Opinion: Unveiling Senator Menendez: Is He a Stainless or Shameless Politician?

Bret Stephens: Why Does New Jersey Produce Ethically Challenged Pols?

Gail, you know how much I hate stereotypes, but — New Jersey! What is it about the state that seems to produce ethically challenged politicians? I’m thinking about Harrison Williams and Bob Torricelli and Jim McGreevey and countless mayors and assemblymen, and now Senator Robert Menendez, who has been indicted — once again — for various corrupt practices, including accepting bribes in the form of gold bars. Is it the mercury in the Hackensack River? The effects of a Taylor Pork-Roll? Lingering trauma over the Snooki pouf?

Gail Collins: The Ethical Challenges in New Jersey

Well, Bret, we must remember that the case has yet to be tried, but at the moment, whenever I see a picture of Bob Menendez, I can’t help but imagine a little golden rectangle sticking out of his pocket. His political career is undoubtedly over. However, let’s not get too self-righteous about New Jersey when we live in a state where George Pataki, the last elected governor to finish his political career without having to resign in disgrace, didn’t exactly have a spotless record either.

Bret: Welcome to the Empire State

Maybe the eastbound sign on the George Washington Bridge should read, “Welcome to the Empire State, not quite as corrupt as the state you’re leaving. But…”

Gail: The Decline of Cool Politics

I have concerns about how uncool politics has become. You don’t see promising college students talking about their dream of going back home and running for City Council, or even becoming President someday. I blame Donald Trump for that, of course. But I also have to admit that Joe Biden doesn’t make politics look like an exciting career.

Bret: The Stainless and Shameless in Politics

In my theory about modern American politics, I believe only two types of people go into it: the stainless and the shameless. Either you have lived a life of such impeccable virtue that you can survive endless investigations into your personal history, or you lack the shame gene and don’t care what kind of dirt the media digs up about you. In other words, you’re either Mitt Romney or Donald Trump, Chuck Schumer or Anthony Weiner.

Gail: The Normal People Caught in the Middle

Most normal people fall somewhere in the middle and they don’t want to spend their lives under a media microscope. That’s why many qualified and public-spirited individuals shy away from political careers. This brings us to the complete breakdown in the Republican House caucus…

Bret: McCarthy’s Role in the Republican House Caucus

Can’t we blame both Kevin McCarthy and Republican conservatives in general? McCarthy became Speaker by aligning himself with the extreme right, and now that fringe is behaving like lunatics. The argument is about government spending and whether a shutdown can send a message about excess spending. But in reality, this is about power — about people like Matt Gaetz showing that, with a handful of votes, he can bring the entire Congress to heel. It’s the tyranny of a small minority leveraging its will over a bare majority to hold everyone else hostage. Even the Defense Department is not immune to their actions. It’s hard to believe that chaos is being sowed at the Pentagon for the sake of political points.

Gail: The Incompetence of House Republicans

I didn’t expect anything good when House Republicans won the majority, but I did expect them to be somewhat competent in their attempts to do bad. Instead, we have government by Matt Gaetz, or Tommy Tuberville, the Alabama senator who has been holding up military promotions as a protest against abortion rights. All this works in favor of the Democrats, who would have had to block any House budget that decimated critical services like healthcare. If we go into October without a national budget in place, all the ensuing crises will be blamed on the Republicans. I don’t necessarily want that to happen, but if it does, at least the shame will go in the right direction.

Bret: The Failures of Border Control

I’m curious about the Democrats’ policies, specifically the recent decision to grant almost 500,000 Venezuelans temporary protected status. While it may be the right thing to do, the administration’s failure to control the border means that grants like this will become the norm. I fail to understand how this is good policy or wise politics.

Gail: The Challenges of Border Control

It’s clear that the current border policies are far from perfect, but what other alternatives do we have? I’m eager to hear suggestions that don’t involve a stupid and embarrassing wall.

Bret: Exploring Alternative Solutions

One alternative to a wall is a “smart fence” with excellent sensors to detect border crossings. It would be less ugly, less expensive, and more environmentally friendly. However, it would require continuous manned patrols. We can also immediately return people who arrive in the United States illegally, rather than letting them stay and await court hearings, unless they are from countries where they face mortal risk from their own governments. President Obama implemented a similar policy, robustly returning illegal immigrants, without any outcry from my liberal friends about human rights violations. Additionally, we need to significantly expand consular facilities throughout Latin America to process immigration claims abroad, rather than after people have crossed the border.

Gail: Expanding Consular Services

I agree that greatly expanding consular services would be a positive step. This, along with other measures, could help address the immigration challenges we face.

Bret: A Nostalgic Look at Politics

It’s comforting to argue about fences and border control, taking us back to a time when we could debate politics without having to worry about the likes of Kevin McCarthy.

Gail: Politics in the Age of Psychosis

So true. Politics used to be about debating ideas, but now it feels more like diagnosing psychosis.

Bret: Biden’s Slipping Popularity

It’s difficult to gauge how much concern we should have about Biden’s low polling numbers. While liberals may see a lot of policy achievements, conservatives and swing voters see higher prices, urban decay, immigration crises, and a visibly weaker president. I doubt we’d be anxious about a potential second term for Trump if Biden simply stepped aside.

Gail: The Impeachment Inquiry and Hunter Biden

Speaking of House Republicans, an impeachment inquiry centered around Hunter Biden again? This time, it’s supposedly investigating whether the president did anything in 2015 to protect his son’s business dealings in Ukraine. Are you indifferent, bored, or embarrassed?

Bret: Outrage Over Impeachment Inquiry

I’m angered by this impeachment inquiry. It’s outrageous to launch an investigation without any available evidence of impeachable offenses. By that standard, the police should be investigating every parent in America whose children have behaved badly.

Gail: Dropping the Senate Dress Code

What are your thoughts on Chuck Schumer’s decision to drop the Senate dress code? It’s clearly a nod to John Fetterman, who has been known to show up in a hoodie and shorts.

Bret: Schumer’s Move and Alternative Solutions

I think Schumer is…


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