Gail Collins and Bret Stephens are opinion columnists with The New York Times. Each week, the pair sits down for what is meant to be a bipartisan conversation on politics (Collins is liberal, Stephens is conservative).
The conversation holds value as the talk offers insights into what opinion columnists at the most prominent newspaper in the world are thinking – and that matters to many people, especially fellow journalists and scholars.
Collins rated the economy as “good,” which Stephens felt the need to qualify. “The economy is a mixed bag, with positive signals, like falling inflation and historically low unemployment,” Stephens said, “but also some worrying ones, like labor-force participation rate that’s too low and big layoffs in big tech.”
Is a low labor-force participation rate a harbinger of an economic downturn? I couldn’t say.
But that inflation and unemployment have been trending downwards is encouraging – and is, of course, the sort of thing everyday Americans will feel most directly and monitor most ardently.
State of the Union: Heckling Joe Biden
Stephens called the Republicans heckling President Joe Biden “a disgrace.”
“Never mind the geriatric president; the real danger is the prepubescent opposition,” Stephens said. Yeah, I’m not thrilled about having a geriatric president, or a weak VP waiting in the wings – but yes, Republican heckling was an embarrassment.
Stephens also threw a zinger at Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (and former President Donald Trump) that’s worth repeating.
In response to Collins joking that “if I ever want to make a good impression on a group, I’ll try to recruit Marjorie Taylor Green to scream at me that I’m a liar.”
Stephens response was pretty good: “Being called a liar by Green is like being accused by Donald Trump of having a low I.Q. I believe that’s what Freudians call projection.”
Also worth noting: Stephens called the State of the Union “the most unapologetically liberal State of the Union any Democratic president has delivered since Lyndon Johnson in the ‘60s.”
I’m not familiar with each and every State of the Union dating back 60 years – but I know Biden isn’t authentically liberal. Stephens, a neocon, implicitly crediting Biden as a liberal is why liberals are often so chaffed with elite publications like The New York Times.
Collins, a liberal, piled on, implicitly: “One thing Biden’s speech demonstrated was how good a liberal agenda sounds to nonliberals when it’s presented by a guy who seems so mellow.”
Right, again, the wholesale acceptance that Biden is a liberal guy with a liberal agenda is tough for a lot of liberals to swallow.
Predictably, Stephens is rearing to have a go at China over their surveillance balloon incursions.
And naturally, the conversation turned to China-Taiwan-US interactions. The exchange was informative.
Collins: “I’m very, very worried this is a prelude to a Chinese attempt to take Taiwan. While we should do everything we can to keep that from happening, there’s no way I would want to go to war over it.”
Stephens: “I disagree, but you’re speaking for a lot of Americans, including a growing share of Republicans.”’
Stephens, who attended The University of Chicago and the London School of Economics, and as far as I know never joined the military – is quite ready to shed US blood in the defense of Taiwan. Collins, fortunately, offers a voice of reason and restraint.
Collins is absolutely correct on this one; the US should not go to war over Taiwan (although the US should maintain strategic ambiguity with respect to their intentions). War between the US and China would be catastrophic for all involved and should be zealously avoided.
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BONUS: A Nuclear War over Ukraine?
BONUS: Donald Trump Looks Desperate
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.