Opinion | There’s Hot and Then There’s Hot as … Politics

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By Gail Collins and Bret Stephens

Ms. Collins and Mr. Stephens are Opinion columnists. They converse every week.

Bret Stephens: Hi, Gail. Damn, it’s hot.

Gail Collins: Ah Bret, we agree once again. How inspiring it is to realize that even in these troubled times, Americans of all political stripes can gather to complain about the weather.

Bret: Just give this conversation another five seconds ….

Gail: And, of course, vent about Senator Joe Manchin, who keeps putting his coal-loving foot on any serious attempt to deal with climate change.

Am I moving out of our area of agreement?

Bret: Maybe a tad. I’m grateful to Manchin for fighting for American energy. We’ll all be complaining about climate change a whole lot more when diminished power generation and supply shocks leave us with rolling blackouts and long stretches without air-conditioning.

On the other hand, I mentioned in a previous conversation that I’m going to Greenland later this summer. Wasn’t kidding! An oceanographer I know pretty much wants to shove my face into a melting glacier in hopes of some kind of Damascene conversion.

Gail: Great! Then we can join hands and lobby for tax incentives that will encourage Americans to buy electric cars and encourage power companies to trade coal for wind and solar energy, right?

Bret: Wind and solar power alone will never meet demand. We should build a lot more nuclear power, which is what France is doing, again, and also extract more gas and oil in the U.S. and Canada. However, if Joe Biden also wants to help me pay for that Tesla I don’t actually need, I probably won’t say no.

Speaking of the president, I’m wishing him a speedy recovery. Is Covid something we can at last stop being freaked out about?

Gail: Clearly Biden’s in a particular risk group because of his age, but 79-year-olds who are surrounded by high-quality medical staff may not be the most endangered part of the population.

Bret: Just hope the vice president’s office didn’t recommend the doctor.

Gail: One of the biggest problems is still the folks who refused to get vaccinated. And who are still being encouraged by a number of Republican candidates for high office.

Bret: OK, confession: I’m having a harder and harder time keeping faith with vaccines that seem to be less and less effective against the new variants. How many boosters are we all supposed to get each year?

Gail: Oh Bret, Bret …

Bret: Never mind my Kamala joke, now I’m in real trouble. What were you saying about Republicans?

Gail: I was thinking about anti-vaxxers — or at least semi-anti-vaxxers — like Dan Cox, who is now the Republican nominee for Maryland governor, thanks to the endorsement of Donald Trump and about $1.16 million in TV ads paid for by the Democratic Governors Association, who think he’ll be easy to beat.

Bret: Such a shame that a state Republican Party that had one of the few remaining Republican heroes in the person of the incumbent governor, Larry Hogan, should nominate a stinker like Cox, who called Mike Pence a “traitor” for not trying to overturn the election on Jan. 6. His Democratic opponent, Wes Moore, is one of the most outstanding people I’ve ever met and could be presidential material a few years down the road.

I hope Cox loses by the widest margin in history. Of course I also said that of Trump in 2016.

Gail: Ditto. But I just hate the Democrats’ developing strategy of giving a big boost to terrible Republican candidates in order to raise their own side’s chances. It is just the kind of thing that can come back to haunt you in an era when voters have shown they’re not always freaked out by contenders who have the minor disadvantage of being crazy.

Bret: Totally agree. We should be working to revive the center. Two suggestions I have for deep-pocketed political donors: Don’t give a dime to an incumbent who has never worked on at least one meaningful bipartisan bill. And ask any political newcomer to identify one issue on which he or she breaks with party orthodoxy. If they don’t have a good answer, don’t write a check.

For instance: bail reform. My jaw hit the floor when the guy who tried to stab Representative Lee Zeldin at a campaign event in New York last week walked free after a few hours, even if he was then rearrested under a federal statute.

Gail: We semi-disagree about bail reform. I don’t think you decide who should be able to walk on the basis of the amount of money their families can put up. Anybody who’s charged with a dangerous crime should stay locked up, and the rest should go home and be ready for their day in court.

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