Opinion | Wish a President Well Who Doesn’t Wish You Well – By Bret Stephens – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

” “Any mans death diminishes me,” wrote John Donne, “because I am involved in Mankinde.” With that thought, let us all wish Donald Trump a full and speedy recovery from his bout of Covid-19.

We wish him well because, even, or especially, in our hyperpolitical age, some things must be beyond politics. When everything is political, nothing is sacred — starting with human life. It’s a point the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century understood well.

We wish him well because the sudden death of any president is a traumatic national event that will inevitably animate every crackpot in the country. If the term “grassy knoll” still means something in America, just imagine the reaction in the QAnon world if Trump’s condition were to abruptly deteriorate after his stay at Walter Reed.

We wish him well because of Mike Pence.

We wish him well because, even as he tweets “Don’t be afraid of Covid,” he could still serve as a living witness to the fact that if you stick a lot of maskless people close together you are likely to spread the virus, as it has to more than a dozen people, and counting, in his circle. Courage, says Aristotle, is the mean between rashness and cowardice. Trump may still be rash, but his followers don’t need to be.”

Opinion | The Doom Where It Happened – by Bret Stephens – The New York Times

“. . . . It took cynicism to work for a president whose character he disdained and whose worldview he opposed. It took gullibility to think he could blunt or influence either. It took cynicism to observe the president commit multiple potentially impeachable offenses and then sit out impeachment on the pathetic excuse that Democrats were going about it the wrong way and that his testimony would have made no meaningful difference. It took gullibility to assume his book would have any effect on Trump’s re-election prospects now. It took cynicism to reap profits thanks to a president he betrayed and a nation he let down. It took gullibility to imagine he’d be applauded as a courageous truth-teller when his motives are so nakedly vindictive and mercenary.

Above all, it took astonishing foolishness for Bolton to imagine that his book would advance the thing he claims to care about most — a hawkish vision of U.S. foreign policy. That vision will now be forever tarred by its association with him, a man considered a lunatic by most liberals and a Judas by many conservatives.

I write all this as someone who shares many of Bolton’s hawkish foreign-policy views. I’m also someone who urged Bolton, while he was still in office, to resign on principle. It’s a shame he didn’t do so while he still had a chance to preserve his honor, but it isn’t a surprise. Only the truly gullible can act totally cynically and imagine they can escape history’s damning verdict.”

Seth Bates, I enoyed what you wrote earlier about Bolten, and I do hope you find the time to read this. Even though Stephens and I often have very different policy views, I second his opinion of Bolton, who he describes as a pathetic opportunist. I am disgusted by Bolten’s position that Trump as president is a menace to the United States, but that he, as a pure hard-liner hawk, would never vote for Joe Biden. Bolten implicates himself in the mud slung by his accusers.

Opinion | Donald Trump, Unmasked – By Gail Collins and Bret Stephens – The New York Times

“Gail: The most working-class part of Trump’s bio was the time his father made him go around and collect the rent.

Bret: I don’t expect the Biden team to listen to my advice, and I’m not even sure I’d endorse every bit of this in a fantasy Stephens presidency. But the chief parts of the MAMA agenda (“Make America Make Again,”) would include an unprecedented infrastructure plan, worth at least a couple of trillion dollars. A “Made Here”-approach to the supply chain through some combination of insourcing requirements and tax breaks.

Gail: So far we are in accord.

Bret: Steady levels of defense spending, not only to deter foreign adventurism and keep our troops in uniform, but to maintain an important part of our industrial base.

Gail: Never bought into the idea that the best way to help our economy was by juicing up the international arms race.

Bret: A Recovery Authority that makes it quick and simple for businesses to get access to capital, restructure their debts and cut through red tape that is often time-consuming, complex and expensive, especially for small businesses. A National Service option to give younger people locked out of the job market a way to keep busy, make a basic income and contribute to society. Comprehensive immigration reform to give undocumented people a path to citizenship and bring them into the regular economy.

Gail: Looking forward to those things happening so we can argue about the details. But in general I’m with you.

Bret: I know you’re going to say “public option” for health insurance. In normal times I would never endorse it. But if we end up with Depression-era levels of unemployment, even I may warm to some version of the idea.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Wonderfkul conversation, thank you both Gail and Bret. Towards the end you said:
“Gail: Part of it goes back to that mask-wearing. Every time I walk outside I see my neighbors working together, accepting some discomfort for the common good. And almost everyone I talk with — or Zoom with — is thinking about great things to do as soon as we turn a corner.
Bret: Agreed. I hope people are going to find opportunities for self-reinvention, not just in terms of their working life but in the things they value in themselves and others, and in the values they hold dear. For instance, I’m sure many of our readers might gladly envision me stocking shelves at a big-box store, or shrimp fishing like Forrest Gump.”
David Lindsay: This got me excited. What would George Plimton do? If I were younger, and not at risk for being over 65, I would sign up to go get trained to work in a meat packing factory, so that I could describe for the reading public what that environment is like, and what the workers have to put up with, for what appears to be almost minimun wage. Bret, you are young enough, why don’t you try being a meat packer for a month or two! You would have such interesting things to write about!
David blogs at InconvenientNews.net, and is the author of The Tay Son Rebellion about 18th century Vietnam.

Opinion | Trump’s Coronavirus Emergency – By Bret Stephens – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Nemesis, 1501–2, by Albrecht Dürer.

“The word “nemesis” is too often misused. We tend to think of it as meaning a powerful, nefarious, but ultimately conquerable enemy: Vader; Voldemort; the Wicked Witch of the West. But the original Nemesis was not a villain. She was a goddess — an implacable agent of justice who gives the arrogant, insolent and wicked what they deserve.

As a matter of public health, nobody should ever suggest that the novel coronavirus represents any form of justice, divine or otherwise. It’s a virus that must be stopped.

As a matter of politics, however, it’s hard to think of a mechanism so uniquely well-suited for exposing the hubris, ignorance, prejudice, mendacity and catastrophic self-regard of the president who is supposed to lead us through this crisis.

A few points to mention.

Alternative facts. In recent days, conservative pundits appear to have been scandalized by the suggestion that the coronavirus is Donald Trump’s Chernobyl. They miss the point, which is not that the virus is a nuclear furnace. It’s that the same absence of trust that pervaded the relationship between the Soviet regime and its people also pervades the relationship between much of America and its president.

A leader who cannot be believed will not be followed, even, or especially, in periods of emergency. If Trump’s supporters now wonder why Americans won’t rally around the president as they did around George W. Bush after 9/11, there’s the answer.”

Opinion | Joe Biden Is No Longer Toast – Collins and Stephens – The New York Times

Gail Collins: Hey Bret, how are you feeling? I’ve never had so many people politely inquire about my health, with a slight undertone of suspicion.

Seems like all anybody’s talking about is the coronavirus. What’s your take? Are we overreacting? Underreacting? Or doesn’t it matter since the end is imminent?

Bret Stephens: Fine so far, Gail, and thanks for asking, though I’m worried about my elderly relatives and friends. This is one of those topics where those of us in the punditocracy really need to listen closely to epidemiologists, virologists and other experts in the field, and pretty much adopt their views as our own. In other words, let’s not follow the Rush Limbaugh model and just mouth off on the hunch that it won’t amount to much and the prejudice that it’s a tool to bring down Donald Trump.

On a level of ordinary social observation, I have to say this is starting to have an end-times feeling to it. I walked into a Duane Reade pharmacy the other day and entire shelves had been emptied, as if I were in a Soviet grocery store. At another pharmacy, on Lexington Avenue, a midsize bottle of Purell was being sold behind the counter for $50, which almost turned me into a raging Sandersnista. I was supposed to have been traveling abroad last week, but that trip was canceled, as was a forthcoming conference in Georgia.”

Opinion | Trump’s Whisper Network – by Bret Stephens – The New York Times

“And a new version of the Miranda warning seems to apply across all media, social and traditional: Anything you say, or have ever said, in context or out, deliberately or by misspeaking, can and will be held against you.

Which brings me to what is perhaps the biggest whisper network of all: the one involving inner flashes of sympathy, frequently tipping into support at the ballot box, for President Trump.

Plenty of people are aware of this phenomenon: One recent academic study noted that so-called secret voters supported Trump over Hillary Clinton by a two-to-one (54 percent to 27 percent) margin in 2016. That statistic should be every bit as alarming to Democrats this time around, not least because it suggests that polls may be dramatically underweighting the scale of Trump’s support.

Yet beyond the question of why people might want to conceal their voting preferences — reputation management, social harmony, and so on — it’s worth asking whether the very fact that a vote for Trump was supposed to be shameful is also what made it so attractive. After all, forbidden fruit is appealing not because it is fruit, but because it is forbidden. For every voter who pulled the lever for Trump out of sympathy for his views, how many others did so out of disdain for the army of snickering moralists (at the time including me) telling them that a vote for Trump was unpardonable?

My hunch: probably enough to make the difference in the states that made the difference.”

Opinion | The Odd Couples of the Democratic Party – Bret and Gail, at The New York Times

“Bret: Rest assured that no matter what happens this year, the Knicks will embarrass us. The key for Democrats isn’t so much to take a position on Suleimani as it is to convey a sense of sobriety when it comes to questions of peace and war.

Gail: Well, that’s certainly fair. And not too tough. If you look at the contenders, they’re not exactly a bunch of what-the-heck-let’s-party people.

Bret: If I wanted the Democratic nomination (I don’t!), or were a Democrat (I’m not!), I’d say something along these lines: “Suleimani killed Americans, and on my watch anyone who kills Americans is a dead man walking. Period. But the goal of saving American lives requires prudence and vision, not bravado, impulse and political calculation. As president, I will oppose Iran’s dangerous behavior at every turn, whether against us or our allies. But I’m not going to hazard our position in the region, or risk a reckless war, or ruin the chances for a negotiated nuclear deal, just to kill one evil but easily replaceable man. And, unlike Trump, I’m going to listen closely to my soldiers and diplomats before I go around signing kill orders just because I like feeling tough.”

Gail: I would definitely vote for you, if you’d just consider embracing “Medicare for all” and a tax hike for the wealthy.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Lovely column, makes for pleasant reading. The best part for me was when Bret pointed out that killing Suliemani wasn’t as important as returning to the Iran Nuclear deal that Trump pulled out of, and which caused the Iranians to start shooting at us again. From the Iranian government point of view, the US is the biggest terrorist in the middle east.
My current choice for the Democrats is Biden/Buttigieg. These are all excellent people, miles above Drumpf the con, but all these musing will need to be reassessed by new swing state polling. Warren/Klobushar would be a fantastic ticket, if we could do away with the electoral college before the next election.
David blogs at InconvenientNews.net

Opinion | What Will It Take to Beat Donald Trump? – By Bret Stephens – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

President Trump at a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Mich., on the night he was impeached by the House of Representatives.
Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both campaigned for, and won, the White House on the watchword “hope.” What watchword will it take for a Democrat to win this time?

My suggestion: soap.

Nearly three years into Donald Trump’s presidency, America needs a hard scrub and a deep cleanse. It needs to wash out the grime and grease of an administration that every day does something to make the country feel soiled.

Soiled by a president who, Castro-like, delivered a two-hour rant at a rally in Michigan the night he was impeached. Who described his shakedown of Ukraine as “perfect.” Who extolled the world’s cruelest tyrant as someone who “wrote me beautiful letters. … We fell in love.” Who abandoned vulnerable allies in Syria, then opted to maintain troops in the country “only for oil.” Who, barely a year before the El Paso massacre, demonized illegal immigrants who “pour into and infest our Country.”

The list goes on, and most everyone feels it. In June, the Pew Research Center published a survey on how the country sees the state of public discourse. The most striking finding: “A 59 percent majority of Republicans and Republican leaners say they often or sometimes feel concerned by what Trump says. About half also say they are at least sometimes embarrassed (53 percent) and confused (47 percent) by Trump’s statements.”

Opinion | Can Any of the Democratic Candidates Save the Party From Itself? – The New York Times

By Gail Collins and 

Ms. Collins and Mr. Stephens are opinion columnists. They converse every other week.

Credit…Getty Images

Gail Collins: Bret, how do you feel about billionaires? Not personally — I’m sure some of your best friends are billionaires — but as presidential candidates. Ever since Michael Bloomberg started running, there’s been a lot of complaining about rich guys trying to buy the race. Does that worry you, or do you find people like Bloomberg and Tom Steyer to be, um, valuable additions?

Bret Stephens: I guess it depends on who the billionaires are, how they made their money, and what they’ve done with it. There’s a world of difference between someone like Mike Bloomberg — who came from relatively humble beginnings, made his fortune honestly, ran his businesses capably, devoted a significant amount of his life to public service and then gave billions away to great causes — and someone like Donald Trump, who did none of those things.

What about you?

Gail: Thank you for throwing in an attack on President Trump. Really, is there any topic that doesn’t offer some opportunity to snipe at our commander in chief? I notice he’s blaming energy-efficient light bulbs for his orange skin tone.

Bret: They use energy-efficient light bulbs on tanning beds now?

Gail: I’ll bet we could talk about the presidential complexion all day and the readers would be extremely happy to chime in and keep it going for another week. But of course we’re above that.

Bret: We are?

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Pending Approval
Draft 2
Fellow commentators! You don’t have to agree with Bret Stevens, but you do have to listen to his advice. His conservative views are closer to the views of the majority in the crucial swing states than the views of us progressives on either coast. We don’t need more votes in New York or California, we need the six crucial swing states that gave Trump the electoral college. Wake up. Look at the polls. Every conservative in Connecticut I have interviewed, has said that they will not support or vote for Sanders or Warren. Either one of these fine progressives will crush Trump in the popular vote, but deliver to him the presidency, that is what people like Bret Stevens are trying to warn you to be aware of. We have to take the White House, to put the war on climate change on hyper drive and rebuild the middle class. The sure way for Pete Buttigieg to win the support of the black community, is to support the candicacy of their favorite candidate, Joe Biden, and try to become his vice president. (David blogs at InconvenientNews.net.)

Opinion | Elizabeth Warren Divides the Room – By Gail Collins and Bret Stephens – The New York Times

By Gail Collins and 

Ms. Collins and Mr. Stephens are opinion columnists. They converse every other week.

ImageElizabeth Warren is one of 12 candidates who will be participating in Tuesday’s Democratic debate.
CreditCreditKyle Grillot for The New York Times

Gail Collins: Bret, where should we start? Democratic debate? Impeachment? Mideast crisis? Rudy Giuliani? Actually, as a New Yorker I always figured that someday Rudy would do something even more outrageous than the time he called a news conference to announce he was separating from his wife before he told said spouse. But I did not imagine it would include sleazy Ukrainians and Joe Biden’s son.

But hey, it’s debate day. Let’s start with the Democrats. Who do you like tonight?

Bret Stephens: Well, if you don’t mind, I’d like to start with a certain Gail Collins, whose extraordinary history of older women in America, “No Stopping Us Now,” hits bookstores this week. Congratulations!

Gail: Thanks! You’ve made my day.

Bret: O.K. Now to the doleful stuff.

I know we don’t often discuss foreign affairs, but I feel sick about the way in which President Trump has betrayed our Kurdish allies. They lost thousands of soldiers to defeat the Islamic State, which made it possible to keep American casualties to a minimum in that fight. And now we’ve sold them out to a Turkish strongman who takes Americans hostage, locks up his political opponents by the thousands, makes common cause with Hamas, mutters anti-Semitic garbage, blackmails Europe, attempts to steal elections and builds a gigantic palace for himself.

It’s one of the lowest moments in American foreign policy. Which is to say, just another day in Trumpworld.