Bret Stephens: Belated happy new year, Gail. I was hoping we could celebrate the arrival of 2021 by never mentioning Donald Trump’s name again, except maybe as a punchline to jokes involving foul-mouthed parrots. But then our friends at The Washington Post broke the news that the president begged and bullied Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, to “find” him the “11,780 votes” he needed to flip the state’s 16 electoral votes his way. To his credit, Raffensperger told him to get lost (proof, by the way, that not every Republican official has lost his soul).
Anyway, serious question: Is it too late to impeach Trump again?
Gail: He certainly deserves it, but one of my goals for 2021 is to stop obsessing about the evils of Donald Trump in hopes that if we ignore him he’ll go away.
Bret: I say impeach him again.
Gail: Well, I guess it’d be better than contemplating the pandemic 24-7. And I guess more elevating than probing the alleged Trump family crises over Melania’s Mar-a-Lago redecoration.
Bret: Trump is America’s very own Pandora, a clown of malice, the impresario of idiocy, Nero without a fiddle and Caligula without a horse. His one achievement in Georgia is that the Democrats might end up sweeping the two Georgia Senate races this week, denying Mitch McConnell his majority.
Gail: There’s certainly no reason the Democrats shouldn’t win both Georgia senate elections, given the terribleness of their opponents. One of the Republicans, Kelly Loeffler, famously bragged she was “more conservative than Attila the Hun.”
Bret: That still puts her well to the left of Republican Senators Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson, Marsha Blackburn and the eight others who are attempting to stop Joe Biden’s inauguration. Sorry, go on.
Gail: Loeffler’s super rich and co-owns a W.N.B.A. team whose players hate her. Not that I want to be critical.
Bret: You, critical?
Gail: The other Republican, Senator David Perdue, is also extremely wealthy, thanks to a career built around outsourcing American jobs. He appears to be so terrified of his Democratic opponent that he’s skipped most of the debates and left Jon Ossoff answering reporters’ questions next to an empty lectern.
The Democrats need to elect both Ossoff and Loeffler’s opponent, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, in order to give Joe Biden a measly 50-50 split in the Senate. Trump and Biden are both coming to rally the troops. I’m very nervous. And who, by the way, are you rooting for?
Bret: I’m hoping that Loeffler wins and Perdue loses, not that I’m remotely enthusiastic about either of them. In Loeffler’s case, she’s exactly what you say she is. But Rev. Warnock is way too far to the left for my taste. Ossoff is more of a centrist. Also, I want Republicans to maintain control of the Senate by the narrowest possible margin.
Gail: So instead of feeling overwhelmed with horror we can feel overwhelmed with frustration?
Bret: Ha! Didn’t you know that James Madison wrote the original lyrics to “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”?
Covid-19 Vaccines ›
Answers to Your Vaccine Questions
With distribution of a coronavirus vaccine beginning in the U.S., here are answers to some questions you may be wondering about:
- If I live in the U.S., when can I get the vaccine? While the exact order of vaccine recipients may vary by state, most will likely put medical workers and residents of long-term care facilities first. If you want to understand how this decision is getting made, this article will help.
- When can I return to normal life after being vaccinated? Life will return to normal only when society as a whole gains enough protection against the coronavirus. Once countries authorize a vaccine, they’ll only be able to vaccinate a few percent of their citizens at most in the first couple months. The unvaccinated majority will still remain vulnerable to getting infected. A growing number of coronavirus vaccines are showing robust protection against becoming sick. But it’s also possible for people to spread the virus without even knowing they’re infected because they experience only mild symptoms or none at all. Scientists don’t yet know if the vaccines also block the transmission of the coronavirus. So for the time being, even vaccinated people will need to wear masks, avoid indoor crowds, and so on. Once enough people get vaccinated, it will become very difficult for the coronavirus to find vulnerable people to infect. Depending on how quickly we as a society achieve that goal, life might start approaching something like normal by the fall 2021.
- If I’ve been vaccinated, do I still need to wear a mask? Yes, but not forever. Here’s why. The coronavirus vaccines are injected deep into the muscles and stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies. This appears to be enough protection to keep the vaccinated person from getting ill. But what’s not clear is whether it’s possible for the virus to bloom in the nose — and be sneezed or breathed out to infect others — even as antibodies elsewhere in the body have mobilized to prevent the vaccinated person from getting sick. The vaccine clinical trials were designed to determine whether vaccinated people are protected from illness — not to find out whether they could still spread the coronavirus. Based on studies of flu vaccine and even patients infected with Covid-19, researchers have reason to be hopeful that vaccinated people won’t spread the virus, but more research is needed. In the meantime, everyone — even vaccinated people — will need to think of themselves as possible silent spreaders and keep wearing a mask. Read more here.
- Will it hurt? What are the side effects? The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is delivered as a shot in the arm, like other typical vaccines. The injection into your arm won’t feel different than any other vaccine, but the rate of short-lived side effects does appear higher than a flu shot. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines, and none of them have reported any serious health problems. The side effects, which can resemble the symptoms of Covid-19, last about a day and appear more likely after the second dose. Early reports from vaccine trials suggest some people might need to take a day off from work because they feel lousy after receiving the second dose. In the Pfizer study, about half developed fatigue. Other side effects occurred in at least 25 to 33 percent of patients, sometimes more, including headaches, chills and muscle pain. While these experiences aren’t pleasant, they are a good sign that your own immune system is mounting a potent response to the vaccine that will provide long-lasting immunity.
- Will mRNA vaccines change my genes? No. The vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer use a genetic molecule to prime the immune system. That molecule, known as mRNA, is eventually destroyed by the body. The mRNA is packaged in an oily bubble that can fuse to a cell, allowing the molecule to slip in. The cell uses the mRNA to make proteins from the coronavirus, which can stimulate the immune system. At any moment, each of our cells may contain hundreds of thousands of mRNA molecules, which they produce in order to make proteins of their own. Once those proteins are made, our cells then shred the mRNA with special enzymes. The mRNA molecules our cells make can only survive a matter of minutes. The mRNA in vaccines is engineered to withstand the cell’s enzymes a bit longer, so that the cells can make extra virus proteins and prompt a stronger immune response. But the mRNA can only last for a few days at most before they are destroyed.
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