What with Safire leaving his Op-Ed podium (though staying on with the 'On Language' bit), rumors and suggestions are flying around regarding the impending replacement. My first thought was Andrew Sullivan, and apparently a lot of others had the same idea . The main assumption is that Safire will be replaced with another conservative, which I think is a good idea. Brooks and Friedman fall to the right, but the rest of the NYT Op-Ed contributors could be considered centrist or left-leaning.
My number two choice is Christopher Hitchens, who is not exactly a conservative but has nonetheless been one of the most prominent hawks in the commentariat these past few years.
My third choice is Francis Fukuyama, an intellectual with impeccable neocon credentials who also has demonstrated the ability to point out when the emperor has no clothes . And what with the very public fallout between Fukuyama and Charles Krauthammer, it could make for some interesting shots across the bows of the NYT and the Post.