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.

Opinion | The Deep State Is on a Roll – By Frank Bruni – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images

“President Trump was right about the “deep state” — sort of. There exist, in government, people and forces rigged to foil disruption.

But the deep state isn’t, as he suggested, a reflexive defense of a corrupt status quo. It’s a righteous defense against the corruption of democracy, which he continues to attempt.

And that defense is holding. Three cheers for the deep state, which has been on a roll these past three weeks.

I’m thinking of Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, who supervises its elections. He refused to cry foul and fraud just because others in his party couldn’t abide Joe Biden’s victory in a state that hadn’t gone to a Democrat in a presidential election for nearly three decades.

“People are just going to have to accept the results,” he told The Washington Post. “I’m a Republican. I believe in fair and secure elections.” He ordered a recount, but as President Trump, the two U.S. senators from Georgia and plenty of others on the right pilloried him, he stuck to his assurance that a fair and secure election was precisely what Georgians had participated in and what had delivered the state’s electoral votes to Biden.

He was bolstered on Tuesday by another top-ranking Georgia official, another Republican not about to let the republic go to hell. Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, scolded and shamed Trump at a news conference at the state Capitol, warning the president that his unwarranted smearing of the balloting in Georgia was “inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence” and that “someone is going to get killed.”

“It has to stop,” he said. That was the deep state speaking, and its words were gold.

Raffensperger and Sterling are hardly the only Republican election officials who have refused to buy into Trump’s conspiracy theories. They have restored some of the faith and hope in me that the past four years eroded.

So have Lee Chatfield, the Republican speaker of Michigan’s House of Representatives, and Mike Shirkey, the Republican majority leader of Michigan’s Senate, who took that scary trip to the White House almost two weeks ago and then took a pass on propping up Trump.

“We have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan and, as legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors,” they said in a joint statement immediately following their meeting with the president. Follow the normal process. Such milquetoast verbiage, and such a titanic reassurance.”

Opinion | Kamala Harris’s Undertold, Undersold Story – By Frank Bruni – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Ben Wiseman

“When I saw on Wednesday morning that Kamala Harris had released a short video marking and celebrating her selection as Joe Biden’s running mate, I clicked — eagerly and instantly. I wanted to continue riding my wave of excitement about all the firsts: first woman of color on a major party’s presidential ticket, first Black woman specifically, first Asian-American.

By the time I finished the video, that wave had crashed.

OK, that’s an overstatement. But as I listened to her flat, desultory recitation of her biography and philosophy, I did feel a sense of frustration, and it was familiar. I’d wrestled with the same letdown during the Democratic primary, when the experience of Harris didn’t live up to the idea of Harris. She often skipped or skimmed over facets of her background that she would have benefited from dwelling on. She frequently zoomed past the poetry to the prose, more a steely lawyer rattling off lists than a soulful leader serving up inspiration.

Harris the prosecutor can find the holes in your argument and make you tremble. But can Harris the history-making vice-presidential candidate find the cracks in your heart and make you cry?

That’s certainly not a requirement — most politicians not named Barack Obama fail to do that — and I’m not complaining per se. As I wrote when the news broke, her presence on the Democratic ticket makes total sense in terms of the experience that she possesses, the values that she represents and the contrast that she helps Biden draw between his politics of inclusion and Donald Trump’s politics of division.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Maybe the chorus is right. Frank Bruni is guilty of mansplaining to a new national female talent. So I went back and reread some of his piece. I do not dispute his main point: “I’m articulating a wish, one that’s tied to my belief that a decent future for this country hinges on an end to Trump’s presidency and my concern that Biden and Harris use every arrow in their quivers to defeat him. I’m venting a worry that Harris doesn’t fully use one of her arrows. She did poorly in the Democratic primary because, yes, her campaign was a mess. But she also did poorly because she never discovered the right, stirring way to tell and sell her story.” This is a valid point and request.
Where I part with Frank, is that I think she hit a home run when Joe Biden introduced her at their joint press conference. I wrote in my blog afterwards: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris both gave excellent speeches yesterday, at their coming out press conference. For Joe Biden, it is one of his best. Kamala Harris is wonderfully dynamic and impressive. She moves back and forth seemlessly between being powerful, then soft, deferential and daughterly, then prosecutorial again.” So many of Bruni’s critics have a point in his lack of gentleness. I thought she brilliant, and he just wanted more.

Opinion | She Predicted the Coronavirus. What Does She Foresee Next? – Frank Bruni with Laurie Garrett – The New York Times

“. . . She said she wasn’t surprised that a coronavirus wrought this devastation, that China minimized what was going on or that the response in many places was sloppy and sluggish. She’s Cassandra, after all.

But there is one part of the story she couldn’t have predicted: that the paragon of sloppiness and sluggishness would be the United States.

“I never imagined that,” she said. “Ever.”

The highlights — or, rather, lowlights — include President Trump’s initial acceptance of the assurances by President Xi Jinping of China that all would be well, his scandalous complacency from late January through early March, his cheerleading for unproven treatments, his musings about cockamamie ones, his abdication of muscular federal guidance for the states and his failure, even now, to sketch out a detailed long-range strategy for containing the coronavirus.

Having long followed Garrett’s work, I can attest that it’s not driven by partisanship. She praised George W. Bush for fighting H.I.V. in Africa.

But she called Trump “the most incompetent, foolhardy buffoon imaginable.”

And she’s shocked that America isn’t in a position to lead the global response to this crisis, in part because science and scientists have been so degraded under Trump.

Referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and its analogues abroad, she told me: “I’ve heard from every C.D.C. in the world — the European C.D.C., the African C.D.C., China C.D.C. — and they say, ‘Normally our first call is to Atlanta, but we ain’t hearing back.’ There’s nothing going on down there. They’ve gutted that place. They’ve gagged that place. I can’t get calls returned anymore. Nobody down there is feeling like it’s safe to talk. Have you even seen anything important and vital coming out of the C.D.C.?””

Opinion | Injections of Bleach? Trump’s Coronavirus Response Is Breaking Down – By Frank Bruni – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Ben Wiseman

” “And he’s going to get re-elected.”

Not a day goes by without several friends — Republicans as well as Democrats — saying that to me. It’s the blunt coda to a bloated recitation of Donald Trump’s failures during this pandemic. It’s a whimper of surrender following a scream of disbelief.

Tens of thousands of Americans die; what does the president do? Spreads bad information. Seeds false hope. Reinvents history, reimagines science, prattles on about his supposed heroism, bellyaches about his self-proclaimed martyrdom and savages anyone who questions his infallibility. In lieu of leadership, grandstanding. In place of empathy, a snit. And he’s going to get re-elected.

With that refrain we perform a spiritual prophylaxis. We prepare for despair.

But somewhere along the way, we started to confuse a coping mechanism with reasoned analysis. We began to treat a verbal tic as inevitable truth.

It isn’t. While Trump may indeed be careening toward four more years, it’s at least as possible that he’s self-destructing before our eyes.”

Opinion | The Governor Who Dissed New Yorkers – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Kayana Szymczak for The New York Times

“When every other Democrat in America was swooning over Andrew Cuomo, Gina Raimondo was sparring with him.

I can’t say I’m surprised.

Raimondo, the second-term governor of Rhode Island, is blunt and sometimes contrarian. That’s what I’ve always liked about her.

I can’t say I like how she singled out New Yorkers, stopping cars with New York license plates at the border and ordering any drivers who planned to remain in Rhode Island for a while to quarantine themselves for 14 days. Cuomo, the New York governor, blew a gasket.

But I understood the epidemiological logic of it. The coronavirus was raging in New York. It wasn’t nearly as prevalent in Raimondo’s state. One strategy to limit a contagion is with checkpoints and barriers. She did on a state level what the United States was already doing with Americans returning from hot spots abroad.

The Daily News called her policy — which also involved having the National Guard visit and talk with people in vacation homes and rental properties where cars with New York plates were spotted — “authoritarian.” An editorial in The Providence Journal said it was “reminiscent of police states.”

There were rumors — false ones — that visitors were being turned back at the border.

And Cuomo threatened to sue.

That was last Saturday. Hours later, Raimondo changed course. But she didn’t let New Yorkers off the hook. She just gave us company there, decreeing that all out-of-state motorists would be treated the way New Yorkers were. That’s where things stand now.

It isn’t pretty. She conceded as much when we talked on the phone on Wednesday night. But it’s necessary, she said, at least if she’s to honor her obligation to save as many Rhode Islanders as possible from death, illness and economic devastation.

“This is a different time,” she told me. “I was asked last week during my daily news conference, ‘Do you worry about the image that you’re creating with National Guardsmen knocking on doors of renters and stopping cars at the border?’ Absolutely! I care about civil liberties. I care about equal protection. I do not like that image.”

“Having said that,” she continued, “the image that I worry a lot more about is hospitals overflowing with people. I’m focused on outcomes, not optics. Regular politics and political considerations are out the window right now. Am I doing things that I would prefer not to and I’m uncomfortable with because we’re in a state of emergency? Absolutely. There’s no doubt about that.”

Opinion | Senate Republicans Are Bathed in Shame – By Frank Bruni – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Illustration by Ben Wiseman; Photograph by Drew Angerer/Getty Image

“The impeachment trial of Donald John Trump began on Thursday when John Roberts, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, directed all of the senators to stand and raise their right hands. Ever since I can’t get two questions out of my head.

The first: How in God’s name — and it was in God’s name — can the Republicans who have already decided to acquit President Trump take a solemn oath to administer “impartial justice”? They’re partial to the core, unabashedly so, as their united march toward a foregone conclusion shows. A mind-meld this ironclad isn’t a reflection of facts. It’s a triumph of factionalism.

The majority of the party’s senators have said outright or clearly signaled that they have no intention of finding the president guilty and removing him from office. Yapping lap dogs like Lindsey Graham and obedient manservants like Mitch McConnell have gone further, mocking the whole impeachment process.

So the oath they took: How does that work? Did they cross the fingers on their left hands? Do they reason that American politics has reached a nadir of such fundamental hypocrisy and overweening partisanship that no one regards that pledge as anything but window dressing?”

Opinion | Donald Trump, Manly He-Man – By Frank Bruni – The New York Times

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“The president wants a parade, but not some girlie, frilly procession that limits itself to high-stepping musicians, high-reaching headdresses, flutes and floats.

He wants muscle. Metal. He wants tanks and soldiers and planes. In his Veterans Day vision, Pennsylvania Avenue bulges with artillery, because in his blinkered view, that’s the measure of a nation’s worth. It’s also the affirmation of his potency.

The president wants us to know that if he’d been outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., when the shooting began, “I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon.” Can there be any doubt? If Donald Trump is known for one thing, it’s fearlessness. Selflessness comes in a close second.

Ronald Reagan starred as a cowboy in Hollywood westerns. George W. Bush strode across the deck of an aircraft carrier in an olive flight suit and an ejection harness to declare — prematurely — that a mission had been accomplished.”

Opinion | We Can’t Afford Trump as Our Commander in Chief – By Frank Bruni – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“We choose our presidents in happy times and sad, amid bull and bear markets, when we’re trying to conserve what is and when we’re itching to discover what might be.

We should always choose them as if we’re on the brink of war, because it’s impossible to predict when we’ll find ourselves there, in petrified need of a strong, stable leader we can trust.

Donald Trump was chosen in a fit of long-building and largely warranted cynicism, as a gamble and protest. He hadn’t demonstrated any particular strength, only that he could perform a peculiar burlesque of it. He showed zilch in the way of honor, but had a genius for stoking doubts that it still existed in politics at all. His supporters thrilled to a pledge of disruption, not a promise of safe harbor.

And here we are, with an inexperienced, impulsive and perpetually aggrieved commander in chief precisely when we can’t afford one.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Times Comment:
“We choose our presidents in happy times and sad, amid bull and bear markets, when we’re trying to conserve what is and when we’re itching to discover what might be. We should always choose them as if we’re on the brink of war, because it’s impossible to predict when we’ll find ourselves there, in petrified need of a strong, stable leader we can trust.” This is an amazingly excellent op-ed by Frank Bruni. If I could write like he does, I wouldn’t be the doorman at the hotel he stays in when visiting New York. There is an articulate zinger in almost every other paragraph, such as Nixon’s idea, that it is good for our defense to appear to have a reckless madman at the helm.
David is the author of The Tay Son Rebellion, and blogs at InconvenientNews.net

Opinion | ’Twas the Eve of Impeachment – By Frank Bruni – The New York Times

’Twas the Eve of Impeachment

Finding verse in this curse.

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Illustration by The New York Times; photo by Al Drago for The New York Times

’Twas the eve of impeachment, when all through the House
No Republicans wavered, each last one a louse.

The articles were drafted by Democrats with care
In hopes that a conscience would soon bloom there.

We pundits were tossing all steamed in our beds,
While Trump’s certain acquittal danced in our heads.

And I in frustration, feeling all solemn,
Wished I could capture my woe in a column,

When out on the web there arose such a clatter,
I signed in to Twitter to see what was the matter.

And there I beheld him, the master of lies,
Weaving fresh falsehoods, to no one’s surprise.

He savaged the Bidens, he smeared Adam Schiff,
And cycled through villains in a furious jiff,

Could a “leader” be cruder, could his morals be weaker?

So now he’s a dentist, in his all-knowing ways?
I prayed for deliverance one of these days.

When what to my cynical eyes did appear
But a raft of excuses pulled by mangy reindeer,

With a weasel-eyed driver, so meek and so zany,
I knew in a moment he must be Mulvaney.

More shameless than con men, the sycophants came,
And Trump gloated, so bloated, and called them by name:

“Now, Rudy! Now, JaredNow, Lindsey and Mitch!
Please fly this democracy into a ditch!

It is how you will save me. It is how I prevail.
Or else I will join poor Paul in the jail.

That’s the toll of a presidency ended too soon,
So you must sing along to my favorite tune:

‘It’s a witch hunt! A hoax!’ Those are lyrics for me.
That’s the verse, that’s the chorus, for eternity.”

He was dressed in a necktie, from his jowls to his soles.
He had tanned beyond tanning. Imagine the moles.

On such fishy foundations was his confidence laid.

And we couldn’t stop looking — not his fans, not his foes.
That was what he was after: the show of all shows.

Its plot strained belief. Its appeal tested reason.
Still it was soaring toward a second season.

The economy roared. The Democrats whimpered.
Vladimir chortled. Emmanuel simpered.

In the bag that Trump carried, he had goodies galore:
Lower taxes, the Dow, right-wing judges and more.

They weren’t for the many, they favored the few,
But that was obscured by the smoke that he blew.

All was fog, all was mist, all was boast, all was fiction,
As he hid his true airs with bad diet and diction.

He could do as he wanted and never know fear,
For an elf — and a savior! — named Barr hovered near.

And then there was Tucker and of course Hannity
To put an extra-fine gloss on insanity.

What great luck to discover a country so riven
You could smash it and rule it if suitably driven.

You could summon the Russians, you could bully Ukraine,
Just as long as you made “It’s fake news!” your refrain.

I cringed as I watched him and cried for us all,

Our values, our futures hijacked by his gall.

A last bid to preserve them was cause to impeach
But his party’s corruption put him beyond reach.

So then why all his thrashing? His howls of dejection?
It was just a performance for the next election.

It brought more donations. It rallied the base.
You could see, if you looked, a clear smirk on his face.

If you listened, you heard it: a lilt in his voice.
In drama like this, he would always rejoice.

So as history scarred him, he could nonetheless yell,
“Merry TrumpMas to all! I’m the king of this hell.” “