Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Bret Stephens is doing his job (and I don't mean that in a good way)

Andrew Gelman has some issues with comments the NYT's Bret Stephens made back in June (you can check them out here), but I think some context makes them more understandable, if not more defensible.

After 2016, the NYT made a major effort to adapt to the new post-election world. Unfortunately, being the NYT, they did it without any real self-reflection or acknowledgement of their own responsibility. In addition to the widely and deservedly ridiculed decision to put their reporters in pith helmets and send them to the diners of middle America, they also embraced any hard-right conservative who would disavow Trump. It didn't  matter how repugnant their views were, up to and including Ann Coulter.

Stevens: Trump is what the Republican Party wants to be. He’s a white grievance candidate in a party that is over 80 percent white and has embraced its victimhood. Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson are alternatives, but there isn’t a winning market for an anti-Trump message. Trump will be the nominee.

Coulter: I think you’re both more focused on personalities and whiteness than the voters are. It’s issues. And on the issues, Christie is totally out of step with the G.O.P. — and I’d say the country. He weeps about Ukrainians killed and raped by Russians, but doesn’t seem to give two figs about Americans killed and raped by illegal immigrants in our country.

Bruni: Fair point about personalities, Ann, so let’s indeed turn to issues and larger dynamics. You’ve identified Ukraine as an issue getting too much attention. What else is getting lots of attention but largely irrelevant to this race’s outcome, and what’s hugely relevant and being overlooked?

To summarize: Stevens is a shrewd political observer; Coulter is an unrepentant racist; Bruni is a spineless nonentity; the sun rose in the east.

Hiring Bret Stephens in 2017 was an obvious attempt to boost the right-of-Trump opposition and a reminder that the main thing that bothered the NYT about Trump was never his politics. 

In this context Stephens' comments from back in June make perfect sense.

Christie is everything a Democrat could reasonably want in a Republican: gregarious, pragmatic, competent, highly intelligent, capable of reaching across the aisle and most definitely not a hater. I doubt he has any kind of realistic shot at the nomination, but I also know that he’s too much of a realist to think he has a realistic shot, either. His job is to demolish Trump so that Republicans can finally get past the former president. My guess is he’d like the job of attorney general in a DeSantis administration.

The first sentence is obviously bullshit (He's gregarious! Is there no pleasing you people?), and it omits a number of things Democrats (and Republicans who use the George Washington Bridge) would definitely object to, but it's the rest of the paragraph that spells out the agenda. Pump up Christie enough to keep him in the race and make just enough of a threat that he'll have enough of a platform to effectively attack Trump.

If you're a glutton for punishment, here's more on Stephens' hypocrisy and general dickishness.

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