Opinion | If Politics Is All About Pushing Hot Buttons, Is There Anything That Can Cool Us Down? – Gail Collins and Bret Stephens – The New York Times

“Bret: As for Biden, I’m warming to him fast. It’s not that I agree with him on policy questions — I don’t agree with most Democrats in the field. Nor do I think he’s the cleverest guy ever to run for president. But I admire his obvious decency, his knowledge of Washington, his lack of partisan rancor and the reassurance he would bring to both America and the world that a sane and decent person sits in the Oval Office. I also like the fact that he doesn’t feel the need to pre-emptively cringe in the face of his party’s left-wing Furies.

Oh, and he can trounce Trump, which is more than can be said for most of his Democratic rivals. Isn’t that worth cheering?

Gail: Nothing against Joe Biden, but I keep thinking — gee, can’t we do better? Yeah, he’s a very nice guy, and, yeah, he’s running a moderate campaign that could appeal to a lot of centrists.

But Bret, he’s been around forever and he’s never captured the national imagination except, of course, during the heartbreaking death of his son. Obviously I’d vote for him if he’s the nominee, but that’s a pretty depressing prospect so early in the game.

And wait a minute — weren’t you a Mayor Pete fan?

Bret: I developed a (one-sided) emotional connection with Biden after his son died of brain cancer, partly because it happened not long after my dad and his sister, who was very dear to me, also died of brain cancer within a few months of each other. People who have experienced profound loss and suffering generally have a stronger claim to leadership than those who haven’t. It’s what Aeschylus wrote: “Pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.””

– Opinion | Is Trump Keyser Söze — Or Inspector Clouseau? – By Bret Stephens – The New York Times

By Bret Stephens
Opinion Columnist

March 28, 2019

766
“President Trump speaking to the media after a summary of the Mueller report’s findings was released.
Credit
Tom Brenner for The New York Times

Image
President Trump speaking to the media after a summary of the Mueller report’s findings was released.CreditCreditTom Brenner for The New York Times
Maybe we’ve had this all wrong.

Maybe Donald Trump isn’t just some two-bit con artist who lucked his way into the White House thanks to an overconfident opponent. Or a second-rate demagogue with a rat-like instinct for arousing his base’s baser emotions and his enemies’ knee-jerk reactions. Or a dimwit mistaken for an oracle, like some malignant version of Chauncey Gardiner from “Being There.”

Thanks to Robert Mueller, we know he isn’t Russia’s man inside, awaiting coded instruction from his handler in the Kremlin.

Maybe, in fact, Trump is the genius he claims to be, possessed — as he likes to boast — of a “very good brain.”

O.K., I don’t quite believe that. But going forward, it would be wise for all of his inveterate critics in the news media, including me, to treat it as our operating assumption. The alternative is to let him hand us our butts all over again, just as he did by winning the G.O.P. nomination and then the election, and then by presiding over years of robust economic growth.”

Opinion | The Midterm Results Are a Warning to the Democrats – by Bret Stephens – The New York Times

“For months we’ve heard from sundry media apocalypticians that this year’s midterms were the last exit off the road to autocracy. On Tuesday, the American people delivered a less dramatic verdict about the significance of the occasion.

In a word: meh.

Are you interested in seeing Donald Trump voted out of office in two years? I hope so — which is why you should think hard about that “meh.” This week’s elections were, at most, a very modest rebuke of a president reviled by many of his opponents, this columnist included, as an unprecedented danger to the health of liberal democracy at home and abroad. The American people don’t entirely agree.

We might consider listening to them a bit more — and to ourselves somewhat less.

The 28-seat swing that gave Democrats control of the House wasn’t even half the 63 seats Republicans won in 2010. Yet even that shellacking (to use Barack Obama’s word) did nothing to help Mitt Romney’s chances two years later. The Republican gain in the Senate (the result in Arizona isn’t clear at this writing) was more predictable in a year when so many red-state Democrats were up for re-election. But it underscores what a non-wave election this was.

It also underscores that while “the Resistance” is good at generating lots of votes, it hasn’t figured out how to turn the votes into seats. Liberals are free to bellyache all they want that they have repeatedly won the overall popular vote for the presidency and Congress while still losing elections, and that the system is therefore “rigged.””

Opinion | Trump- Terror- and the ‘No Guardrails’ Presidency – By Bret Stephens

By Bret Stephens
Opinion Columnist, Nov. 1, 2018 264

Visitors at a a makeshift memorial outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Monday.CreditCreditDamon Winter/The New York Times

“Maybe we should refer to Saturday’s massacre of 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue, along with the campaign of mail bombs that preceded it, as “man-caused disasters.”

That was the euphemism then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano used in lieu of the word “terrorism” during congressional testimony in 2009. Conservatives like me never let her live it down. How can you address a problem if you won’t even call it by its proper name?

Conservatives objected again when President Obama went to great lengths to use the acronym ISIL or ISIS instead of Islamic State, lest there be any association between a religion and the barbaric deeds carried out in its name. And we objected a third time when liberals tried to suggest that personal derangement, not Islamist sympathies, explained acts like Omar Mateen’s 2016 rampage at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub.

So conservatives should be just as clear about what we saw last week. There is no reason to think that Pittsburgh shooter Robert Bowers and alleged Florida mail bomber Cesar Sayoc are “deranged.” There is every reason to believe their acts are politically motivated. They are not “crazies” in the category of Gabrielle Giffords shooter Jared Lee Loughner. They are terrorists in the class of Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, or Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter.”

Opinion | Supreme Confusion – Gail Collins and Bret Stephens – NYT

“Bret Stephens: Good morning, Gail. I know we’ll have plenty to say about Blasey v. Kavanaugh today, but, first, Rod Rosenstein! The Times had a bombshell story last week saying the deputy attorney general felt so badly used by President Trump last year after the firing of James Comey that he considered wearing a wire to record the president’s ranting. Rosenstein denied it categorically and the Republican establishment urged Trump not to fire him.

First thing Monday morning, news breaks that Rosenstein is close to resigning. Or not. Two questions for you. First, should we rename Eighth Avenue, where we converse, “Avenue of the Rosenstein?” Second, is this the beginning of the end for the Trump presidency or the beginning of the end for the Justice Department?

Gail Collins: Yow, Bret. What was that old Chinese curse about living in interesting times?

I have a lot more faith in the staying power of the Justice Department than in the staying power of the president. But we’ll see. And renaming Eighth Avenue — you know the way Rosenstein’s fate has been bouncing around, I’m thinking maybe we could find him a nice traffic rotary upstate.

Bret: If Trump fires Rosenstein, he gets rid of the guy who has been Robert Mueller’s main protector at Justice. Yet firing him on charges of insubordination means believing that the Fake News got the story about Rosenstein’s 25th Amendment musings right. This may be the ultimate Trumpian dilemma.”

opinion- Charles Krauthammer – By Bret Stephens

“Charles Krauthammer, the Washington Post columnist, announced last week that he is stricken with terminal cancer and has only weeks to live. Since then, the tributes have poured forth, and rightly so. Charles taught generations of readers and fellow writers how to reason, persuade, live — and now how to die.

These things are all connected because wisdom and goodness are entwined and, deep down, perhaps identical. Of Charles’s goodness — his qualities as a father, friend and colleague; his courage and resilience as a man — the tributes from people who know him much better than I do richly testify.

Of his wisdom, we have 38 years’ worth of columns, essays, speeches and spoken commentaries. If you lean conservative, as I do, the experience of a Krauthammer column was almost invariably the same: You’d read the piece and think, “that’s exactly it.” Not just “interesting” or “well written” or “mostly right.” Week after week, his was the clearest and smartest expression of the central truth of nearly every subject: a bad Supreme Court nomination, the joys and humiliations of chess, the future of geopolitics.

And if you don’t lean conservative? Then Charles’s writing served an even more useful purpose. Since I’m not aware of any precise antonym to the term “straw man,” I hereby nominate the noun “krauthammer” to serve the function, defined in two ways: (1) as the strongest possible counterargument to your opinion; (2) a person of deep substance and complete integrity.”

David Lindsay:

Bret Stephens liked Charles Krauthammer. He writes lovingly of him, which is nice.  But I hated Charles Krauthammer’s right wing rants. He twisted the truth about weapons of mass destruction, the value of Obamacare, and the threat of climate change.

Here are some of the many comments, that helped remind me of what a tool of fake news on Fox News this ideologue was.

Michael Charney
Cambridge, MA

CK had a medical degree from Harvard and would be expected to “do no harm.” Yet despite his scientific background he failed to speak the truth about climate change. Hundreds of thousands if not millions of his fellow human beings are now condemned to die because “Conservative” pundits such as CK chose group think over science.

Stuart Phillips commented June 15

Stuart Phillips
Stuart Phillips
New Orleans

It always amazes me when two seemingly intelligent people can read the same thing and come to such incredibly different conclusions. I have been reading Charles Krauthammer’s columns for a long time. He has been consistently wrong about everything that I have noted that could be reasonably scored as right or wrong. The Iraqis did not have weapons of mass destruction, the Kosovo war was successful, change can occur, and the Democrats are often right. Pres. Trump is not the Savior of the universe.

Yet somehow or other Brett Stevens thinks this man was knowledgeable about the future. I don’t understand, and I never will. Evidently prejudice and tribalism can overcome reality even in a otherwise intelligent New York Times columnist.

The reality-based community scores people on whether they are correct in predicting future events. This is the criterion of science. It is the one I use when I read someone’s opinions. Evidently, Mr. Stephens criterion is quite different. .

John Locke commented June 15

J
John Locke
Amesbury, MA

I found Mr. Krauthammer to be a bitter, caustic and divisive columnist. I hope he finds the peace that seems to have eluded him.

Edward Blau commented June 15

E
Edward Blau
Times Pick

As a fellow physician about Dr. Krauthammers age I felt deeply how the tragic diving accident he suffered early in his career so severely affected not only his professional life but also his personal life. And I admired how he coped with dignity and humor.
In his young adult life he was like me a liberal and later unlike me became a neoconservative who was a strong and fervent advocate for our misguided war in Iraq.
I felt badly for him that the entire eight years of Obama’s term as President he spent his diminishing days as a bitter and not always truthful critic. He never used that sharp mind of his to skewer W or Cheney.
I will miss him as a worthy intellectual adversary and wish him godspeed in his last journey.

Leslie commented June 15

L
Leslie
Arlington, VA

BretStephens: ‘ his was the clearest and smartest expression of the central truth ‘
? WHAT ?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Krauthammer
‘ 9/11 attacks Krauthammer wrote made clear existential threat and necessity for a new interventionism ..United States had no choice but to go to war in Afghanistan.. He supported Second Iraq War on “realist” grounds of strategic threat the Saddam regime posed ..and of his alleged weapons of mass destruction ‘
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financial_cost_of_the_Iraq_War
‘ trillions ‘
BretStephens: ‘ his was the clearest and smartest expression of the central truth ‘
? WHAT ?
==

Opinion | Pardon Me! – By GAIL COLLINS and BRET STEPHENS – NYT

Gail Collins: Bret, I’m on book leave until August, but I didn’t really want to spend two months devoid of conversation. So I’m going to keep dropping in unless President Trump agrees to go away for the summer, too.I wonder if he’d send me a pardon if I failed to meet my deadline. Seems to work for everybody else. Give me your predictions of who else you think will get a presidential get-out-of-jail card.Bret Stephens: We’re going to miss you this summer, Gail, so I’m glad we still get our periodic chats.The pardon power, historically, is supposed to be an instrument of individual mercy — like Lincoln’s many pardons of Union soldiers with “cowardly legs” — and a means of political reconciliation, like Ford’s controversial-but-wise pardon of Nixon. I’m not sure exactly when it became an instrument of personal or political self-dealing, though Bill Clinton’s disgraceful pardon of Marc Rich just as he was leaving office in 2001 comes to mind.

 

Yes, and here are some of my favorite of many good comments.

celia
also the west

I fail to understand why a not-for-profit, single-payer health care system merits an ‘egads’. Why is a health insurance industry driven ‘for-maximum-profit’ system better?
You do know, don’t you, that Americans pay more for their health coverage than any other western country?

Larry Eisenberg commented 1 hour ago

Larry Eisenberg
Larry Eisenberg
Medford, MA.

I borrow from Peter and Paul
And never paid either at all
The greatest flimflammer
For Putin I clamor
And I think I am building a Wall.

I say I can pardon myself
For Treason and pilfering pelf
The Nation’s best tweeter
to Porn stars I’m sweeter
A romantic amorous Elf.

My Cabinet radiates good will
To all whose actions reek of ill
I outshine Abe Lincoln
I’m better at thinkin’
And FDR’s bills were sheer swill.

I want the world’s biggest parade
Divert from the mess Barack made
Put Hillary in jail
Make Black people pale
In buckets of plunder I’ll wade.

NA commented 2 hours ago

N
NA

Bret Stephens is one of the most eloquent and insightful critics of Donald Trump writing today. So it’s sometimes easy to forget that he’s a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. His lauding of a huge corporate tax cut that most assuredly “blows a hole in the federal fisc” while slamming Medicare for all because it would supposedly do the same is a stark reminder of just which way he leans.

Opinion | Free Speech and the Necessity of Discomfort – 2/22/18 – by Bret Stephens – NYT

This is the text of a lecture delivered at the University of Michigan on Tuesday. The speech was sponsored by Wallace House.

“I’d like to express my appreciation for Lynette Clemetson and her team at Knight-Wallace for hosting me in Ann Arbor today. It’s a great honor. I think of Knight-Wallace as a citadel of American journalism. And, Lord knows, we need a few citadels, because journalism today is a profession under several sieges.

To name a few:

There is the economic siege, particularly the collapse of traditional revenue streams, which has undermined the ability of scores of news organizations to remain financially healthy and invest in the kind of in-depth investigative, enterprise, local and foreign reporting this country so desperately needs.

There is a cultural siege, as exemplified by the fact that a growing number of Americans seem to think that if something is reported in the so-called mainstream media, it is ipso facto untrue.”

David Lindsay:   “Excellent piece. I applaud it. I also recommended the two top comments, which reflect my concerns, as someone who wrote to the NYT complaining that Amy Chosick was on occassion unfair to Hillary Clinton, and appeared to hate her. Chosick has written a book, where she has admitted to her distaste for Hillary’s aloofness.

Lynn
New YorkFeb. 22
“Some readers, for example, still resent The Times for some of the unflattering coverage of Hillary Clinton throughout the campaign, as if the paper’s patriotic duty was to write fluff pieces about her in order to smooth her way to high office.”

No, we resent you for not doing what you so righteously claim to do. We resent you for not covering Hillary Clinton’s daily, substantive, issue-oriented responses to voters’ serious questions, and instead shallow email email email.

It even went so far that when your reporter, Amy Chozik, wrote about the book of policies Clinton and Kaine put together, all Chozik described were book sales.

The 2016 election was a perfect case study: a serious, policy-wonk candidate who devoted time to talk with a wide-range of stakeholders and to put together serious proposals to address a wide range of problems vs a candidate whose “policy” was to say “you’re really going to like it, believe me” or to claim “cheaper better” health care with no further details.

The serious policy proposals were ignored, the candidate who proposed them rejected as a poor politician, because details are boring and slogans are catchy.

And, after such shallow campaign reporting, you complain that readers aren’t interested in long-form journalism. We did not want “fluff”–which is what we got (and polls)–what we wanted was long-form journalism. The Times’ campaign coverage was sound-bites, personalities, and polls, and, of course, emails. Do better next time.

13 Replies481 Recommended

Paul-A commented February 22
P
Paul-A
St. Lawrence, NYFeb. 22
Times Pick
While I don’t always agree with Stephens, he’s the most thoughtful of the conservative columnists at the NYTimes; and this piece demonstrates his insightfulness.

However, there’s an important issue that he glosses over in this column. He does note that Rightwing media like Fox, Limbaugh, Beck, the Hill, Breitbart, etc. stopped being “news” outlets a long time ago. But he’s implying that most media on the Left have been following suit, and are drifting almost as far over the edge. This is a false equivalence.

Does he really believe that even the most Lefty media (like MSNBC and Huffington Post) are becoming nearly as bad as Fox and Breitbart?

And he also fails to acknowledge the impact that time adds to the equation: Rightwing media became partisan propaganda 20+ years ago, and their brainwashing/poisoning of our political and journalism discourse has accumulated to be ingrained in 35% of our citizens. The Left’s drift leftward has only been a recent response, in order to try to save our country.

And he also omits discussion of putatively moderate/reasonable Rightwing media, such as the Wall Street Journal (where hs used to work). The WSJ is much more biased than the NYTimes, or even the Washington Post. Yet why didn’t he speak out against that drift when he wrote for them? Why didn’t he decry what Fox et al were doing to “conservative news” over the past decades?

Reasonable conservatives need to come to terms with their silent complicity in what has brought us here.

14 Replies347 Recommended

‘Hush Money’ Now Playing Everywhere – Gail Collins and Bret Stephens – NYT

“Speaking of which, I know we’re in agreement about the gun issue, and nearly everybody was moved by the marches over the weekend. But I still do wonder why the country was so totally mobilized by what happened in Florida when the response to previous disasters — for God’s sake, grade-school kids in Newtown — was so comparatively muted.

Do you think it was because these survivors are older and so articulate? Or that having Trump in the White House made everyone more sensitive to moral issues? I even wondered if it was because this time it happened in a political barometer-state like Florida.Bret: All of the above, I suspect. The Parkland students have spoken out to magnificent effect, something the Newtown children were simply too young to do for themselves.

I also get the sense that the pace of these atrocities has accelerated. Before Parkland it was the church shooting in Sutherland Springs. Before that, the concertgoers in Las Vegas. Before that, the shooting of Representative Steve Scalise at the baseball field near Washington. Maybe, at some level of the national psyche, we understood that we we’re coming dangerously close to accepting these atrocities as an accepted fact of life. Defining deviancy down for the sake of Wayne LaPierre’s N.R.A.? No, thank you.

Gail: Whenever I feel depressed I remind myself that the N.R.A. is having its worst year ever.Bret: One of the paradoxes of the Trump presidency is that it has galvanized the country in all sorts of positive ways. From Charlottesville to l’Affaire Stormy, he has brought to the surface all sorts of ugliness that is simply unignorable. For instance, do you think the #MeToo movement would have taken hold the way it did if he weren’t in the White House?

Gail: It’s a necessary stage in women’s progress — socially and economically — so we’d have gotten there anyway. But having the worst-possible male image in the White House probably propelled things forward faster.

I guess you could say he’s so bad he’s making us better.

David Lindsay: Yes. Here is one of many good comments:

R. Law is a trusted commenter Texas 2 hours ago
Gail, you say:

“But I still do wonder why the country was so totally mobilized by what happened in Florida when the response to previous disasters — for God’s sake, grade-school kids in Newtown — was so comparatively muted.”

Partly this was because Parkland had just been named the safest city in Florida, partly this was because the city is only a 1/2 hour drive from Mar-a-Loco (the southern asylum), but mostly, it’s because Broward County tax-payers support a school district that EDUCATES their kids – the schools require public speaking instruction from an early age and THIS year, the kids in high school were already debating gun control, as all aptly described by Dahlia Lithwick’s article:

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/02/the-student-activists-of-mar…

There’s really a wonderful story here of actual, comprehensive public education that deserves more focus, which raises standards in surrounding counties as it partly bleeds over into the way Miami-Dade’s schools are run by the superintendent that NYC unsuccessfully tried to lure as its Schools Chancellor.

Kudos to Broward County tax-payers, and to the educators who devised/implementedthe excellent curriculum to motivate future leaders to excel, producing such dynamic, well-spoken young leaders !”
195 Recommended

The Strange Impotence of the Republican Party – by Brett Stevens – NYT

“We are living in an era of party failure, especially on the right. The Trumpkins sacked the G.O.P. The Brexiters humiliated the Tories over Europe. Marine Le Pen’s fascists have supplanted the Gaullists as the face of the French right. Germany’s own nasty alt-right, the Alternative für Deutschland, humiliated Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats in last weekend’s election.

The high-toned explanation for these serial rebukes of the establishment by the base is that the former has failed to address the anxieties and disgruntlements of the latter: immigration and culture shocks; wage stagnation and the stresses of a globalized world.

But globalization, immigration and changing social mores have been with us for a long time without producing awful political outcomes. What’s new is the existence — and metastasis — of the fury factories of the right, from Fox News to Breitbart to Frontpage Mag.

Opinion journalism is meant to influence and inflame, and it does. Especially in an age in which civics is taught poorly (and, increasingly, rarely), people are politically suggestible. Bill O’Reilly is now the right’s historian, Mark Levin its go-to legal expert, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham its moral conscience. These are not ideas guys. They’re anger guys. Their specialty is the communication of rage to an audience prone to histrionics. It can feel awfully good to be awfully mad.”

“Should it be any wonder that a Republican Party with almost complete control of government has turned so fiercely on itself? Dominant parties often do that when they have little to fear politically from the nominal opposition party.Should it be any wonder, either, that in the intramural fights the Donald Trumps and Roy Moores of the party are winning? As in economics, so too in G.O.P. politics: Gresham’s law applies. Bad money drives out good. Bad Republicans drive out good ones. When nastiness sells, the worst rise. Political gerrymandering doesn’t help, but that’s a separate column.

The political paradox of 2017 is that a Republican Party that cannot seem to lose also cannot seem to govern. Anger is an excellent emotion for pushing ratings and winning elections and a terrible one for agreeing to compromises and crafting legislation. This won’t end as long as Trump is in the White House. Whether it won’t also be the end of the Republican Party as a functional institution is another question.”

From Investopedia.com:

What is the ‘Gresham’s Law’

Gresham’s law is a monetary principle stating that “bad money drives out good.” In currency valuation, Gresham’s Law states that if a new coin (“bad money”) is assigned the same face value as an older coin containing a higher amount of precious metal (“good money”), then the new coin will be used in circulation while the old coin will be hoarded and will disappear from circulation.

BREAKING DOWN ‘Gresham’s Law’

Coins were first made with gold, silver and other precious metals, which gave them their value. Over time, the amount of precious metals used to make the coin decreased because the metals were worth more on their own than when minted into the coin itself. If the value of the metal in the old coins was higher than the coin’s face value, people would melt the coins down and sell the metal. Similarly, if a low quality good is passed off as a high quality good, then the market will drive down prices because consumers won’t be able to determine the good’s real value.