William Safire will retire as a weekly columnist for the NY Times as of January 25, 2005. His last regular column will be January 24, 2005.
Like Supreme Court nominations, NY Times conservative columnist appointments are rare and highly watched.
The first preference over all others is the unbeatable Mark Steyn, but he has had both his own and likely some family health problems that have caused him to take a leave of absence from his usual columns for the Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Telegraph, National Review and The Spectator. He is also a Hollinger employee, so there might be contractual problems.
The default pick for MSM to find a conservative is Ann Coulter because she brings the nastiness that the MSM associates with conservatives to her columns (think right-wing MoDo but replace the snark with bile). She won't work on the NYT. Same goes for Michelle Malkin, and anyway Malkin's politics are too nativist for the NYT and the NY market.
Others are off-limits because they work for the competition: Krauthammer, Will, Suzanne Fields, Jeff Jacoby, John Podhoretz, etc.
But if I had my druthers, for the otherthanSteyn pick, I'd go with Jonah Goldberg. He doesn't put a pretty face on conservatism like Coulter or Michelle Malkin (that's for sure), but he's sharp, intellectually well-rounded like Safire was, and occasionally humorous unlike most all-too-eager columnists on both sides of the ideological divide. Plus his humor is of the smile and stick-'em variety, not the LIBERALS SUCK, NOW LAUGH strain that Coulter employs. And, Goldberg doesn't toe the Republican party line -- a near prerequisite for a conservative in the City.
So an intelligent, funny, young conservative to replace the venerated Safire. What better new blood to add without detracting from Safire's honorable legacy than Jonah Goldberg?