Reihan Salam’s Two Teams

Okay, animals, a late afternoon pop quiz: read this passage from an appreciation of Reihan Salam by the estimable Marin Cogan and see if you understand the Brooklyn references:

It’s a trait Salam’s shown since his first days in the hypercompetitive world of Stuyvesant High School. “He has an unusual combination of a voracious intellectual appetite paired with a really earnest interest in other people,” says his friend, Chris Park, who’s known him since they met at summer camp as teenagers. “It’s not purely a bookish curiosity.” The child of Bangladeshi immigrants who came to the United States in 1976, he was born in Park Slope, but his mother and father — a dietician and an accountant — raised him mostly in Borough Park and Kensington.

Now it’s true Cogan’s piece was written for New York magazine, so maybe that’s why she assumes the readership knows Park Slope from Kensington without much in the way of context clues. But my cluelessness definitely made me understand why I don’t understand the fascination certain liberals have with Salam, who seems a nice enough fellow, but a bit hard to nail down. Here, perhaps, is the big reveal:

It requires a lot of rhetorical gymnastics to defend the ideas and actions of the right to the kinds of people who show up at his parties, and vice versa, and Salam sometimes seems at pains to do it. But he is ever loyal to his team — be they the Stuyvesant kids he grew up with, or the ideological allies he works with now.

“If I had to pick one cardinal virtue, it would be his intense loyalty to people he perceives to be on his team,” says John Mangin, another longtime friend. “He is very much a team player, always looking out for his group of friends or his professional network. I’m constantly trying to get him to sell out one of his colleagues — he will not do it. You could waterboard him to try to get him to admit that a Bill Kristol tweet is stupid. He will not do it.”

Being pretty remote from both the Conservative Elite Team and Team Brooklyn, I cannot relate.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.