The New York Times probably made a serious blunder in picking its newest conservative columnist.
The Times announced last week that it was adding Bret Stephens, formerly of The Wall Street Journal, to its editorial pages. Stephens has recently gained attention for his virulent opposition to Donald Trump, in spite of his status as a writer on the Right.
Unfortunately for The Times and Stephens, many leftists took the time to look at his other writings and found views that his Trump criticism could not obscure.
They found that he claimed climate change to be an exaggerated phenomenon, which would make him a dreaded “climate denier.” They discovered he said all kinds of unflattering things about Arabs, including the claim that the ethnic group suffers from a “disease of the Arab mind.” Many progressives were also not too pleased by Stephens’s aggressive advocacy for foreign intervention.
The Times defended its decision against left-wing critics by claiming Stephens’ would “further widen” the diversity of views its column section contains. But that’s a silly idea.
Rather than broadening the scope of views, Stephens just reinforces the image of the Times as a bastion for elites who sneer at middle America. He may differ on liberals on climate change and government entitlements, but on the important issues of immigration, foreign policy and the moral superiority of urban elites, the former Wall Street Journal fits right in.
The NYT already has two conservative columnists — David Brooks and Ross Douthat. Brooks was an enthusiastic Obama supporter who’s scoffed at by most conservative pundits for being too centrist.
Douthat, on the other hand, is a bit more respected by his peers on the Right. Douthat remains a Trump critic, but has expressed views on issues such as immigration and healthcare that shows he has more understanding of the Trump phenomenon than any other Times columnist.
In contrast, Stephens represents pretty much every facet of the conservative movement that was flouted by Trump during his campaign for the White House. Cutting government entitlements, nation building, open borders boosterism — all of those positions championed by the new Times columnist were scuttled by candidate Trump. (President Trump might turn out to be a different matter, however.)
More importantly than that is the extreme contempt he has expressed for Trump voters and anyone who might defend the president.
Here’s his view on Trump supporters back in 2015, which he has shown no sign of changing:
If by now you don’t find Donald Trump appalling, you’re appalling.
If you have reached physical maturity and still chuckle at Mr. Trump’s pubescent jokes about Rosie O’Donnell or Heidi Klum, you will never reach mental maturity. If you watched Mr. Trump mock fellow candidate Lindsey Graham’s low poll numbers and didn’t cringe at the lack of class, you are incapable of class. If you think we need to build new airports in Queens the way they build them in Qatar, you should be sent to join the millions of forced laborers who do construction in the Persian Gulf. It would serve you right.
Wishing slave-like labor to be impressed on millions of Americans because they have an opinion you disagree with is quite the hot take. To say it oozes total disdain and a false sense of moral superiority over the heartland is an understatement.
It’s also interesting for a man who always wishes for wars he never fights in to want people to physically suffer for their opinions.
Stephens continued in his disgust for middle America during a debate last September on whether America’s elites were to blame for the rise of the future president. The columnist asserted a strong no, along with his fellow debate partner Jennifer Rubin, a supposed conservative columnist at The Washington Post who spends most of her time screeching at the Right.
The then-Wall Street Journal editor said those who are really to blame for Trump are those who voted for him in the primaries and continued to support him in the general election, along with the radio and TV “demagogues” who lent credibility to the Republican nominee.
According to Stephens, Trump voters responded well to Trump’s “message of intolerance, bigotry and fake victimization” because they themselves share those views — and that’s the real problem.
His debate opponents — the Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney and The Federalist’s Ben Domenech — refuted these claims and said America’s elites — as in the class of people who hold the reins of power in the country — are more responsible for Trump’s rise.
“To say that the elites don’t deserve the blame…is to say that the people failed their elites,” Carney said during the debate.
After the election, The New York Times admitted it had failed in its coverage of the campaign and vowed to do better in understanding the zeitgeist in America. While limited to the opinion section, the Stephens hire signals a desire by NYT’s staff to pretend the election never happened and that the opinions of Trump voters don’t deserve to be heard.
In other words, the people failed their elites — and the Times can’t wait to remind its readers of that view.