Opinion | Biden vs. Trump (Taylor’s Version)

Gail Collins: So, Bret — more than 350,000 new jobs in January without an inflation surge! Great news, huh? I guess that means the Biden plan is really working out, hehehehe.

Bret Stephens: Just two problems. First, prices for groceries are still too damn high — up 25 percent in the last four years, according to The Washington Post. That practically amounts to a campaign ad for Donald Trump every time people are at checkout. Second, as our colleague Peter Coy observed, most of the new jobs are part-time gigs — not exactly a recipe for voters to feel confident about the future.

So while I’m hoping that a strong economy powers Joe to re-election, he can’t bank on it. He needs something else. Any ideas?

Gail: Well, it’s a pretty good sign for Biden that an economic conservative like you so desperately wants him to win.

Bret: Only because I’ve considered the alternative.

Gail: And a definite minus for Trump that he could be on trial or convicted in several different courts while he’s running for the top job in the nation. We’ve sometimes got a cynical view of voters these days, but people have told pollsters they really care about this.

Bret: We’ll get to the Fani Willis debacle in a minute ….

Gail: And right now I’d give the Democrats in Congress some plusses — their big proposals for tax reform and better immigration rules would seem sensible to most moderates, as well as the liberals who’ll rally around.

Hey, we’ve gotten this far without mentioning Taylor Swift or the Super Bowl. Shows how Biden can bring people together.

Bret: Didn’t you hear that the fix is in? Taylor’s going to get onstage during the halftime show and endorse Biden, while Hunter publicly auctions his art to anonymous Chinese bidders for a million per canvas. Then Travis Kelce, Swift’s vaccine-loving boyfriend, will score the winning touchdown with an invisible assist from a Jewish space laser.

Or something like that.

Gail: Soon to be a 12-part Netflix series …

Bret: On a more serious note, I think Democrats need to stop pinning their hopes on the trials as a vehicle for defeating Trump. The New York case, regarding the Stormy Daniels payoff, is weak because it seeks to turn what is ordinarily a misdemeanor offense of falsifying business records into a felony; even if Trump loses in a jury trial, the case may well be overturned on appeal. The Washington case, regarding election subversion, has just been postponed while the judge awaits a ruling from a higher court on Trump’s purported immunity. The Florida case — about Trump’s purloined classified White House documents and obstructed subpoenas — may be postponed until after the election.

And then there’s the Georgia case on election interference, which may blow up over the district attorney’s admission to a romantic relationship with one of the prosecutors, whom she also paid a cool $650,000.

Gail: Cannot deny that Fani Willis, the D.A., had very, very bad timing in beginning a romance with the guy she picked as a prosecutor. Don’t believe her behavior was crooked or evil — just extremely stupid.

Bret: Underscore “extremely.”

Gail: As to the many Trump trials, got to admit there isn’t one that I’m absolutely sure he will lose. Or that there’s any he won’t be able to postpone until after the election. But I still think it creates a sensation of stupendous messiness that’ll turn off some people on the non-crazy right — or at least the non-crazy middle. Enough to give us four more years of Joe Biden.

Bret: Either that or all these court cases merely strengthen the conviction of Trump’s supporters that the Deep State is really out to get their man by abusing the legal system for partisan purposes, which only reinforces their eagerness to go out and vote for him. We’ll see.

Gail: You know, I think the Senate and House elections this fall are going to be more engrossing than usual, not just because the nation’s whole direction depends on which party wins, but also because it’s a way for desperate citizens to think about November without spending the entire year thinking about … you know, the two guys we’re stuck with.

Any races that you’re really watching already?

Bret: Democrats should be nervous. Joe Manchin’s retirement all but guarantees that his West Virginia seat will flip to the Republicans. Jon Tester of Montana will have another close race to survive as a mountain-state Democrat in a state Trump won in 2020 by 16 points. And Sherrod Brown will probably face a tough race in Ohio as the state keeps getting redder.

On the other hand, what the 2022 midterms showed us was the invincible stupidity of G.O.P. primary voters when it comes to nominating electable candidates for statewide office. How about you?

Gail: Well, as an Ohio native, I have to be interested in Brown’s re-election race. Seriously, majorly rooting for him. It’d be such a triumph for him to survive in a state where the other Senate seat is occupied by the dreaded J.D. Vance. Who said just the other day that he didn’t think a president necessarily had to abide by a decision of the Supreme Court.

And Texas — Ted Cruz is up for another term. I wouldn’t say he’s the most dangerous right-wing senator, but he’s certainly one of the most irritating. The Democrats haven’t picked their nominee yet, but whoever it is will get to remind Texans that Cruz left for a vacation in Cancun while they were suffering a massive winter power outage.

Bret: Brown is one of the decentest men in politics (and yes, “decentest” is a real word): I want him to stay in the Senate just because he gets me to think, especially when we disagree. As for Cruz — you know not to get me started: He is the reason we can never dispense with the word “emetic.” That said, I don’t see Texas turning even slightly blue this year.

Gail: But the election you’ve got to pay attention to right now is happening next week here in New York to replace the forever-to-be-remembered Representative George Santos. Tom Suozzi, a Democrat who held that seat for six years, looks to be in the lead and if he wins, the Republicans’ itty-bitty House majority will shrink to itty-bitty-teenie-weenie.

Bret: I can’t quite believe I’m saying this, but I have a rooting interest in Republicans losing their majority: first, as a form of divine retribution against Matt Gaetz and his fellow clowns, who did so much to damage the Republican caucus; second, because nothing matters more in Congress right now than helping Ukrainians get the arms they desperately need to defend themselves.

Also, maybe that will help get us immigration reform. Which reminds me: Your thoughts on the Alejandro Mayorkas impeachment effort?

Gail: Hey, it isn’t spring yet, but you’ve already served up a softball. Certain House Republicans are saying the best way to solve the immigration problem is to impeach the guy who runs Homeland Security?

Bret: In a season of dumb ideas, it may yet be the dumbest. If policy differences are now going to become impeachable offenses — well, two can play the game. The next Republican president can now expect that a Democratic House will return the favor.

Gail: You’d know better than me — aren’t the saner members of the Republican House caucus going to do anything to stop this stupidity?

Bret: So-called sane House Republicans are basically passengers in a car being driven at high speed by a drunk. There’s no getting out of the car. And they don’t dare tell the driver to slow down because who knows what he’ll do then.

But that doesn’t obscure the fact that Mayorkas has presided over a disaster at the border. Our colleague Lulu Garcia-Navarro published a really deft and fascinating interview with the secretary last week. My takeaway was that Mayorkas shouldn’t be impeached — but he should resign. He has failed the president comprehensively as a matter of policy and catastrophically as a matter of politics.

Gail: Agree that Lulu’s interview is a must-read. And it was very clear that Mayorkas is completely burned out. Time to call in relief.

Bret: We agree. If Biden loses in November, the border crisis that Mayorkas mysteriously refuses to call a “crisis” will have played a major part.

Gail: But nobody is going to be able to do the job better without way more people enforcing security on our side. Along with other reforms that I’ll bet Congress could pass right away if Donald Trump wasn’t lobbying to keep the problem as bad as possible this election year.

Bret: Absolutely correct. The congressional MAGA loons are being cynical and political. Shame on the Biden team for giving them such an opening.

Gail: By the way, when it comes to election issues — as New Yorkers, we hear all the TV ads in that contest for Santos’s seat. Tom Suozzi has the money to buy tons, and I’ve been interested by how many of them focus on abortion. Suozzi’s Republican opponent, Mazi Pilip, seems to be in the Nikki Haley leave-it-to-the-states camp. If that happened, New York would certainly not stray from its current pro-choice status. But it would be terrible for women in other parts of the country. And what an interesting problem that is for Trump. He’d of course love to dodge the issue, but I suspect it’ll come up about three million times.

Bret: Republican abortion extremism is one of the strongest cards Democrats can play. When it comes to Trump, they can’t play it enough. As for Pilip, she has a remarkable personal story as an Ethiopian Jew who emigrated to Israel in dire circumstances as a young girl and later came here with her Ukrainian-Jewish-American husband. She’s smart and sane, opposes a national abortion ban and would be a credit to Congress and the country if she wins.

But this year, I’m afraid she’s playing for the wrong team.

Source photos by Haiyun Jiang for The New York Times and Kenny Holston/The New York Times.

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