Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Linker again

The Friar calls our attention to this interview with Damon Linker, who explains his sojourn at FT in the following way:

I was more conservative when I landed the job at First Things back in 2001. (At the time I was working as a speechwriter for Rudy Giuliani and thought of myself as a Giuliani Republican.) I supported what I thought was the main goal of the magazine: to oppose restrictions on serious believers participating in politics. As a pluralist, such restrictions seemed arbitrary and unfair to me; there was no reason why pious citizens should be forbidden from having a seat at the table of public debate and discussion. But after a year or so at the journal, I began to see that the magazine didn’t so much want these citizens to be granted a seat at the table as it want them to take over the table. At the same time, the policies of President Bush, which the journal supported wholeheartedly, drove me to the left in protest. So the magazine and I were moving in opposite directions. Before long, it was obvious that I’d have to resign.

Stated most charitably, it sounds like both sides hadn’t quite done due diligence before DL joined FT.

It also seems to me that DL’s current "neo-Rawlsian" position is some distance from the pluralism he says he professed back in 2001.

Discussions - 9 Comments


Good riddance.

Bad, ridden.

There is a more likely explanation.

He was planning all along that if he got in, he would write some "expose" of theocons at work, knowing that the MSM would highlight his book, making it, [and him} a sensation.

I love that crap too about how he was "driven to the left" to protest. Oh that poor, tortured soul, it’s amazing that he was able to bare under it for so long.

Oh the humanity...!

For those who care (not many, surely), the book has bombed.

That "before long" took nearly four years. And for the year and a half immediately after 9/11 Linker was totally on board with the Bush administration’s foreign policy(we e-mailed three times a week in those days). And I should add that Linker converted to Catholicism a week or so before going to work for FIRST THINGS. In fairness, his conversion occured in the wake of a (very temporary) drift toward Catholic Straussianism that has now been superseded by his turn toward relativistic "pluralism" of a decidely left liberal sort. But Peter is right, the book has been a major flop. Nobody really believes that Richard Neuhaus is the threat to the republic conjured up in Linker’s fevered imagination.

Well, you know the market for that kind of book suddenly became very crowded and he was exposing an operation, that while very important to us, has a circulation of about 40,000 copies a month! Linker didn’t become a millionaire, but he did apparently get a six figure advance and a lifetime of fellowships at places like the Center for American Progress or David Brock’s media outfit.

"the main goal of the magazine: to oppose restrictions on serious believers participating in politics."--What kind of journalist can’t deduce that a magazine called ’First Things’ is going to advocate first principles, not just oppose restrictions?

"the magazine didn’t so much want these citizens to be granted a seat at the table as it want them to take over the table."--They want their views to prevail, just as Linker wants his to prevail? The outrage!

Linker thinks we’re already living in a theocracy. Yes--why, just the other day my Puritan town councilmen had me horsewhipped for missing Sunday services. It is an odd theocracy that can’t even ban those appetizing genital herpes ads during the dinner hour.

(At the time I was working as a speechwriter for Rudy Giuliani and thought of myself as a Giuliani Republican.)

Mr. Giuliani, able administrator though he may be, is known for a rather opportunistic ’evolution’ on the matter of abortion, surely one of the non-negotiables at First Things



But after a year or so at the journal, I began to see that the magazine didn’t so much want these citizens to be granted a seat at the table as it want them to take over the table.

James Neuchterlein retired in early 2004. We might surmise that Dr. Linker applied for the Editor’s position in the Fall of 2003. That would be about 2 1/2 years after his hiring, and about a year before he informed Fr. Neuhaus, no, padre, you may not see the draft of my forthcoming book.


At the same time, the policies of President Bush, which the journal supported wholeheartedly, drove me to the left in protest. So the magazine and I were moving in opposite directions. Before long, it was obvious that I’d have to resign.

Now, didn’t you all catch that article by Nancy Pearcy on oil depletion allowances??? Please note that First Things publishes only modest quantities of verbiage on topical political questions, that much of what they do publish concerns the activity of state and local government, and that nearly all of what they publish concerns a scatter of ’cultural’ issues concerning which the Republican Party (and Mr. Bush) are less than vigorous advocates.

He was planning all along that if he got in, he would write some "expose" of theocons at work, knowing that the MSM would highlight his book, making it, [and him} a sensation.

Methinks you suggest too much foresight and calculation.

His education was in the philosophical wing of political science, not spot-on preparation for doing much other than teaching, and he appears to have concluded by ca. 2000 that academe did not want him.

Write copy for Rudy Giuliani, edit copy for Fr. Neuhaus, write copy for Leon Wieseltier assuring him and his readers of the versimilitude of their imaginings. What are you hearing at dog whistle pitch here? How about, "...now see what I have to stoop to to earn a living?"

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