When the Texas shooting happened, my immediate response was to want to talk about the gun problem. And how gun violence connects to domestic violence.
But my experience last week made me wonder if maybe the victims deserve a little space where we can just think about them, and the loss, before we throw ourselves into the fight.
Bret: I think we can and need to do both. We need to learn about the dead and honor the lives they led — or, in the case of the murdered children, the lives they might have led. But we shouldn’t shy away about talking about gun laws right now, or be cowed into not “politicizing” an event that has become so horribly commonplace that there’s no way not to politicize it.
How have we become a country in which one person can wipe out 26 people — 7 percent of the entire community! — because profoundly disturbed people have easy access to what amounts to a weapon of mass destruction?
Gail: You’re right. And when our president said “it’s a little bit soon” to start talking about guns, I did instinctively feel it was time to start talking about guns.
We’re definitely not going to have any disagreements here. Which brings me back to New York last week. Your column about living next to the terror attack was perfect. The one relief after a horrible event like that is the way average people come together. And people who in most circumstances wouldn’t be average — like a lot of your neighbors near the financial district — lose all their ego for a moment and just find comfort in being part of the group.
Bret: Thanks so much, Gail. That really was the striking thing: In the face of a terrorist and terrible carnage, people behaved with composure, decency and courage. I wanted to write a column that paid tribute to this, to the simple neighborliness and good citizenship of New Yorkers.
Gail: I remember right after 9/11 going down and seeing the hulk of the tower and running into Hillary Clinton, who was then one of our senators. She’s always had a not-unsurprising guarded reserve around the media, but that day she seemed to have lost all her barriers. She was just talking away about who was doing what, and what President Bush had said on the plane, and it occurred to me that she presumed that at that moment we were just two people in the community. That our normal roles had dissolved because nobody could possibly care about anything except the tragedy.
Maybe that was part of the reason I was so enraged at President Trump for instantly trying to make the story about how tough he is on ISIS. I can’t remember the last time I got so viscerally angry at a politician.
Bret: Among my 10 million or so objections to presidential candidate Trump, one of them was that he would be incapable of fulfilling the moral, emotional and symbolic role of the office. Obama and Bush both did, and I’ll never forget Clinton’s moving speech after the Oklahoma City bombing. But it’s the mark of the narcissist that he won’t, or can’t, perform the role, because ultimately the only person whose needs and feelings concern him are his own.
Gail: We are now really well aware of the difference between an egotist, which is pretty much all politicians, and a narcissist, which is somebody you just cannot have in the top job.
Bret: Speaking of rage, it also enraged me that he wasted no time turning the tragedy into a talking point about immigration. If he wants to talk immigration, he should spend a day in Stuyvesant High School, the elite magnet public school that was the endpoint of the terror attack, and note how many of the students there are either immigrants or the children of immigrants, many of them Muslim, by the way.
Gail: You’re so right. Look, this is making me angry all over again. Let’s change the subject for a moment. The Republicans have finally come up with a tax plan. What did you think?
Bret: Must it always be death or taxes?
I basically like it. It does four important things: It gives us an internationally competitive corporate tax rate and should reduce profit-shifting overseas; it simplifies the tax code.
Gail: Immediate prediction: Any simplification will become complicated before these people are through.
Sorry, go on.
Bret: It gets rid of the Alternative Minimum Tax, enacted in 1979 to hit a handful of tax-evading high-earners that now hits about five million taxpayers; and it decreases the subsidy to the real-estate industry with caps on the mortgage-interest deduction. Also, it doesn’t mess with our 401(k)’s, as some of us feared it would.
Music to your ears, too, right? I know our readers totally agree with me on this one.
Gail: Well, for starters …
As Steven Rattner wrote in The Times last week, the bill doesn’t do anything about a huge loophole known as “carried interest” that drastically reduces the tax rates for folks like hedge fund operators and, um, real estate developers.
Bret: That loophole is no different from paying the capital-gains rate on the sale of a home, but you know I’m antediluvian on this subject. Please continue.
Gail: Also, I do not understand why the party that is constantly at war with family planning changed the family exemption in a way that hurts people with a large number of children.
Bret: Here you make an excellent point. I can’t defend everything.
Gail: And the thing about eliminating the deduction for state and local taxes is just a raid on the blue states. One which I am eager to hear more about from Republican House members in places like New York, New Jersey and California.
Let me ask you — do you think this has a chance of passing?
Bret: Sixty-forty, I’d say, though with this Congress you never know. Tax cuts unite both the traditional and the Trumpian wings of the party, and Republicans know that if they can’t cut taxes they may as well not exist. Then again, all politics is local and most politicians care a lot more about their own political future than the party’s. It’ll also be interesting to see how Bob Corker votes: Don’t be surprised if he does to tax reform what McCain did to the Obamacare repeal — another reminder of the self-defeating nature of Trump’s politics of insult.
Gail: Whatever they finally come up with is going to increase the deficit mightily, which is one of Corker’s issues. I know your friend Paul Ryan would like to take care of that problem by slicing into Social Security and Medicare, and if that becomes a point of contention, it’ll keep the red-state Democrats from straying in the Senate.
Bret: We’ll see. Entitlement reform would be a good idea for the long-term health of the federal fisc, but a Republican Congress that can’t pass tax reform certainly isn’t going to change Medicare and Social Security anytime soon. I think a lot depends on the outcome of the governor’s race in Virginia, and what it says about the ideological future of the G.O.P.
Gail: Wow, Virginia. You’ve got a Republican candidate who was, until about 10 minutes ago, a super-establishment centrist. And now he’s yelling about immigrants and gang violence and people plotting to tear “our statues” down. This would, I guess, be the new Robert E. Lee wing of the party.
Bret: More like, “something old; something new,” but in any event depressing. Gillespie started the race trying to distance himself from Trump, who lost Virginia to Clinton by five points, by running an economics-themed campaign. Then Gillespie nearly lost the primary to a Trumpkin, and it all became about dead Confederate generals and bogus Latin American gang scares.
You know, the real issues.
Gail: Has anybody promised to bomb North Korea? This does sound very familiar.
Bret: If Gillespie wins, the lesson will be that any “conventional” Republican is going to have to do a convincing imitation of a Bannonite if he wants to win the primary and the general election. It will just accelerate the capitulation of the G.O.P. to the Bannonites, while Republicans with inner red lines are going to keep walking away from the party. The only silver lining I see here is that it slightly increases the chances of creating a third party.
Gail: So if you were in Virginia, would you be voting for Ralph Northam, the Democratic lieutenant governor? Or writing in “none of the above”?
Most interesting Republican news of the weekend was the new Bush book that reveals that George H. W. voted for Hillary Clinton while W. took the none-of-the-above dodge.
Can I just mention here that people who refuse to pick between the two major parties in important races are being weenies who just want to demonstrate their vast moral superiority?
Bret: Before last year’s election, my Trump-curious conservative friends kept telling me that an election is a choice and a none-of-the-above vote was a cop-out, and that’s about the only point on which we agreed. So I voted for Hillary.
I vote in New York City, thank God, so I don’t know local Virginia issues too well. But I’d probably vote for Northam. First, because he’s a former Army doctor and strikes me as smart and middle of the road. But mainly because I think that if voters don’t punish Republican candidates for becoming Bannonites, there’s nothing to stop the party from continuing to move in that direction.
Gail: Except for the Virginia saga, this year’s round of elections is pretty obscure — there are some very important state legislative races around the country, but I kinda doubt the whole world will be watching.
The other big governor’s race is a contest to see whether the people of New Jersey would like to endorse the career of Chris Christie by electing his lieutenant governor to succeed him. Christie may be the only major elected official in the country with worse public approval ratings than Trump. Not expecting much suspense on that one. Although it will give us a chance to rerun those pictures of him sunbathing on the state beach while it was closed to the public.
Anything else you’re following?
Bret: Did I mention that I also thank God that I don’t live in New Jersey?
Shalane Flanagan became the first American woman to win the New York City Marathon for 40 years. I was thrilled for her. Most of all, I was thrilled that New Yorkers have lost none of our passion for putting on a great show like the marathon despite what happened last week. The real winners were all the runners and spectators who competed and cheered in safety.
Unbowed = what this city is.