When Ross Douthat Was 'That Guy' at Harvard

You know, That Guy: The conservative dude who ranged the quad like a pro-life Socrates, challenging Liberals to another insufferable partial-birth abortion fight? The guy who ruined all your parties; the guy with the... weird posters on his dorm wall.

This is the picture painted so clearly by a 2001 Harvard Crimson profile, written when Douthat—whose name we still don't know how to pronounce—was a senior. There is much delight to be found in young Douthat's life before he became the New York Times' official reasonable conservative columnist. But nothing compares to the lede:

When Ross G. Douthat tells you that he hopes to become one of the world's most prominent writers, you get a sense that he just might. "Coming to Harvard, I now have a new sense of the power and success that is at our fingertips - I know I will be one of the 25 richest writers of the future", he says.

So we immediately learn that young Douthat began his career as the worst kind of writer: One who got into it for the money. Soon, Douthat imagines, he will be flying to a private island in the South Pacific to rendezvous with fellow millionaire authors Dan Brown, James Patterson and R.L. Stein to hunt the most dangerous game... MAN.

But Douthat's Harvard experience wasn't simply a fast track to the top of Forbes' "25 wealthiest writers of the future" list. His combative-to-the-point-of-incoherent views (he claimed that the Oscars are the product of "left of left wing politics") and his role as editor of the much-maligned conservative newspaper The Harvard Salient took its toll on his social life. He told the Crimson

At parties, when people find out I am the editor the Salient, there are always lots of groans...but as a writer, I find being a conservative a liberating thing because you are the only one saying something from that viewpoint.

Nevermind that you are probably saying these viewpoints to the back of a cute sophomore as she runs away from you. But Douthat didn't even really need friends: He could just chillax on a beanbag and write Bill Buckley fanfic in the the sweet dorm room he had decorated according to what he called his "conservative aesthetic":

His room is adorned with posters of Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe - stars from Hollywood's glamour heyday - as well as a towering tribute to Gladiator. "I think that Russell Crowe's evocation of manhood is something all men should aspire to", he explains, "particularly when there are such obvious parallels between Rome and the United States, with the combination of splendor and decadence of Empire."

Yes, and there was that great scene in Gladiator where we saw that Russell Crowe's character had a poster of Audrey Hepburn in his room.

Of course, this article was written almost a decade ago, when Douhat was just That Guy at Harvard. Today, Douthat is That Guy at the New York Times, writing columns about how the welfare state is bad because it helps too many people and Avatar is a call to heathenism. With a couple of books already in the bag, he's well on his way to becoming one of the world's richest (least poor?) writers. It would be unfair to judge Douthat the prominent public intellectual by what he said as a 22 year-old college student.

But we can say this, at least: His giant mansion is going to be filled with some pretty weird stuff.