Opinion | The Republican Irritation Olympics – By Gail Collins – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA, via Shutterstock

“So which Senate Republican do you find most irritating? Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell or Mitt Romney?

I know there are lots of other contenders, but let’s stick with the men of the moment — the three stars of the Supreme Court follies! All famous for keeping their word except when it involves, you know, something they really want.

All currently supporting Donald Trump’s plan to get a new Supreme Court justice in place before the election. That’s just a little over a month, and far less time than it would normally take Congress to modify the rules on mackerel importation.

Of course, they all found it totally, deeply unacceptable when Barack Obama nominated a Supreme Court justice during his last year in office. McConnell, in fact, hated the idea of a Democratic president nominating judges at all. He dragged his feet so successfully that when Trump entered the White House, McConnell was able to go into a legislative closet somewhere and gift him with 105 moldering judicial vacancies. Probably the greatest achievement of the Senate majority leader’s career. Nothing Mitch cares about more than keeping Democrats off the court benches.”

David Lindsay:  You go Gail.  Here is the top comment, and the reason I posted the piece above.

D Price
Wayne, NJ Sept. 23

Two of these three are up for re-election this year. I beg the good citizens of Kentucky to vote for Amy McGrath, and rid us all of Mitch McConnell — whose power is ridiculously out of proportion to the mere 806,787 votes that put him in office. And I likewise beg the good citizens of South Carolina to cast their ballots for Jaime Harrison. Lindsey can check himself into a clinic to have his principles re-oriented. Those of us who don’t live in either state might consider a cash contribution to the campaigns of these two challengers. It would be lovely if Gail never had to write about McConnell or Graham again.

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Opinion | Vote for Trump’s Worst! – By Gail Collins – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“OK, people, I know you’re feeling a little wan and helpless these days. Sure does seem like a long time until November.

So let’s take an early vote and pick Donald Trump’s Worst Cabinet Member. The competition is intense this year. Some days it feels as if everybody in the administration is trying to grab the grand prize. That they’re running around with a list in their pocket titled Things to Screw Up.

Vice President Mike Pence has been a faithful hanger-on from Day 1. He’s now doing double duty as Trump’s coronavirus czar. In which capacity he predicted on April 24 that the epidemic would be “behind us” by Memorial Day weekend.

Last season’s winnerAttorney General William Barr, certainly hasn’t been resting on his laurels. At a recent House Judiciary Committee hearing, he had to be prodded twice before acknowledging that presidential candidates aren’t supposed to accept foreign assistance. When asked if he agreed with Trump’s shocking suggestion that a president could move Election Day, Barr said, “I’ve never looked into it.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Gee Gail, this is a hard one to figure out. You didn’t offer the choice of — All of the Above. So I vote for Mike Pompeo as the worst cabinet member of the year.
I just re-read Tom Friedman’s excellent condemnation, which included: “Pompeo’s two most notable accomplishments as secretary of state are, metaphorically speaking, shooting two of his senior State Department officials in the back. One was the distinguished U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, whom Pompeo removed on the orders of Trump and Trump’s nut-job lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
The other was the department’s inspector general, Steve Linick, whom Pompeo got Trump to fire, reportedly because he was investigating — wait for it now — Pompeo’s own efforts to evade a congressional ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and for improperly asking a State Department employee to run errands for him and his wife. Hell, if that were me — if the first foreign-planned terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11 developed on my watch and if I had just gotten rid of the State Department inspector general without explanation — I’d also be trying to distract attention.
I mean, if it were me, I might even claim that China concocted the coronavirus in a lab in Wuhan. Wait — that’s what Pompeo did!”
DL:    He also oversaw our rapid retreat from northern Syria. We left our allies their to be butchered by the our enemies in the region, when just the presence of our troops kept them in place to fight for us. So I vote for Mike Pompeo.

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 | 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 | Searching for the Perfect Trump Antidote – By Gail Collins – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“Perhaps you think New Hampshire sent us a mixed message. After all, Bernie Sanders won but the moderates got more votes, and on Tuesday night three different candidates seemed to be giving victory speeches.

What does the Democratic rank-and-file really want? Well, the answer is: Ralph in Michigan.

Ralph is the symbol of all the people in swing states who went for Barack Obama and then turned Republican in 2016. Democrats want him back! They care way less about finding a candidate with the perfect health care plan than finding one who can rid the world of President Trump.

And who does Ralph want? Somebody who looks more reasonable than the current occupant of the White House? Well, that’s all the Democratic candidates. And pretty much every other elected official in recent memory.

OK, maybe not the senator who got arrested for lewd conduct in a men’s restroom. But even the congressman who used campaign donations to fly around his pet bunny can’t compare to a president who bills the government $650 a night for putting up the agents who have to provide security when he goes to Mar-a-Lago.”

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 | 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.

Opinion | Let’s Ditch Mitch – By Gail Collins – The New York Times

Gail Collins

By Gail Collins

Opinion Columnist

O.K., throwing this one at you without warning: What’s your opinion of Mitch McConnell?

A) Spawn of Satan.

B) Sort of pitiful, what with having Donald Trump on his back.

C) Can we talk about how he looks like a turtle?

Definitely not the last one. It’s true that many Americans think of McConnell as turtle-like, due to his lack of anything resembling a chin.

But this is wrong on two counts. First, you shouldn’t tackle people you disagree with by making fun of their looks.

Second, it gives turtles a bad name. Turtles are great for the environment and everybody likes them. They sing to their children. You are never going to see a turtle killing gun control legislation.

Mitch, on the other hand, has a longstanding alliance with the National Rifle Association, which has shown its affection to the tune of about $1.3 million in support. Anything the N.R.A. dislikes never gets the chance to come up for a Senate vote. Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act is moldering away in a corner because the N.R.A. doesn’t want authorities taking guns away from domestic abusers.

It’s been another terrible year of mass shooting violence. One simple, very popular response would be to improve the background checks for gun purchases. It would at least show our elected officials care about the crisis.

Such a bill passed the House of Representatives and went to the Senate where it’s, um, laying around somewhere. “There’s a whole bunch of Republican support, but he won’t let it move to the floor,” said minority leader Chuck Schumer.

This goes on a lot. McConnell, who has near total control over what comes up for a vote, sits on things he doesn’t like until they smother. Farewell, immigration reform, Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions, lowering prescription drug prices, protecting election security, restoring net neutrality.”

David Lindsay:  Thank you Gail Collins for a good piece. Also good comments. Here is one I found useful but daunting.

Denise
Louisville
Times Pick

I live in the same area of town as Mitch- the Highlands of Louisville, one of the most liberal neighborhoods in Kentucky. You can only imagine how painful it is to stand behind him at the local deli or in Kroger, knowing how responsible he is for this very real threat to our democracy. For all those who believe that removing him from power is simply a matter of telling Kentuckians that he hurts us more than helps us – oh how naive you are! His willingness to allow the movement against abortion rights to progress through his manipulation of the judicial system is enough for most KY voters to back him yet again. The real problem lies within the Senate. How is it that only the number of years one has served can give one man from such a small state as KY so much power? This debacle of McConnell reveals yet another weakness in our democracy. A man who can cater to singular interests of a small portion of society can retain his seat for decades. He doesn’t even acknowledge the letters, calls and emails those who disagree with him send. He doesn’t need us. His power is entrenched and Republicans at large know it. McConnell can be as deceitful, manipulative and hateful as they need because he faces no consequences. The system of designating power must change.

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David Lindsay: It is an irony that if we let the right overturn Roe V Wade, McConnell would probably lose his grip on the Kentucky electorate, and all the other great things McConnell is preventing could become the law of the land, or at least get a vote.
Are other option, is to make sure the Democrats take back the Senate, which removes McConnell from his leadership role.

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.””