When Ross Douthat was named Bill Kristol's replacement at the New York Times, both liberals and conservatives were happy. Now we understand why: The "squishy" right-winger fools everyone into thinking he agrees with them.

Witness the way Douthat packages his debut Times column. A dyed-in-the-wool Republican can imagine Douthat to be a party-line ideologue: The headline reads "Cheney for President;" the reader is invited to fantasize about a "disciplined and ideologically consistent" 2008 campaign by the former veep, which is "good for the country"; Cheney is a "diamond-hard-distillation" of "'real conservatism'" with a likely platform of endless warmongering and cuts to George W. Bush's pansy welfare programs (ummm...).

A reader who hadn't finished his coffee might have glossed over the scare quotes Douthat put around the term "real conservatism," or the line "a Cheney defeat could have been good for the Republican Party." And he might have missed how Douthat is against arresting torturers, but wants torture at the center of national debate for the same reason he wanted Cheney in a presidential campaign: So that it can be exposed as politically bankrupt and purged from the Republican Party along with an entire strain of conservatism.

We need to hear more: What was done and who approved [torture], and what intelligence we really gleaned from it...

Here Dick Cheney... has an important role to play. He wants to defend his record; let him defend it. And let the country judge.

Basically, Douthat just wrote a column slamming Cheney, torture and various other things Democrats hated about the Bush presidency. Which is very much what one would expect from a columnist at the liberal Times.

But Douthat's conservative, and sounds conservative, so it's not cliché. You see? Very cunning, this one. Let's hope he keeps using his powers for good rather than evil.