On the one hand, I do think this is a brilliant move by the Times. As conservative pundits go, Douthat is smooth jazz to Kristol's death metal. He's just the kind of conservative that allows liberals to pat themselves on the head for finding common ground with an ideological foe.
But the idea that Ross Douthat represents a new breed of "conservative intellectual" only goes to show what an oxymoron that term really is. His thesis: "Liberals are probably right about supply-side economics being bunk, but do they have to be so mean to pro-lifers like myself?" He's not so much a right winger as he is a young person who manages to whine about the kids these days as you'd think only an old person could.
That's his whole schtick. He's a conservative who often seems like he knows better, but (as you can tell by his grandfatherly Brooks Brothers style) he identifies with things that are Old and Traditional, like the Catholic church. His politics seem fundamentally driven by aesthetic considerations. He opposes reproductive rights not so much because he's a misogynist, but because he fancies himself "old school."
So fine, he's an improvement over Kristol, but spare me the fawning. I'd rather the Times look for a conservative who's actually persuasive instead of one who just knows how to flatter liberals before whining about how intolerant we are of God-fearing traditionalists like himself.
And just for fun, this was his reaction to John McCain's VP pick:
At the moment, I'm probably rooting harder for Sarah Palin to succeed than I have for any politician in recent memory. Just something to keep in mind while you're reading my commentary.
But he's a very serious thinker.