Having already received three very generous public introductions (from TNR’s Richard Just, Jonathan Cohn, and my predecessor, Jonathan Chait), I’ll try to keep this brief. My name is Timothy Noah. Until recently I was a senior writer at Slate magazine, a position I held for about a dozen years. At Slate I wrote something called Chatterbox that pretended to be a gossip column but was actually a column mostly about domestic politics and policy. I also covered health care reform and consumer regulation and wrote a ten-part series about income inequality that I’m expanding into a book to be published by Bloomsbury this spring.
Before Slate I was an assistant managing editor at U.S. News & World Report; a reporter in the Washington bureau of the Wall Street Journal (during its pre-Murdoch, tombstone-layout era); a reporter in the Washington bureau of Newsweek; a writer-editor at the Washington Monthly; and an editor on the op-ed page of the New York Times. Before all that I was, for about two years after I graduated from college in 1980, an intern and then a staff writer at The New Republic. You might say I took a 29-year leave of absence. The best-remembered piece from my earlier TNR tour was a June 1982 cover story titled “It’s You Or Fido: The Case For Vivisection,” illustrated with a drawing of a droopy-eyed beagle puppy waiting to be gassed. The article made one animal rights group so angry that it took out a paid ad in the magazine to denounce me. In these troubled times for print journalism, this economic model might be worth a second look.
I’ll blog in this space and write the New Republic’s TRB column. I actually had a very slight acquaintance with Richard L. Strout, who wrote the column from 1942 to 1982, much longer than anyone else. He was 82 when I first laid eyes on him. Strout would march into TNR’s old offices on 19th Street, boom his greetings to any and all, drop off his typed column, then march out. I wish I could say that Strout sat down to regale me with stories about Harold Laski and Calvin Coolidge and E.B. White. But his actual impact on my life (apart from my noticing how graceful political writing could be; even after Strout’s columns lost their logical coherence they maintained their exquisite beauty) was to persuade me not to use the briefcase my parents bought me after I turned 22. I carried my stuff in a backpack, and so, I noticed, did Strout. If an octagenarian journalism legend was too free-spirited (not to say practical) to carry a briefcase, then I was damned if I would, either. I carry a backpack to this day.
You’ll find my politics not all that different from those of Jon Chait, a writer I have admired for many years. Twenty or thirty years ago I stood a bit to Chait’s right, but since then I’ve become somewhat disenchanted with “third way” liberalism. You choose a third way to accommodate the right and next thing you know they’re hollering that your third-way compromise defines the extreme left wing and all you’ve really done is help the bastards nudge the political spectrum a little further to the right. How about them accommodating us for a change? President Obama, I think, is beginning to grasp this reality, though it’s not yet clear what he’ll do about it. Let’s find that out, dear reader, together.