George Will is head and shoulders above the rest.
1) Jonah Goldberg - creative/witty writer.
2) George Will - informative/historic writer.
3) Joe Sobran - bold/unique perspective writer.
4) Thomas Sowell - smart/concise writer.
Sobran is a by far the best. He's like the one robot in I, Robot who attains self-reflection and free-will, while all the others are indistinguishable and controlled by the mother-computer.
Sobran, by far the most insightful, learned, and pithy. Unlike other columnists, Sobran consistently has something to teach us, and can do so on a variety of topics -- history, liturature, grammar, religion, politics, and education. Furthermore, Sobran is not one to pull his punches, a trait to be admired in an intellectual milieu of tailored spins.
Is the column dying as a literary form? Perhaps, just as all literary forms die when education dies (e.g., the essay and the letter), as ours is in process of doing.
Will the blog stand up to replace its predecessor? It seems to be making the attempt. My hope is that it matures a bit -- less opining (a critique not to be made of flynnfiles) and more argumentation and evidence (flynnfiles should be commended for its commitment in this regard). Only then will the blog proove its worth as a literary form.
Justin Raimondo. I read his column as soon as it comes out and often browse his archives.
Victor Hanson. That he does not work inside the Beltway only lends more authority to his perspectives. Every college freshman should read Who Killed Homer? - but you won't find it on most Classics or History or Comparative Literature Departments' reading lists.
David Brooks is a close second.
Sobran is the best and Buchanan is usually just as good although his columns are more strategic and policy oriented.
I used to love Will b/c of his wry humor and use of big words but his liberalism and atheism have really made me grow weary of him.
Coulter can actually write really funny columns but she is horrible in any other format, book or talking.
Will's liberalism? Please provide a link to a Will column that advocates a liberal position.
As for his atheism, I agree. But very little he writes on (e.g., intelligent design) has any relevance to theism.
1) Charles Krauthammer
2) Bill Buckley
3) Pat Buchanan
4) Ann Coulter
5) Christopher Hitchens
Whew! I thought you were serious about Krugman. Anyway, one of my favorites is Chuck Colson.
I have to provide links! Lol. Okay, but I will have to do this later in the evening, too busy this afternoon.
Quickly though, he wrote about the election of Pope Benedict very recently and his column is an oozing Straussian veiled deconstruction of religion as superstition. I don't have in mind his columns on cosmology, etc., as indicative of his atheism but his columns actually on religion, and for another example, his reaction on that crappy Sunday show to the Terri Schiavo case in which he called her "religious right" defenders "extremists."
Btw, Will more than any writer/intellectual is responsible for my developing into a conservative. He fired my imagination and political interests in high school and I really enjoyed seeing him lecture once and getting his autograph back then. But I have soured on him in the past 5 or so years so am possibly harsher on him now then he deserves.
Nobody has yet mentioned John Derbyshire, my personal fave amongst the NRO-niks. Then there's James Lileks for humor and ESPN.com's Bill Simmons, though Sports Guy has less of a column and more of a free-based web thing. (He does condense for the Mag every couple of weeks.)
BTW, I am thinking of Lileks' syndicated columns here, not the Bleat or the books. I've been a fan since before he had a website; they used to carry his stuff in Sunday's Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger. Long ago and far away, alas.
Right on, Nightfly. Derb rocks, and certainly beats his comrades at NR/NRO.
Thomas Friedman is my favirote columist, followed by Thomas Sowell.
If I may add to my list and give props to a few more that have not been mentioned thus far it would be:
Paul Craig Roberts- how can you not like his last name?
Lew Rockwell- balls to the wall.
Thomas Fleming- HardCore Hard Right.
Marvin Olasky- Good Christian perspective.
Dennis Prager- Good Jewish perspective.
Dan, what about "Best Public Speaker Other Than Dan Flynn" post?
the 3 AM GIRLS ,
Howie Carr, Joe Sobran and John Leo.
In no particular order:
Paul Craig Roberts
Lew Rockwell, along with just about anything off of LewRockwell.com
I'm surprised no one mentioned Robert Novak. Bob Novak is a better reporter than most reporters and his inside connections and long-term experience make all his columns a must read.
It's hard to rank the best columnists because each writer has his own niche. Thomas Sowell is great when writes about economics, affirmative action, and social policy, but stinks on foreign policy. Pat Buchanan is great when he writes about immigration, the culture wars, and foreign policy, but lousy when we writes about international economics. So I don't have favorites. Although some writers -- Mona Charen, Ann Coulter, Jonah Goldberg, David Frum -- are so atrocious reading their "columns" is a total waste of time.
My favorite contemporary conservative columnist by far is George Will. His writing is sometimes poetic and his rhetoric is often brilliant. Almost all his columns are worth reading, and I would recommend that people pick up copies of his collected columns in book form. I've read all of them, and I think that it is always interesting to get Will's take on the issues of the day. Agree with him or disagree with him, he's a damn good writer. (For the record, I tend to disagree with him about politics, but I tend to agree with him about other things--we both share a love of baseball, Victorian novels, Great Britian and small liberal arts colleges, for instance).
Some of the other readers assailed Will's conservative credentials. I didn't read his piece on Ratzinger, so I can't speak to that. I do recall that he has recently mitigated his support for the death penalty. In his columns from the late 70s and early 80s, he advocated capital punishment quite forcibly. Then, around the time Governor Ryan pardoned prisoners on death row in Illinois, Will seemingly read every book written about capital punishment and moderated his view. He wrote several columns reporting findings from Scott Turow's book on the death penalty, and findings from the Innocent Project. In that series of columns, he suggested that capital punishment is not always meted out fairly, and that conservatives should think twice before supporting a system that often operates in an arbitrary way.
Those columns drew fire from just about every columnist at townhall.com, but Will stuck to his guns. I have no idea what his current position on the death penalty is, but I have to respect a guy that does not always toe the party line--especially when it is inconvenient for him to be independent.
Anyhow, George Will is my favorite contemporary conservative columnist. My favorite columnist of all time, however, is H.L. Mencken. His writings from the Smart Set, the American Mercury and the Baltimore Sun are amazing. That guy is one of my personal heroes. If any of you need a good laugh, pick up "H.L. Mencken's Smart Set Criticism" or "On Politics: A Carnival of Buncombe." You will not be disappointed.
Does Bill Gertz count as a columnist? Well, even if not, he's my favorite.
Many good ones have been mentioned here so I won't rehash the ones already mentioned.
One of my favorites to read is Fred Reed. He does a regular print column but I prefer to read his online stuff (www.fredoneverything.net). I don't always agree with him, especially about the Iraq war, but his arguments are typically well thought out and well articulated and he is downright hilarious in his own irreverent way. Warning: If you are easily offended by non-PC subject matter, don't read his columns.
Glad someone finally mentioned Mike Adams. His columns usually lead to fits of laughter at the expense of our nations universities. He might be too sarcastic and over-the top for some though.
Like Curtis, I recognise all of the names mentioned so far; the one I would like to add to the list is David Warren (http://www.davidwarren.com).
See Will's latest piece for more of his old-fashioned Enlightenment liberalism. Still haven't had time to look through his columns archives available online to get more evidence but I own all of his books and have read all of his columns covering his whole career. His favorite political hero has always been Daniel Patrick Moynihan (a liberal), he has always been a absolutist on free-trade globalism (used to be called economic liberalism but for some reason people think it is a conservative stance now), has absolutely made his peace with FDR and big government in general, what else. Liberal on immigration.
Oh, one cue should be the fact that liberals I know (and apparently Reader here) consistently praise and enjoy reading Will. They generally say it is his intelleigent style but (as my good liberal buddy Carl proves) it has much more to do with the fact that they recognize him as sympathetic to their views and completely as a non-threat in terms of ideology.
His view of American history is total Whig history. He is also Straussian trained at UC and up until his shocking rebuke of the neocons on Iraq he has spent his whole career closely aligned with them and their views.
one last point for now, I think that Will can plausibly call himself a conservative and be seen as such because liberalism is the established tradition of America, this is a nation born of the Enlightenment and so "conserving" that tradition may put you right of the progressives but still makes you a liberal.
First, George Will was NOT "Straussian trained at UC." He doesn't have a degree from Chicago, nor does he have any other discernible connection to the school.
Second, if you really think George Will is a liberal, you haven't been reading his columns very closely. The guy is (1) pro-life; (2) anti affirmative action; (3) for smaller government; (4) an absolutist when it comes to opposing any type of tax increase; (5) a staunch enemy of Justices O'Connor and Kennedy and the power of judicial review; (6) pro-school vouchers; (7) in favor of drilling in the Alaskan oil reserves; and (8) against gun control. Also note that Will has lambasted Kerry, Dukakis, Gore, Clinton, Dean, Kennedy, Jesse Jackson and every other major face of the Democratic party for the last thirty years. The guys Will praises are invariably either Republicans or individuals with right-leaning ideas.
And, to clear up another misconception, Ronald Reagan is George Will's political here--not Daniel Patrick Moynihan. http://www.townhall.com/columnists/georgewill/gw20040606.shtml
I can't remember where I got Will's UC connection, I coulda sworn he got a degree there in political theory but that seems to be his Princeton degree. Maybe I was somehow conflating the fact that he is from Chicago and a Cubs fan. He is definitely in line w/ the Chicago school of economics.
And yes I have been reading his columns very closely, I have read everything he has ever written. You make a laundry list of specific issues but that doesn't prove he is a conservative nor did I say that he is simply a liberal. But he does hold many of the typical views and attitudes of the Enlightenment, that is, of liberalism. That these views have been redesignated as "classical" liberalism, or now are often considered "conservative" is an interesting case study of the way that political labels become abused or distorted over time.
But Will as a case in point holds many liberal views, and some things you attribute to him are not at all accurate. For one he is fine with big government in many forms and often argues that conservatives must make their peace with the fact that Americans want a welfare state. He always treats FDR and his schemes as mixed rather than as disasters. He is not simply against all tax cuts as a column he wrote just last week attests to, he thinks that America is a "creedal nation" a view that is not conservative, he is not "against gun control" in an NRA kind of way, and Moynihan, indeed was was a close friend of his and his ideal politician to the extent he had one. This is clear by flipping through the indexes of his books. He greatly admired Moynihan as the best Senator in the postwar era.
As a genral rule he tries very hard to appear extremely even-handed in his writing, to be as prudent and moderate as he can be, always giving the opposition their due. As long as the opposition is too his left, he bucks no criticism or agitation from those clearly to his right as indicated by his constant disdain for religious conservatives (i.e., the GOP base).
I believe that I'd thought about this issue before: How the heck does John Hawkins do these surveys of his, among bloggers? I have in the past, bemoaned the lack of traditionalist conservative and principled republican websites in the Blogosphere... But now that, more recently, there have been some of them that have arise (such as Flynn Files), shouldn't Mr. Hawkins be polling us as well?
There many be a few exceptions, but from the looks of his list, it's no wonder that he got the socialist writer Christopher Hitchens on that list (that is a sad state of affairs... and I just saw that he was even higher in this previous poll) - Well, at least Billy Kristol isn't on either of those lists.
Out of about 100 different conservative columnists who opposed the Iraq war - listed towards the bottom of this blog entry - not a single one is listed on this latest survey, and only Bob Novak placed in the previous one (and at the end).
As I've stated several times before, we need more diversity of perspectives on the Right side of the Blogosphere (as well as in many other arenas as well).