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By Gail Collins and Bret Stephens
Ms. Collins and Mr. Stephens are opinion columnists. They converse every week.
Gail Collins: Bret, I rely on you for the inside story on what Republicans are thinking even when you disagree with them.
Gail: Two issues of the moment: vaccinations and gun safety. I have to admit I was a tad surprised that some members of Congress had been trying to slow down critical votes on matters like keeping the government running in order to stage a rebellion against vaccination requirements.
Bret: I doubt Mitch McConnell would allow a government shutdown — he’s made that clear. Since the days of Speaker Newt Gingrich, it’s been a tried-and-true formula for helping Democrats recover from electoral defeat by making the Republican Party look about as attractive as, well, Newt Gingrich.
Gail: You’re probably correct. Not sure whether to be relieved or disappointed for the loss of such a juicy issue.
Bret: It’s the story of American politics: One party rescues the other from its mistakes by making even bigger mistakes.
Gail: Moving on to question two: The loony right is trying to spread nutty rumors that vaccination might make you sterile. Is the sane right doing enough to push back?
Bret: Nutty rumors? Are you referring to recent research by the Aaron Rodgers Institute of Reproductive Sciences, by any chance? I haven’t seen much conservative pushback there, though it’s worth noting that much vaccine nuttiness comes from people like Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who isn’t exactly a Republican, and lots of people in the woo-woo land of alternative medicine, which isn’t usually associated with rock-ribbed conservatives.
Gail: Robert Kennedy Jr. isn’t exactly of a stature that requires a whole lot of concern. Some of his closest relatives published a piece that called him “tragically wrong.”
Bret: Good to know.
Gail: On guns we’ve got another heartbreaking mass shooting at a school, this time in Michigan. For a lot of people, it shows how important it is to have laws that require gun owners to store their weapons at home in secure places where underage family members or underage anyone can’t get their hands on them. But I’m not seeing Republican leaders call for that kind of very basic, obvious reform.
Bret: Gail, this latest tragedy is a reminder, as the N.R.A. used to say, that people kill people — and that it’s a lot easier to kill people when certain people with unmistakable signs of serious mental illness have access to a gun in an unlocked drawer, along with plenty of ammunition. In a sane world, this shooting would, at a minimum, lead to stronger safe-storage laws, though Republicans in Michigan let just such a law wither without a vote this year. How a party that claims to prize the immanent value of human life when it comes to a zygote can be so ambivalent about safeguarding the lives of innocent teenagers at school is simply beyond me.
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