Frank Bruni | Liz Cheney Will Not Tolerate Trump’s Lies – The New York Times

Contributing Opinion Writer

“I keep waiting for Liz Cheney to flinch.

I keep looking for some sign that her nerve is faltering, that the attacks are getting to her and that the loneliness of her situation — unconditionally contemptuous of Donald Trump, emphatically committed to a Republican Party beyond him — has become unbearable.

But no. She’s all in and she’s all steel. It could well be the political death of her. Or it could give her a kind of immortality more meaningful than any office.

Cheney, who represents Wyoming in the House, is front and center this week, with a starring role as the vice chair of the House committee whose investigation into the Jan. 6 riot has reached a dramatic culmination in prime-time television hearings. She’s one of just two Republicans on the nine-member panel.

But while the other, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, isn’t running for re-election, Cheney is in the middle of a furiously contested primary battle against a prominent Wyoming Republican official who has welded herself to Trump. Just two weeks ago, Trump traveled to the deep red state, which he won by more than 40 percentage points in 2020, to command his supporters to oust Cheney when they vote on Aug. 16. He said that she had “thrown in her lot with the radical left.”

Frank Bruni | Gov. Greg Abbott Has a Lot of Nerve – The New York Times

Contributing Opinion Writer

“National Rifle Association convention in Houston last weekend? You know the one that began just three days after an 18-year-old with an AR-15-style rifle slaughtered 19 children and two teachers in an elementary school less than 300 miles away?

Abbott canceled his scheduled appearance — but did speak to the gun-worshiping gathering remotely, with prerecorded remarks. This is known as hedging your bets. And this, in the Republican Party of 2022, is what passes for tact.

Ever since the Uvalde massacre, I’ve been watching Abbott and listening to him and looking for some small hint — for any evanescent glimmer — of misgiving about all that he has done on his watch and with his signature to glorify guns, to fetishize guns, to make sure that Texans can obtain guns easily and carry them proudly and be free, free, free!

But I can’t see it. He’s a portrait of his party’s pigheadedness. A poster boy for its intransigence.”

” . . . . He forfeited it (the right to be livid) when, less than two months ago, he cut more than $200 million from the Texas commission that oversees mental health services in the state, which, according to the 2022 State of Mental Health in America report, ranks fourth in the nation in terms of the prevalence of mental illness, but last in access to mental health care.

Unbowed by that distinction, Abbott spoke after the massacre about the importance of dealing with mental illness. Other Republican leaders spoke about arming teachers and essentially turning schools into fortresses — which, I’m sure, would be wonderfully conducive to learning.”

Frank Bruni | The Power of Lies in an Age of Political Fiction – The New York Times

“Imelda Marcos’s sandals lived better than I did.

I just discovered that. I was reacquainting myself with that whole sordid history — with the unfathomable extravagance that she and her dictator husband, Ferdinand, indulged in before they were run out of the Philippines in 1986 — and found an article on Medium that said that her hundreds upon hundreds of shoes occupied a closet of 1,500 square feet. That’s larger than the Manhattan apartment that I called home until last July. I should have been an espadrille.

She personified greed. Ferdinand, who ruled the Philippines for more than two decades, epitomized authoritarianism and kleptocracy. The couple pilfered an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion from the country. And now their son, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., better known as Bongbong, is poised to become its next president. In the election in the Philippines on Monday, he won in a landslide.

He and his supporters made that happen not by renouncing his parents’ legacy. They instead embraced it — or, rather, reimagined the Marcoses’ reign as some misunderstood and underappreciated Golden Age. They used social media to disseminate and amplify that gaudy lie. And the strategy worked.”

“. . . . .On Sunday morning I had the honor of delivering the commencement speech at my undergraduate alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The previous afternoon, I dropped by the stadium in which the event would take place so I could size up the lectern and the teleprompters. Given my compromised eyesight, I wanted to be sure that I could see the scrolling text and that the lectern’s surface was big enough to hold a printed copy of the speech, just in case.

It was a quick chore, tucked into a chaotic day, and I approached it in a businesslike fashion. But as I stood on the stage, gazing out at the seats and at various insignia evocative of my college years, I had to set my jaw and close my eyes to hold back tears. I was suddenly a dam on the verge of breaking. And I indeed broke, 10 minutes later, back in my car. That’s also when I understood the surge of emotion.

I was something of a mess in college. Not on the outside, and not by the usual yardsticks, which are crude ones: I got excellent grades. I wrote frequently for Carolina’s principal student newspaper and was one of its top editors for a while. I landed good summer internships. I was on a path.

But I was often terrified that it would lead nowhere. Or, rather, that I’d stumble badly before I got much further along. My insides were always roiling, and my brain was frequently on fire with doubts about my ability, worries about my stability and a puerile anger about the lack of any assurances in this life. How was I supposed to stay calm in the face of so much uncertainty? I didn’t stride, lope or sprint into my future. I tiptoed toward it, not trusting it for a second.

All of that came back to me in the empty stadium. I remembered it keenly. And when I put that state of mind next to where I was standing, and why I was standing there, and what that meant about how the years had in fact played out — well, I was overwhelmed. I felt foolish for having been such a pessimist. I felt ashamed about the narcissistic component of my dark self-obsession at the time.

But my tears, I soon realized, reflected something else: a mixture of profound gratitude and enormous relief. My nerve-frazzling future was now, three and a half decades later, my richly satisfying past. While there’d been rough patches in my journey from there to here, they’d proved survivable, and the disappointments had paled beside the delights. While I still wasn’t striding — that’s just not in my nature — I also wasn’t tiptoeing, nor was I trembling.

I didn’t share that, not in so many words, with the students I addressed on Sunday. I had different remarks prepared. (If you’re interested, you can read them here, on my website.) But to all the young people who are just finishing one chapter and beginning the next one, I would say:

The unpredictability of what happens next is no curse or taunt. It’s just life, ever maddening, ever mysterious. If you’re frightened, you’re not alone, and a shortfall of confidence is no harbinger of doom. Shoulders back. Chin forward.

You’ll be tripped up by unforeseen obstacles and setbacks. But you’ll also trip across unanticipated bounty and blessings. You’ll quite possibly find yourself someday in a place and role you never expected. You’ll be moved by that.

And you’ll realize that the journey to that point was all the more interesting for its refusal to be scripted, and for its absence of any firm guarantees.”

Frank Bruni | Losing My Eyesight Helped Me See More Clearly – The New York Times

“. . .  I stopped pouring. I stewed in frustration. I lived in suspense, willing my left eye to hang in there. And as it did, there was a blessed development that the doctors didn’t augur: Bit by bit, the people around me came into sharper focus, by which I mean that their fears, struggles and triumphs did.

The paradox of my own situation — I was outwardly unchanged but roiling inside — made me newly alert to a fundamental truth: There’s almost always a discrepancy between how people appear to us and what they’re actually experiencing; between their public gloss and private mess; between their tally of accomplishments — measured in money, rankings, ratings and awards — and a hidden, more consequential accounting. I’d long known that. We all do. But I’m not sure how keenly we register it, how steadily we remember it.”

Frank Bruni | How the Capitol Riot Led to a Broken America – The New York Times

” “Things feel broken.”

Those weren’t the first three words in a recent article in The Times by Sarah Lyall about our pandemic-frazzled nerves. They weren’t the fanciest. But they seemed to me the truest — or, rather, the truth of our moment distilled to its essence. This country isn’t working, not the way it’s supposed to.

Oh, it’s functioning, with a mammoth economy (which distributes wealth much too unevenly), an intricate transportation network (about to improve, thanks to infrastructure legislation) and the historically swift and heroically expansive delivery of vaccines to Americans rooted firmly enough in truth to accept them.

But in terms of our democratic ideals? Our stated values? Our basic contentment?

We’re a mess, and the pandemic mainly exposed and accelerated an ugliness already there. Would the violence at the U.S. Capitol a year ago today have happened in the absence of Covid closures and fears? Maybe not then. But we were headed there before the first cough.

The anniversary of the Jan. 6 rioting has rightly focused attention on the intensifying efforts to undermine our democracy, but it should also prompt us to contemplate the degradation of the country’s civic spirit and the foulness of its mood.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Bruni, you are still great, but you are so anthropocentric.
(There might be an issue larger than how we feel about ourselves and our democracy.)
From my song, Talking Climate Change Blues, “The folks a BusinessWeek saw the damage was horrid, They put on their cover, its climate change stupid. All around the world, the oceans are rising, while the coral reefs are slowly dying, Wake up my friends, the Scientist cry, World temperature is rising and its no lie.”

Opinion | Frank Bruni: A Final Column on What it Means to Be a Columnist – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

This is the last of Frank Bruni’s regular Opinion columns, but his popular weekly newsletter will live on. To keep up with his political analysis, cultural commentary and personal reflections, sign up here.

“I owe Ted Cruz an apology.

Though, really, it’s readers to whom I should say I’m sorry.

One day in 2015 when I had a column due in hours and couldn’t settle on a topic, I took the easy route of unloading on Cruz, who was one of many unappealing contenders for the Republican presidential nomination. He was fair game for rebuke, no question there. But did I illuminate his dark character, enlighten my readers or advance any worthwhile cause by comparing him — repeatedly — to the unstoppable entity in the horror movie “It Follows”?

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No. I just swam with the snide tide.

I did that too often. Many columnists do.

Starting, well, now, I’m a columnist no more. I’ve taken a job in academia and will split my time between teaching and writing. Maybe that’s best: Ten years is a long haul in any assignment, and while this one has been amply challenging and deeply rewarding, I always had misgivings.

I worried, and continue to worry, about the degree to which I and other journalists — opinion writers, especially — have contributed to the dynamics we decry: the toxic tenor of American discourse, the furious pitch of American politics, the volume and vitriol of it all.

I worry, too, about how frequently we shove ambivalence and ambiguity aside. Ambivalence and ambiguity aren’t necessarily signs of weakness or sins of indecision. They can be apt responses to events that we don’t yet understand, with outcomes that we can’t predict.”

Frank Bruni | Is the Burger Nearing Extinction? – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

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Credit…Ben Wiseman

“I liked my patties thin and then I liked them thick. There was the Cheddar period, followed by the Roquefort interregnum. Sesame-seed buns gave way to English muffins as ketchup traded places with special sauce or even, God help me, guacamole, which really was overkill.

But no matter its cradle or condiment, the hamburger was with me for the long haul — I was sure of that.

Until now.

A few days ago I tripped across news that McDonald’s was testing a vegetable-based patty, coming soon to a griddle near you. The McPlant burger, they’re calling it — a McOxymoron if ever I’ve heard one. And McDonald’s is late to the game. Burger King has been selling a meatless Impossible Whopper since 2019. Dunkin’ has been serving a Beyond Sausage Breakfast Sandwich for nearly as long.

Meanwhile, Bill Gates has been telling anyone who will sit still long enough to listen about his investment in a “pretty amazing” start-up that uses a protean protein made from an especially hardy fungus for meatless patties, meatless balls and vegan versions of various dairy products. Over the past weeks, he has plugged it on my Times colleague Kara Swisher’s “Sway” podcast and in Rolling Stone.” . . .

Frank Bruni | Trump’s Republicans, Brought to Their Knees – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Ben Wiseman

“During the first of the three presidential impeachments in my lifetime, we contemplated the smudging of a blue dress. During the second, the smearing of a political rival.

During this one, which ended with Donald Trump’s predictable but infuriating acquittal? The shrieking of a police officer as a mob crushed and bloodied him. It was rawer and uglier. So is America.

But I keep thinking about the late 1990s, Bill Clinton, that whole melodrama and how Republicans used it in the service of a particular identity for their party. I keep thinking about what a lie that identity was then and what an absolute joke it is now.

Republicans sought to define themselves as the caretakers of tradition, the guardians of propriety, the proudly old-fashioned champions of honor, order, patriotism and such. Clinton’s background, especially the accusations of infidelity, helped them do that. They turned him into a symbol of America’s turpitude. They reasoned that the more thoroughly they demonized him (and Hillary), the more persuasively they sanctified themselves.

He was lies and they were truth. He was lust and they were modesty.

Monica Lewinsky dropped into that crusade like a gift from the gods. What you saw on the faces of many Republicans as they discussed Clinton’s dalliance with her wasn’t indignation. It was glee, and it fueled the charade that men like Newt Gingrich — who was then the House speaker and was cheating on his second wife with the much younger woman who would become his third — were the bulwarks against moral chaos.

Chaos. That’s precisely what Donald Trump wrought. Not metaphoric chaos, but actual chaos, deadly chaos, on grueling, gutting display in the footage of Jan. 6 that House Democrats presented at his Senate trial. It showed rioters coming for lawmakers like lions for lambs. (“Hang Mike Pence!” “Naaaaaancy, where are you?!?”) It showed lawmakers fleeing for their lives. It showed stampeding, smashing, stomping, screeching.

It showed hell, or something close enough that when all but seven Republican senators shrugged it off so that they could vote to acquit Trump, they finally forfeited any claim to virtue or to “values,” a word that had long been their mantra. They irrevocably lost all rights to lecture voters on such things. They affirmed that they, like Gingrich, were gaseous with hot air all along.

They’re fine with hell, so long as they’re re-elected.” . . . .

Frank Bruni | When You Don’t Have Trump to Hide Behind – The New York Times

“In case you hadn’t noticed, the Lincoln Project — an organization as pointedly anti-Trump as any other, its rise and political relevance symbiotically tied to his — is unraveling.

It’s unraveling because one of its founders, John Weaver, was using his position to proposition young men. It’s unraveling because peers of his in the organization apparently sat on complaints about that, too pumped up by their currency as Trump slayers to let accusations against Weaver impede their mission and kill their buzz.

It’s unraveling because it can no longer hide what a financial boondoggle it was for some of its central players, who spoke of principle while lining their pockets. Yes, they made dynamite ads and an eloquent case about Trump’s betrayal of America. Their firms also made money from the hero status that they were accorded by Trump haters the world over.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Frank Bruni for this thoughtful, disturbing column. I was huge fan of of the Lincoln Party, but refused to support them financially, without more information. I reposted their brilliant ads, but surprisingly, there weren’t very many. Apparently my instincts not to send money were OK, but the real reason was that I was tapped out giving to Biden and DSCC et cetera, and many contributions to Individual candidates running to turn the senate blue. But many of the comments here say that the Lincoln Project made a major difference in the outcome of the races. Did they. Please, somebody research and help up all understand, how important were these petty crooks at bringing down Trump and other Trumpsters. We need more information, to safely and correctly figure out the place the Lincoln Project deserves in the last election, which was successful in ridding us of Drumpf the con artist, and liar in chief. The seditionist who impowered Putin, and betrayed our allies the Kurds and rebels of northern Syria. Maybe the Lincoln Project folks deserve all the accolades I just read through in the comments here after Frank Bruni’s thoughtful piece. Maybe they don’t.
David Lindsay Jr is the author of the Tay Son Rebellion about 18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net.

Frank Bruni | Can  Make American Politics Decent Again? – The New York Times

“I think it’s very hard to get back to the way things were,” said Mitt Romney of Utah, the only Senate Republican who voted to convict President Trump at the end of his impeachment trial. We spoke the day after the electors in the Electoral College formalized Biden’s victory.

One of the obstacles, Romney said, is a media environment in which different Americans now consume entirely different facts. “If you have 70 percent of Republicans thinking that Biden stole the election, that’s a hard hole to dig out of,” he said.

But if any president can make headway in this era of gall and grievance, it’s Biden. He was elected to soothe rather than stir, plod rather than strut, and by all appearances so far, he understands that.

Just look at his preternatural reticence in the face of Trump’s and other Republicans’ postelection provocations. Across much of November and December, reporters sought from Biden some howl of anguish, some fiery denunciation, and got oratorical oatmeal instead. He murmured metronomically that Republicans would eventually come around. It was unsatisfying but right. What would be accomplished by screaming the opposite?

Even when he finally took Trump and his Republican enablers to task in a speech on Dec. 14, he did so with an appeal for unity and a renewed pledge to work as hard for the Americans who hadn’t voted for him as for the Americans who had. His recriminations were measured and sandwiched between feel-good reflections on democracy.

Three days later, when he and Jill Biden were interviewed by Stephen Colbert, he remained impossibly placid and insistently positive as Colbert wondered about the ferocity with which Republicans were going after Biden’s son, Hunter. “It is what it is,” Biden said, assuring Colbert that no matter how unfair or overzealous Republicans’ effort, he would always try to work with them when Americans’ welfare was in the balance.