Reihan Salam (b. December 29, 1979) is the executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute Policy Fellow. He is a contributing editor at The Atlantic and National Affairs. Salam is the author of Melting Pot or Civil War? (Sentinel, 2018) and the co-author, with Ross Douthat, of Grand New Party (Doubleday, 2008).
Raised by two exceptionally intelligent, kind, and eccentric parents, he was the third of three children, and by all accounts a taciturn shut-in as a small child, primarily interested in LEGO and reruns of Full House. He did, however, sport a stylish bowl cut for most of his youth. Salam’s heroes as a small boy were his sisters, various superheroes, and his sisters’ high school friends, one of whom was notorious for casually carrying around a machete. His middle sister would regularly send him mixtapes from California, with a heavy emphasis on monologues by Jim Carroll and Jello Biafra and music from the Pharcyde and the Beastie Boys. Basically, she played an essential role in informing and shaping his emerging tastes and sensibilities. His oldest sister sparked his interest in comic books, film, and all things foreign. And though his parents worked near-constantly, they provided the family with a constant stream of magazines, books, and charged conversation about race, culture, politics, and the virtues of a balanced diet.
As a student at Stuyvesant High School, Salam had a checkered academic record, redeemed in part by a mostly untutored intellectual curiosity. Fortunately, his best friend, now a distinguished scholar, shamed him into not actually flunking out by being a pretty amazing example of dedication, creativity, and general excellence.
In an unlikely stroke of luck, he was invited to attend the Telluride Association Summer Program, an experience he credits with “lighting a fire under his ass” and convincing him that the pursuit of academic excellence was not, in fact, “for the birds.”
After an intellectually fruitful but socially problematic year at Cornell University, where he’d often spend Friday nights reading biographies of Walter Reuther in the stacks, Salam transferred to Harvard, where he concentrated in Social Studies. His senior thesis, on the normative implications of pervasive public ignorance, was written hastily and under extreme duress, reflecting what was fast becoming a lifelong pattern. His intellectual development was for the most part self-directed, though he profited immensely from having taken two seminars with the political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, a fellow Stuyvesant alumnus.
Having graduated in 2001, a year that coincided with what in hindsight looks more and more like a minor economic speed bump, he was quite confident that in lieu of finding suitable employment, he’d become a handsome grifter, roaming the countryside in search of easy marks. The trouble, alas, was the handsome part. And so Salam instead spent a short period of time as a reporter-researcher at The New Republic, influenced in part by his admiration for the work of senior editor and pioneering political blogger Andrew Sullivan. This was followed by a similarly brief stint as a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Shortly after David Brooks had been hired as a columnist at the New York Times, Salam pluckily decided to apply for a position as Brooks’s editorial researcher, where he spent the next two years. Having admired Brooks for some years, he was impressed to learn that the newly-minted columnist was exactly as generous, humble, and insightful as he seemed to be from a distance. For a few short months, he served as a junior editor for the New York Times op-ed page before leaving (a bit too abruptly) to become a producer for NBC Universal’s The Chris Matthews Show. Roughly two years on, he served for a time as an associate editor at The Atlantic before accepting a fellowship at New America. At some point during this stretch, he decided to start shaving his head, not realizing that this would lead at least some of his detractors to conclude that he was a beardless Barbary corsair hellbent on seizing treasure on the high seas. Salam also co-authored a book, which you can indeed purchase for the astonishingly low price of $0.01, with one of his very good friends, Ross Douthat.
Not long after that, Salam had the good fortune to sign on with National Review. As an editor, he has commissioned articles from libertarian conservatives, cosmopolitan libertarians, centrist neoliberals, national developmentalists, and egalitarian nationalists who hold clashing opinions on taxes, the size of federal expenditures, the virtues of balanced budgets, the regulation of abortion, immigration policy, the regulation of narcotics, gun rights, policing and criminal justice, climate policy, the wisdom of industrial policy, and much else besides.
Though born in New York, NY, at Bellevue Hospital, he spent his formative years in Brooklyn, first in Borough Park and then in the shadowy borderland between Kensington and Ditmas Park. At present, he lives with his wildly talented wife in Park Slope, a short subway ride from where he grew up.