Gail and Bret | Trump Isn’t Out the Door Yet – The New York Times

Gail Collins and 

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

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“Bret Stephens: Gail, given what’s happened in the past two weeks, Martin Luther King Jr. Day feels particularly meaningful this year. It seems as if the country is just holding its breath, waiting for the next Capitol Hill mob to descend, somewhere, somehow, on something or someone.

Is this 1968 all over again, or do you feel any sense of optimism?

Gail: Well Bret, I was actually around in 1968 — politically speaking.

Bret: Ah, but do you actually remember it?

Gail: There were certainly a lot of … distractions, what with a cultural revolution around every corner. And a terrible string of assassinations — after King, I can remember when Robert Kennedy was killed in June, feeling like nobody was safe from crazy people and right-wing racists.

Bret: Now it’s like déjà vu all over again. Donald Trump spent five years stoking the paranoia and loathing of his crowds, and now it has been unleashed. We’ll be living with it for years.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Bravo to both of you. Bret, sorry to hear you write:” I also have my doubts about some of Biden’s other ideas, like raising the minimum wage to $15, since a lot of the hardest hit businesses — restaurants in particular — will struggle with the extra labor costs.” I read in this prestigious newspaper, that economists in Europe point out that fast food workers all get $23 in the Netherlands, and it only adds about 30 cents to the cost of meal. Didn’t you study the velocity of money in economics?Oh, you skipped economics. The high minimum wage in European counties is part of why they are statistically happier, healthier, and safer than Americans today.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews.net. He also has an MBA from the Foster School of Business, University of Washington

Bret Stephens | Only Impeachment Can Save Republicans – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

If there’s one thing Republicans in Congress ought to consider as they weigh the merits of impeaching Donald Trump, it’s the story of the president’s relationship with Mike Pence.

In December 2015, then-Governor Pence tweeted, “Calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. are offensive and unconstitutional.” In April 2016, Tim Alberta reported that Pence “loathes Trump, according to longtime friends.” In July of the same year, Republican strategist Dan Senor tweeted, “It’s disorienting to have had commiserated w/someone re: Trump — about how he was unacceptable, & then to see that someone become Trump’s VP.”

You know what came next. Pence turned himself into the most unfailingly servile sidekick in vice-presidential history. He delivered the evangelical vote to Trump. He stood by the president at every low point, from the “Access Hollywood” tape to Charlottesville, Va., to Helsinki to the Ukraine call. He indulged Trump’s fantasies about a stolen election.

He betrayed his principles. He abased himself. Then Trump insisted that he steal the election. When Pence refused — he had no legal choice — Trump stirred the mob to go after him.

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Bret Stephens. It is not often that you go to Mitch McConnel for support. “The philosophical case is clear. Senator Mitch McConnell was eloquent and right: “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral. We’d never see the whole nation accept an election again. Every four years would be a scramble for power at any cost.” ” I have to disagree with the comment by Socrates. The GOP is not finished, and unfixable. I hope and support that the good citizens of the Lincoln Project do start a third party, which I suggest they call, The Party of Lincoln. If they run against Trumpster Republicans in two and four years, the Trumpsters could all be removed from office, replaced mostly by Democrats. Then, the Lincoln Project conservatives will be able to take back over the the defeated GOP if they want that brand for their own. I am of the same mind as others, like Thomas Friedman, who has written eloquently that our democracy needs at least two healthy, robust parties, to represent the democratic, moral and economic principles of both the left and the right, and hopefully both more centrist than the wing nut radicals of either.

Opinion | Thank You, Justice Gorsuch – By Bret Stephens – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Spencer Platt/Getty Images

“It may take a terrorist attack, a war or some other national emergency, but America will one day thank Justice Neil Gorsuch for his stirring words last week in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo. “Government,” he wrote in a concurrence to the 5-4 majority opinion, “is not free to disregard the First Amendment in times of crisis.”

The case arises from restrictions Andrew Cuomo imposed by executive order in October that sharply limit attendance at houses of worship in zones designated by the New York governor as pandemic hot spots. In so-called orange zones, attendance is capped at 25 people; in red zones, at 10. That goes for churches and synagogues that can seat hundreds and that were already limiting attendance, barring singing, practicing social distancing and taking other precautions.

The Catholic diocese, along with Agudath Israel of America and affiliated entities, sued, arguing the restrictions amounted to religious discrimination. The crux of the matter was that businesses in orange and red zones, ranging from liquor stores to bike shops to acupuncturists, were subject to no such restrictions because the governor had deemed them “essential.”

“So, at least according to the governor, it may be unsafe to go to church, but it is always fine to pick up another bottle of wine, shop for a new bike or spend the afternoon exploring your distal points and meridians,” Gorsuch wrote. “Who knew public health would so perfectly align with secular convenience?” “

Opinion | Trump Contrives His Stab-in-the-Back Myth – By Bret Stephens – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

“The word Dolchstosslegende is hard to pronounce but important to understand. It translates as “stab-in-the-back myth” and was a key element in the revival of German militarism in the Weimar years. Even modestly educated Germans know exactly what it denotes and the evil it entails.

Donald Trump and his legal team are now contriving their own Dolchstosslegende.

That’s true even as Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the election seems to descend from fantasy to farce. The main point of the exercise is no longer (if it ever seriously was) to find a judge, governor or other pliable instrument to deny Joe Biden the presidency. It is to deny the legitimacy of the Biden presidency, of the electoral system that gave him the office and of the federal and judicial systems that turned Trump’s legal challenges aside.

The point of the farce is farce. It is to make an obscene joke of the Biden administration and our constitutional system of government.

This was also the point of the Dolchstosslegende, which claimed that the German Army, though in retreat in the fall of 1918, could have kept up the fight had it not been betrayed by defeatist and scheming politicians who agreed to an armistice that November.”

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.”