George Will left ABC’s Sunday show “This Week,” after it left Washington to accommodate George Stephanopoulos’s schedule. ABC says it will not be hiring any replacement, but that hasn’t stopped some from measuring the drapes for the next Will-ian figure to anchor the conservative chair.
Ross Douthat would be a strong choice, already well-trained in engaging liberal audiences in good faith thanks to his post at the New York Times. Jamie Weinstein over at the Daily Caller notes that “the young New York Times columnist is like Will in some ways: Unemotional and erudite. You won’t get a lot of flash with Douthat, but you would get a lot of smart analysis.” Peter Lawler picks up the conversation over at “Postmodern Conservative” and continues that “it goes without saying that if you want a multifaceted and somewhat unpredictable young guy on the rise, you’d go with Ross Douthat over the other folks on the list.
Pete Spiliakos sets the credentials for a successor thusly:
I think that whoever ABC picks should be a journalist or wonk who is a policy generalist that takes policy seriously. That means someone who can talk monetary policy, tax policy, health care policy, etc. and has been doing their homework for a while. It should be a conservative who pitches their arguments to the persuadables in ABC’s audience, but is willing to throw some sharp elbows at the liberal panelists (both their presumptions and – if they deserve it – their persons). The Will replacement should be someone who is willing to constructively criticize the conservative side, but who has the sense to not let that criticism of fellow conservatives get in the way of presenting a conservative worldview.
Lawler ponders that “the argument for Ross and Yuval is, of course, they have the mixture of “public philosophy,” laidback but serious theology, instinctive and calculated prudence, and expertise in public policy that our side needs to look smarter than it often does and be smarter than it often is. Plus they both have that kind of nerdy charisma that might grow on America.”
To fill Professor Will’s scholarly shoes, however, takes more than just policy familiarity and a thoughtful disposition, though both are important. No, at the risk of rampant credentialism, his successor should pair a Ph.D. with his conservative bona fides and deep wells of insight, so that regrettably knocks Ross and Ramesh out of the running, though their families may appreciate having them home on Sundays without the makeup.
Yuval Levin is a natural choice, with his time at the fine University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought and tutelage under Leon Kass bringing breadth and depth to the philosophical underpinnings of his politics (though did he write his first book as an undergrad at American). Having served as a staffer on the Hill and as a domestic policy man in the Bush 43 White House gives him particular insight into the more practical dimensions of Washington’s sausage-making. Editing the policy quarterly National Affairs, he has his thumb on the beat of many of the most substantive and promising reforms conservatism will have to offer in the near future. More than a resume, however, Yuval brings a genuine Burkean appreciation for the primacy of civil society over policy fights as the true substance of political life, something that even the best of Washington’s wonks can miss.
There is one more dark horse to be considered, however, before the considerations can be complete. A man who has the scholarly expertise in political philosophy to fill in for Will, a student of Tocqueville, no less. Without doubt one of the most unconventional minds to circulate ideas in conservative intellectual circles, he perhaps has a better appreciation for the libertarian surge of late than more traditional candidates, and would never run the risk of blending into a bland political background. His travel arrangements would be even more onerous than Will’s, but ABC’s compensatory package could hopefully make the flights worth his while, and he could also chip in by providing “This Week” with some fresh theme music.
Yes, if Mr. Stephanopoulos and company really want to refresh their show with some energy from far outside the box, they should hire James Poulos, pundit: