The Athenians ostracized their greatest military commander, Themistocles, for nothing much whatsoever, perhaps for simple arrogance. Those who failed in battle often suffered the same fate. I don’t think this was a wise policy. You can lose a battle and still be an accomplished military officer worthy of trust, or at least continued citizenship. But there’s also something to be said for punishing failure. And this never happens to our political pundits.

When a pundit fails in as spectacular a fashion as Ross Douthat, there’s some justification is asking for his resignation. It’s okay to make a call, to stick your neck out, and to wind up being wrong. And we don’t want a system where people are afraid to make bold predictions.

The thing is, when you are as confident as Douthat was that Trump would not be the nominee and you have been that dismissive of your critics or anyone who disagreed with you, then you lose so much credibility that it reflects poorly on your employer.

The New York Times doesn’t have that many slots for their opinion writers, and I don’t think they can afford to continue to use one on someone who’s now a punch line and a laughing stock.

They’ve already gone through enough tough times with plagiarizing reporters and Judith Miller’s Iraq fiasco, and it just seems to me that they ought to be protective of their brand and show that they’re willing to hold an opinion writer accountable when their opinions are proven to be laughably and (most importantly) aggressively wrong.

I’m not calling for Douthat’s head out of malice or spite. I’m sincerely talking about what the New York Times should do as a news organization. They ought to protect themselves and their credibility rather than continue to treat their opinion page as a no-accountability lifetime sinecure from which no one ever gets fired.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at