans with the woes of the working class seems like a remarkably unappealing variation on the theme.... Not that the upper middle class doesn't have its struggles too; God knows I whine to my friends about how hard I work from time to time. But it's mildly inappropriate to whinge about those struggles publicly, and extremely inappropriate to whine about them in the context of a political campaign. It's like having Judith Warner campaigning to be First Lady.
There's much more at The Atlantic--on gay sheep, the "vice" of masturbation, why "a little 'shaming' here and there isn't the worst response to sexual promiscuity" (well, no, the worst response would be a lot of shaming, as in stoning or "honor" murder or being sent to the Magdalene laundries). I haven't read his collected cyberworks, but even for a blogo-pundit, Douthat seems unusually averse to engaging with women intellectually, even on perennial topics like abortion and birth control, where you'd think we'd bring something missing to the table--like an interest in our health, well-being, happiness, longevity, pleasure and ability to have some control over our lives. Instead, he engages Slate's Will Saletan on whether contraception would prevent enough abortions to make it worth expanding government funding. Douthat thinks not; but if abortion is murder, wouldn't preventing 12,000 of them (his misleadingly low figure) be quite an accomplishment? That's equivalent to nearly two-thirds of the 17,000 murders of born people in the United States every year. In his ongoing stem cell debate with Michael Kinsley, sometimes embryos are people, and sometimes they're counters in arguments that are really about sex, women and modern life. Contraception destroyed the working class! Curbing suburban sprawl is anti-family! Given his age and the long tenure of Times columnists, I could be facing a twice-weekly dose of this claptrap for the rest of my life. Depressing.
So who would I like to see in the Kristol slot? Actually, Kristol. I was livid when they gave him the job, but he was perfect: a dull, complacent apparatchik who set forth the Bush line in all its fact-free glory. His columns were like press releases--you could hardly remember them two minutes after reading them. But his presence on the page reminded readers that David Brooks is not really what Republicanism is all about. Frankly, though, I don't see why there must be two conservatives on the page. Does the Wall Street Journal, the Times's national competition, have two liberals? That the Times, the closest thing we have to a liberal paper, cedes so much turf to the opposition, as progressive bloggers applaud, shows the truth of Robert Frost's quip that a liberal is someone so open-minded he won't take his own side in an argument.