Besides delaying the election, what else could alter his political trajectory?
Bret Stephens: Gail, some of our readers may not know that, in addition to all of your journalism at The Times, you’re also the author of several distinguished works of history. Put on your historian’s hat and tell us what you think of Donald Trump’s tweet suggesting we delay the election.
Gail Collins: Bret, I probably know more about the presidency of William Henry Harrison. But I’m pretty sure our readers aren’t having trouble figuring out how to react to a president, trailing in the polls, suddenly suggesting we put off voting.
Bret: I was impressed and pleasantly surprised by the Op-Ed we ran from Steven Calabresi, a law professor and one of the founders of the conservative Federalist Society, who called Trump’s tweet “fascistic” and “itself grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate.”
Gail: You told me once you thought Trump was too cowardly to actually try to pull off a coup. I can’t tell you how much comfort I’ve been taking from that thought.
So — just checking — is that still your opinion?
Bret: Still is. What I think this tweet tells us is that Trump knows in his heart that he is likely to lose in November. He’s laying the groundwork not for a coup but for an excuse, both for himself and for his followers. It creates a mythology to explain defeat, attack Joe Biden and keep the Trump family relevant in the Republican Party. The fact that he’d pull a stunt like this is another reason it’s so important that he lose in a landslide in November.
Gail: Get your act together, Georgia. And I’m looking at you, Arizona.
Bret: In the meantime, Gail — and on a less depressing note — I was deeply moved by the funeral service and eulogies for John Lewis. I’m sorry I never had a chance to meet him. Did you know him?
Gail: No, but my impression was like that of a lot of people I’ve met from the civil rights movement. They were ferocious about the fight but very humane about the people they were fighting against. Which is hard to do when you’re talking about folks swinging bats or refusing to let your children order ice cream at the segregated soda fountain.
Noticed there was only one president missing from the funeral …
Bret: … as he was missing from the funeral of John McCain. Grace is to Trump what garlic is to vampires.
Gail: Wow, I’d like to see that on his tombstone someday.
Bret: Speaking of grace, it’s worth watching George W. Bush’s eulogy for Lewis, which got the standing ovation it deserved. Not just because of its eloquence, but because it was such a vivid demonstration that policy differences should be no bar to admiring the character of our political opponents. One of the many reasons Lewis deserved those magnificent tributes is because he operated from convictions of radical love. He saw humanity even in those who refused to see humanity in him.
Gail: Totally agree. And seeing all the ex-presidents there, as at the McCain funeral, reminded you of a time when our national leaders, for all their faults, knew how to behave like civilized people.
Bret: All things we could stand to learn again, and maybe will in a Biden administration. Speaking of which, any thoughts about Karen Bass as a veep nominee? Lots of buzz around her.
Gail: Nothing buzzier. Her stock keeps rising because her House colleagues think so highly of her. She knows how to get things done and her colleagues like working with her. The Democratic ticket would certainly win the Likability Ribbon.
Bret: My main criterion for a running mate, other than being qualified to be president, is to bring political strength to a ticket, and possibly flip a state. If I have any objection to Bass, it’s that, as a Californian, she doesn’t do this for a Biden ticket. And she might hurt him in Florida, on account of her participation, back in the 1970s, in the pro-Castro “Venceremos Brigade.” So many key elections in the Sunshine State seem to split 50-50, with one side winning by a hair, so there’s not a lot of room for error.
Gail: Good point, but I am sorta getting tired of the Just-Make-Florida-Happy theory of politics.
Bret: I know the polls look good for Biden now, but he can’t be complacent. He has to run his campaign as if the whole thing is going to turn on just a few thousand votes in a few key states — and none more key than Florida. Trump is going to attack Biden and whoever emerges as his running mate in the nastiest way possible, while we are in the midst of the worst economic crisis in living history. If ever there was a political race that matters, it’s this one.
Gail: Well, a huge number of Americans agree with you, not to mention most of the rest of the world. Maybe we all get together some night — on Zoom, of course. We could close our eyes and envision the Donald Trump Concession Sulk. Then we will clear our minds and go back to worrying obsessively.
Bret: The moment we read the tweet, “Just ‘congratulated’ ‘president-elect’ Joe Biden (total loser). You’ll miss me VERY SOON!!!” is the moment our long national nightmare will finally be over.