Terry Teachout weighs in on the Checkpoint/NYTBR firestorm and offers a valuable perspective coming at the problem as a working critic. He also admits both friendship with Tanenhaus and loathing for Wieseltier, so his objectivity can be reasonably assumed. That said, I don't think he's quite on the money but the problem lies not in his arguments but rather in the scenario that launches them:
Just for the sake of argument, let’s suppose the following:
I’m the editor of an important book-review supplement. You’re a well-known professional writer of good repute. I commission a review of a controversial book from you. You submit a piece that is extremely strident in tone (but not obscene or actionably libelous) and with whose political implications I disagree very strongly. What should I do?
I, on the other hand would have posed it this way: "You submit a piece that is extremely strident in tone (but not obscene or actionably libelous) and with whose political implications I disagree very strongly but more importantly, which fails fulfill the assignment given to you - namely, to review a book. Instead, you use a cursory mention of the work in question to launch into political screed having little or nothing to do literary matters or merit.
Then the response becomes a bit trickier. I don't think a single blogger is taking issue with Wieseltier because he evinces political ideas we might disagree with. We object because he didn't fulfill his brief as a book reviewer. (If his piece had appeared in The Week in Review, I doubt you'd have heard a peep about it.) Let me pose yet another counter-scenario - I manage to land a NYTBR freelance gig and, reviewing a controversial novel, I hand in, word-for-word, the piece in question. What do you think my future as a reviewer would look like? Or what if Stanley Crouch had been assigned to review A Terry Teachout Reader, and after a few dismissive remarks continued on into a lengthy polemic on how white people have co-opted jazz and shouldn't be allowed to write about it? Should that sort of a review be run without editorial challenge?
I do agree with Terry in one important point - a book that is so nakedly political invites a political examination and, in fact, no serious criticism of the book can occur without taking that context into question. But Wieseltier's piece was not serious criticism and that, I think, it what's giving most of us gas.