Ornstein to National Journal

Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and an expert on Congress, is joining National Journal as a contributing editor. His stuff will appear in National Journal Daily as well as NationalJournal.com and TheAtlantic.com.

National Journal has this to say about its new guy: “Norm is one of the best-known and most-incisive political analysts in the industry. He spent 30 years as an election-eve analyst for CBS News, until he moved to be the on-air analyst for BBC News in 2012. For two decades, prior to joining National Journal, he wrote a weekly column called ‘Congress Inside Out’ for Roll Call.”

Ornstein announced his free agency in his last Roll Call column, published on April 10. Titled “Congress Has Changed, Not for the Better, and Now It Needs Changing,” the piece examined the rightward drift of congressional Republicans:

There are no more moderate or liberal Republicans — the Sherwood Boehlerts, John Porters, Amo Houghtons and Michael N. Castles are long gone. What now passes for a moderate would have been considered a bedrock conservative in the early 1990s.

The House GOP has veered sharply, even drastically, to the right from what already was a pretty rightist center of gravity.

That Ornstein lament has become familiar to Washingtonians. A consistent campaigner for compromise and bipartisanship in Washington, Ornstein and the Brookings Institution’s Thomas E. Mann last year wrote an opinion piece for this newspaper titled “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem,” based on a book they’d written: “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.” Whenever Congress freezes up in gridlock over petty matters, Ornstein is there to dissect the pettiness and abhor it.

Twenty years is a long time to serve as anything—let alone a congressional columnist. What happened here? According a source, Roll Call declined to renew Ornstein’s contract as it attempts to reconfigure its editorial offerings. “We’re moving in a different direction from the old print-based, columnist model,” notes the source. When asked about the separation, Ornstein responded with pretty much the same take:

Roll Call said at the beginning of March they were phasing out outside columns in print to save money, and [Roll Call Editor] David Rapp asked me to move to a blog on line. That had less appeal to me. But I had had conversations with David Bradley [chairman of the Atlantic Media Co.] several times in the past year, and approached the Atlantic a few months before that, in part because I was frustrated with the squeeze on column length in the print edition, and in part because I just did not see the columns getting picked up more broadly the way that others, in other places did.

Roll Call Editor Rapp: “Norm has been a highly valued and closely read columnist at Roll Call — and a good friend. We thank him for his many contributions to our editorial efforts over the years. We wish him well.”

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