It's one step back for the Atlantic, but an order of magnitude forward for the country: my colleagues and I learned today that senior editor Ross Douthat will, in short order, become an opinion columnist for the New York Times.
Ross is a late-twenties-year-old public intellectual with the sensibility of a 60-year eminence grise, the range of a Hitchens, the pitch of a conservative AJP Taylor, the conscience of a Neibuhr and the intellectual honesty of his frequent sparring partner, Andrew Sullivan.
It's heretic for a new media pioneer to say this, I guess, but The New York Times remains the most influential journalistic force in the modern world, and its opinion columnists consistently shape policy, government and public opinion. True, the Gray Lady doesn't seem to get orthodox conservatives very well, and in randier precincts of the Right, the suspicion that the op-ed editors recruit reverse-Alan Colmeses to counter their lefty-Sean Hannities is pervasive. I personally don't think this is the case; not being able to predict where David Brooks is going to come down on an issue is the reason why I like to read him. Bill Kristol was just a mistake, but boy, talk about the rebound: I think Ross is the sharpest, most innovative heterodox thinker of his generation, left or right.
The Atlantic has been a fabulous perch for Ross, but the Times offers a vantage point that is irresistible. Ross's motive force, whether it be as an editor, as a friend, as a bouncing board for ideas, as a writer, is irrepressible. As the chairman of the Atlantic would say, Ross is in his vertical hour. And now, one of the greatest minds in the country has one of the world's best megaphones.
How great is that?
By the way: it's pronounced dow-that -- with a soft "th."