Draft Ehrenreich!

The summer replacement series we can’t afford to lose.

If no one else has said this, let Chatterbox be the first. On the strength of two columns thus far on the New York Times op-ed page—to read them, click here and here—Barbara Ehrenreich has established herself as the Times’s best columnist. This is, of course, a snap judgment, but Ehrenreich has long been one of the most eloquent voices on the left, which, as distinct from liberalism, has not had much access to the mainstream press for many years. The Bush administration has revitalized the left, making it necessary for the rest of us—liberals like Chatterbox as well as conservatives—to keep abreast of what it’s saying.

Ehrenreich, alas, is only a summer replacement (for Thomas Friedman, who’s on book leave). Or rather, July replacement, since apparently she’ll be gone Aug. 1. This is unacceptable. Chatterbox hereby commences, if it hasn’t begun already, a Draft Ehrenreich movement. If keeping Ehrenreich on the Times op-ed page requires the jettisoning of Maureen Dowd  or Bob Herbert, Chatterbox is prepared to make that, ahem, sacrifice. (Were Dowd to return to the Times news staff, she could help revivify the Times’s somewhat lackluster Washington coverage. Dowd is a dreadful columnist but a brilliant feature writer. Chatterbox doesn’t know what to do with Herbert. Maybe there’s a spot for him at the New York Times Co. Foundation?)

If it came to that, Chatterbox would even consider chucking Nicholas Kristof (whose views are unexciting but whose reporting can be quite compelling; Chatterbox also likes the ways Kristof is experimenting with the Web). Some might argue that the Times already has a voice for the left in Paul Krugman. But Krugman isn’t a leftist—just read the columns he writes on economics—so much as a liberal who really, really hates George W. Bush.

Does Ehrenreich want the job? Chatterbox has no idea. But if she doesn’t, Chatterbox urges her friends and colleagues to set her straight. (Chatterbox, incidentally, has never met Ehrenreich or communicated with her in any way.) The Times op-ed page desperately needs her mature voice, her sharp mind, and the challenge her ideas pose to the common wisdom. She might even wake up David Brooks, who is supposed to be doing the same thing from the right, but has been floundering. Say it with me: Hell no, Ehrenreich won’t go!