The Best of Bret Stephens, Your Newest New York Times Opinion Columnist


This week, the New York Times—a paper which has seen subscriptions soar as The Resistance seeks its media savior—hired Bret Stephens, formerly of the Wall Street Journal, as its newest opinion columnist. Allow us to offer you a broad sample of his past work.

Stephens was the deputy editorial page editor of the WSJ, as well as a weekly columnist there for many years. Though he is staunchly conservative he was also staunchly anti-Trump, and his public rebukes of Trump right up to the very end have earned him a reputation as a principled conservative. He has now ridden that reputation into the New York Times, where it is not taken for granted that the editorial page is run by right wing lunatics.

In fact, the Times, whose opinion section is in desperate need of a new direction, has gone out and found itself the same thing it always has. Bret Stephens may be a Republican, but he’s all not that different from the typical drab big time columnist: He frets constantly about what kids at fancy colleges are doing, he defends Israel in all situations, and he is married to a New York Times critic. He also won a Pulitzer Prize, just like Peggy Noonan and Tom Friedman. He’ll fit right in, unfortunately.

In a memo, NYT editorial page editor James Bennet promises that Stephens will “bring a new perspective to bear on the news.” Indeed. Some of his most enlightening thoughts, from his past columns:

On torture

I am not sorry Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the operational mastermind of 9/11, was waterboarded 183 times… I am sorry KSM remains alive nearly 12 years after his capture. He has been let off far too lightly. As for his waterboarding, it never would have happened if he had been truthful with his captors. It stopped as soon as he became cooperative. As far as I’m concerned, he waterboarded himself.

On Palestine

In 2005 Israel vacated the Gaza Strip. It became an enclave of terror. On Sunday, four young Israelis were run over in yet another terror attack. The ideal of a Jewish and faultlessly democratic state is a noble one. Not at the risk of the existence of the state itself… Meanwhile, anyone genuinely concerned with the future of the Palestinians might urge them to elect better leaders, improve their institutions, and stop giving out sweets to celebrate the murder of their neighbors.

On Palestinians’ blood fetish

Other Palestinian attacks include the stabbing of two elderly Israeli men and an assault with a vegetable peeler on a 14-year-old. On Sunday, an Arab-Israeli man ran over a 19-year-old female soldier at a bus stop, then got out of his car, stabbed her, and attacked two men and a 14-year-old girl. Several attacks have been carried out by women, including a failed suicide bombing.
Regarding the causes of this Palestinian blood fetish…
The significant question is why so many Palestinians have been seized by their present blood lust—by a communal psychosis in which plunging knives into the necks of Jewish women, children, soldiers and civilians is seen as a religious and patriotic duty, a moral fulfillment.

On how these Arabs think

The Arab world’s problems are a problem of the Arab mind, and the name for that problem is anti-Semitism… So long as an Arab athlete can’t pay his Israeli opposite the courtesy of a handshake, the disease of the Arab mind and the misfortunes of its world will continue.

On Muslims

And then there is the tantrum of Islam, another eruption of rage that feeds off our astonishing willingness to indulge it… The Muslim fanatic who last year opened fire on the Jewish museum in Brussels, killing four, also once lived in Molenbeek, as had the man who tried to open fire on a high-speed train in August. “I notice that each time [there is a jihadist attack] there is a link with Molenbeek,” Charles Michel, Belgium’s prime minister, admitted Sunday. Nice of him to connect the dots.
I lived near Molenbeek for two years when I worked for this newspaper’s European edition and used to jog along the canal that cuts through the neighborhood. It took no special insight to see what was likely to come out of the place.

On equality

How did we become a society in which a son tells his father that he supports ISIS and it fails to register with this ostensibly integrated Muslim family, living the American dream, that perhaps a call to the FBI would be appropriate?
Here’s how we became that society: By pretending that the extreme branch of Islam to which Farook plainly belonged is a protected religion rather than a dangerous ideology. By supposing that it is somehow immoral to harbor graver reservations about 10,000 refugees from Syria or Iraq than, say, New Zealand.

On sexual assault

The campus-rape epidemic—in which one in five female college students is said to be the victim of sexual assault—is an imaginary enemy. Never mind the debunked rape scandals at Duke and the University of Virginia, or the soon-to-be-debunked case at the heart of “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary about an alleged sexual assault at Harvard Law School. The real question is: If modern campuses were really zones of mass predation—Congo on the quad—why would intelligent young women even think of attending a coeducational school? They do because there is no epidemic. But the campus-rape narrative sustains liberal fictions of a never-ending war on women.

On institutional racism

Institutionalized racism is an imaginary enemy. Somehow we’re supposed to believe that the same college administrators who have made a religion of diversity are really the second coming of Strom Thurmond. Somehow we’re supposed to believe that twice electing a black president is evidence of our racial incorrigibility. We’re supposed to believe this anyway because the future of liberal racialism—from affirmative action to diversity quotas to slavery reparations—requires periodic sightings of the ghosts of a racist past.

On Black Lives Matter

The Black Lives Matter movement, ignited by the small fable of Michael Brown’s innocence, has metastasized into the big lie of America, land of the irredeemably racist. For BLM and its cadres, there is no moral agency in the black community, no choices African-Americans can make for themselves to shape their own destiny for good or ill. There is merely a nonstop conspiracy by the structures of white power to keep black people down… What about the huge black middle class? What about black political empowerment and cultural influence? What about black leadership roles in the police, the military, academia, corporate America? The myth of victimization survives only as long as the myth’s propagator believes he’s at no risk of becoming a genuine victim.

On Europe’s crumbling values

Europe is dying because it has become morally incompetent. It isn’t that Europe stands for nothing. It’s that it stands for shallow things, shallowly. Europeans believe in human rights, tolerance, openness, peace, progress, the environment, pleasure. These beliefs are all very nice, but they are also secondary.
What Europeans no longer believe in are the things from which their beliefs spring: Judaism and Christianity; liberalism and the Enlightenment; martial pride and capability; capitalism and wealth.

On conditions in South Sudan, Haiti, and Côte d’Ivoire

It means that we’ve come full circle. It means that colonialism, for which the West has spent the past five decades in nonstop atonement, was far from the worst thing to befall much of the colonized world. It means, also, that some new version of colonialism may be the best thing that could happen to at least some countries in the postcolonial world.

On comedy

So let’s get this straight: In the consensus view of modern American liberalism, it is hilarious to mock Mormons and Mormonism but outrageous to mock Muslims and Islam. Why? Maybe it’s because nobody has ever been harmed, much less killed, making fun of Mormons. [Ed.: Hmm.]

On language

I’ve never liked the word diss—not as a verb, much less as a noun.

On climate change

By now, illegal immigration is to the GOP what global warming is to the Democrats: the all-purpose bugaboo that is supposed to explain nearly every problem and whose redress must be part of every solution.

On climate change

[John Kerry] devoted much of his speech to venting spleen at those in the “Flat Earth Society” who dispute the 97% of climate scientists who believe in man-made global warming. “We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific fact,” he said. Once upon a time people understood that skepticism was essential to good science. Now Mr. Kerry is trying to invoke a specious democracy among scientists to shut down democratic debate for everyone else.

On climate change

Consider the case of global warming, another system of doomsaying prophecy and faith in things unseen.
As with religion, it is presided over by a caste of spectacularly unattractive people pretending to an obscure form of knowledge that promises to make the seas retreat and the winds abate. As with religion, it comes with an elaborate list of virtues, vices and indulgences. As with religion, its claims are often non-falsifiable, hence the convenience of the term “climate change” when thermometers don’t oblige the expected trend lines. As with religion, it is harsh toward skeptics, heretics and other “deniers.”

On climate change

Modern liberalism is best understood as a movement of would-be believers in search of true faith. For much of the 20th century it was faith in History, especially in its Marxist interpretation. Now it’s faith in the environment. Each is a comprehensive belief system, an instruction sheet on how to live, eat and reproduce, a story of how man fell and how he might be redeemed, a tale of impending crisis that’s also a moral crucible.
In short, a religion without God. I sometimes wonder whether the journalists now writing about the failure of the one-child policy ever note the similarities with today’s climate “crisis.” That the fears are largely the same. And the political prescriptions are almost identical. And the leaders of the movement are cut from the same cloth. And the confidence with which the alarmists prescribe radical cures, their intolerance for dissenting views, their insistence on “global solutions,” their disdain for democratic input or technological adaptations—that everything is just as it was when bell-bottoms were in vogue.

On climate change

The semantic trick in the phrase “climate change”—allowing every climate anomaly to serve as further proof of the overall theory. The hysteria generated by an imperceptible temperature rise of 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880—as if the trend is bound to continue forever, or is not a product of natural variation, or cannot be mitigated except by drastic policy interventions. The hyping of flimsy studies—melting Himalayan glaciers; vanishing polar ice—to press the political point. The job security and air of self-importance this provides the tens of thousands of people—EPA bureaucrats, wind-turbine manufacturers, litigious climate scientists, NGO gnomes—whose livelihoods depend on a climate crisis. The belief that even if the crisis isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be, it does us all good to be more mindful about the environment.

On climate change

Suppose for a minute—which is about 59 seconds too long, but that’s for another column—that global warming poses an imminent threat to the survival of our species. Suppose, too, that the best solution involves a helium balloon, several miles of garden hose and a harmless stream of sulfur dioxide being pumped into the upper atmosphere, all at a cost of a single F-22 fighter jet… Could it work? Mr. Myhrvold and his associates think it might, and they’re a smart bunch.

On bravery

I’ve never regretted my opposition to Mr. Obama, though I’ve never wished him ill. Nor do I regret other positions that earned me no favors from readers, from my opposition to Jonathan Pollard’s early release to my support for keeping troops in Afghanistan (for which the journalist Michael Wolff urged people to punch me in the face). There are columnists who take excellent care to stay on their audience’s good side. Not me.

Now you can look forward to reading these opinions, and many more like them, in a different newspaper than the one they appeared in before.

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