Gail Collins: Well, Brett, it looks like Joe Biden will be announcing his re-election bid this week.
Brett Stephens: Proved my predictions from last week completely wrong.
Gail: I know you disagree with him on many issues, especially those related to the economy.
But given the likely Republican presidential nominee, is there really a chance you can avoid voting for him?
Brett: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Probably not.
It says something about the state of the Republican Party, that the two current frontrunners — let’s call them Don Caligula and Ron Torquemada — are impossible for voters like me. I’m someone who believes in low taxes, a strong military, police with broken windows, entitlement reform, border walls, and school choice. That’s the Nikki Haley side of the party — now in the single digits of the Republican base.
Gail: Sorry about Hailey not taking off. I know you are rooting for her.
Brett: Well, I’m still hopeful — even if it’s getting less and less hopeful.
On the other hand, for all the reasons we’ve discussed, I really, really hope Biden doesn’t run. He’s just not a convincing candidate. For all the talk about Donald Trump being imperceptible in the general election, we’ve heard these predictions before. It might just take a recession — which could be coming — for swing voters to care less about abortion rights in Florida or the attempted coup on Jan. 6 than they care about jobs and the economy.
Are you a little nervous?
Gail: nervous? Just because we’re talking about a presidential election in which one of the two major parties nominates either a deranged ex-president in legal trouble or an unattractive, far-right Disney World foe?
Brett: This is a game of Russian roulette that uses three bullets out of six.
Gail: As for the Democrats, I already told you that I think 80 is too old to plan another presidential campaign. Biden has been in office for so long, it’s hard to make anything he talks about sound exciting.
But what you worry about — the popular reaction to the economic downturn — is a problem for anyone in the party.
Brett: True, but not accusing Amy Klobuchar or Gretchen Whitmer or some other plausible candidate of owning the economy the way Biden did.
Gail: Biden certainly has a downside. But Trump has more – and scarier. Even if Ron DeSantis wasn’t a bad campaigner, I don’t think he’d win over voters with his past plans to destroy Medicare.
Brett: You’re probably right about DeSantis, who seems too obsessed with trying to kill Mickey and Minnie to appeal to ordinary voters outside of Florida. As for Trump, this is strange to say, but: this guy has a demon spirit. You know the movie “Cocaine Bear”? Trump is “Diet Coke Cujo,” if you get my Stephen King reference.
Gail: Yes, he is never boring. sigh. But we’ll see how energized he looks as he defends falsifying business records and all the other investigations that await him.
Alas, Brett, we’re going to be talking about this for a long time. On the more immediate horizon, there is the settlement of Fox-Dominion. Tell me what you think.
Brett: Sorry we didn’t see Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and a bunch of other cynical, lying, disgusting and pathetic propagandists squirming under oath as they testified in court. Would pay just to see that.
But, realistically, that’s probably the best outcome. $787.5 million is enough to justify Dominion’s worth. It was the closest Fox has come to pleading guilty. It allows us to avoid the possibility of an appeals process that could end with the Supreme Court revisiting the strict defamation standard in Times v. Sullivan and potentially restricting press freedom.
Gail: And yes, for all my daydreams about Fox celebrities having to go to court and apologize to the state, in the real world, that’s probably the best you can get while protecting all the rights to a free press.
Brett: Gail, the good news is that Dominion still has pending lawsuits against Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Newsmax and Mike Lindell, MyPillow Guy and a few others. There is also a pending Smartmatic lawsuit against Fox.
Having fun, making the big bucks, and doing good at the expense of the villains has got to be the most fun adults can have in the boardroom.
But we mentioned the Supreme Court. Thoughts on mifepristone ruling, upholding lower court ban on abortion pill? Of course, I am relieved that the court will allow the pill to remain on the market.
Gail: Well, that’s the beauty of democracy. You have the ability to suddenly realize that the public is not on their side at all. So they dodged a bit and backed away quietly.
Brett: It would be ironic if Republicans came to the court last year with Dobbs’ decision to make them ineligible in all but the most despicable districts in the country in order to restore abortion rights.
Gail: But we’re a long way from living in a country where every woman has the right to control her own body when it comes to reproductive matters.
Brett: As Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito’s dissent in the mifepristone ruling shows…
Gail: I’ve been hoping to see state lawmakers from both parties come together to create a reform package that combines abortion rights with accessible, affordable health and counseling services for poor pregnant women.
And, of course, there’s quality child care for low-income working mothers. cough cough.
Brett: Gail, would you be shocked to know that I don’t disagree with anything you just said? Of course, child care doesn’t solve the root of so many of our problems, and too many stable two-parent households in poor families have come close to breaking down. But it’s a catastrophe and the government is powerless to fix it.
Gail: Wow – government support for quality early childhood education? I think I’ve heard a major change. If so, grab a really nice bottle of wine tonight and toast you.
Brett: I tend to soften in your presence.
Gail: Wow. Alright, go on — back to today’s question.
Brett: Speaking of disaster, what’s your take on Biden’s EPA rules to control emissions from power plants?
Gail: A worthy effort to protect future generations from environmental disaster, Republicans certainly hate it.
Brett: There should be better ways to save the planet than using administrative means to impose high costs on industry that will inevitably be passed on to consumers in the form of higher energy prices – which will also disproportionately hit the poor Strike – while setting wildly unrealistic target dates for energy conversion.
Note that I said this, I still May have no choice but to vote for Biden. incredible.
Gail: Our colleague Jim Tankersley has written an excellent analysis of the ongoing crisis of raising the debt ceiling, which must be completed this spring. And more than half of the Republicans’ 320-page debt limit bill is actually about removing restrictions on clean energy.
Brett: I need to look at the fine print before making a judgment, but a lot of what is called “clean energy,” like biofuels, is actually a dirty energy, big government, big business folly. As for the debt ceiling, if Biden shows any willingness to compromise with Republicans on spending cuts and job requirements for able-bodied adults receiving federal subsidies, that wouldn’t be a bad thing either.
Gail: Brett, the debt limit is — responsible people will deal with some demands that they will never be able to meet without creating a political crisis.
But hey, that’s a mean way to end our conversation. You are always happy to tell me about something new you just read. go ahead.
Brett: Gail, I have to recommend Katie Hafner’s wise and humane obituary of Richard Riordan, the last Republican mayor of Los Angeles, for which he A city ravaged by riots and ethnic strife has brought cool sanity. Riordan is all-encompassing, and he tells silly jokes that could be politically deadly in our era of cancel culture. But he also brought common sense and a strong work ethic to his job, and embodies a Republican pragmatism that we can all tap into today. He was the last of nine children born to an Irish-Catholic family—California was better because his parents were determined.