Frank Bruni, Retire Bitch. (No, Really.)

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

On Thursday, New York Times opinion writer and aspiring Broadway star Frank Bruni came out with a column bearing this headline:

This image was removed due to legal reasons.


The column begins:

Not long ago, Democratic power brokers and political strategists in both parties spoke about Kirsten Gillibrand’s seemingly inevitable presidential candidacy with a shrug of the shoulders or a roll of the eyes. She was eager all right, but that didn’t mean that she was ready, and they felt that too much of her brand was invested in a fight against sexual assault and abuse.

Now they rave: What a fierce warrior she is! How ahead of the curve!

While that’s a testament to her savvy and persistence, it’s also thanks to Donald Trump. His presence in the White House amplifies her signature issue, and he’s the best tormentor that an ambitious Democrat could have. In trying to demean her, he merely makes her more important. He also fuels chatter that the first female president will, after all, be a senator from New York.

Mmmm! (Full disclosure: I was a contributing writer to the New York Times opinion section during the 2016 election.)

Bruni goes on to speculate that U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley could be a rising Republican star because of her Serious Foreign Policy Experience:

In her they see someone somehow respectful enough of Trump to hold onto her job but defiant enough to hold onto her dignity. Meanwhile, she’s adding serious foreign-policy experience to her two terms as the Indian-American governor of the deep-red state of South Carolina.

Could she, in fact, be our first female president? Watching her go hard after Iran and North Korea at the United Nations, many impressed conservatives are asking that question.

This is an incredibly backwards way of thinking about public service. Going into her new role, Haley had no foreign policy experience to speak of. Bruni’s argument here is, essentially, that the ends justify the means: as long as Haley doesn’t fuck up too badly, she deserves not just kudos, but the presidency itself.

Bruni, to his credit, admits he might be overly optimistic:

Perhaps I’m just scribbling in my silver linings playbook, but I find myself contemplating an absurdly delicious irony. It goes like this: An unabashed misogynist helps to sire the very milestone for women that his pummeling of Hillary Clinton postponed. He advances women just as surely as he has objectified and trivialized them.


Can you taste the irony, dear reader? Isn’t it positively scrumptious? A-ha! Ahahaha-HA! We’re having fun.

This is the wonder of American punditry: it doesn’t matter if your arguments have any basis in reality, or if there’s a greater-than-zero likelihood of your predictions coming to pass. It doesn’t matter if you have neither the reporting nor the facility to write authoritatively on a subject as long as you can write about the delicious irony of a hypothetical scenario and make your prose giggle with glee at the prospect of the United States going to war with Iran, because wouldn’t that just be delicious? Throw a clickbait headline on it and you’re good as gold.


Bruni ends his column this way:

I’ve affixed many labels to Trump, but I missed a major one. He’s an accidental feminist.


This is the type of Pollyanna-on-a-mescaline-bender delusional thinking that Bruni specializes in. Beyond the obviously stupid claim that Trump is an “accidental feminist,” it’s journalistic malpractice to treat Haley as the adult in the room. Haley has shown an indelible lack of experience on the world stage. Just yesterday, Haley used questionable evidence to justify the U.S. crackdown on Iran, using an Iranian-made missile as a giant fearmongering prop.

“When you look at this missile, this is terrifying, this is absolutely terrifying,” Haley said at a news conference. “Just imagine if this missile had been launched at Dulles Airport or JFK, or the airports in Paris, London or Berlin.”


Haley and the rest of the Trump administration are lucky to have commentators like Bruni, whose body of work can best be summarized as too-clever-by-half drivel that gives off neither light nor heat. Each week, Bruni considers the column he writes for perhaps the most influential editorial page in the world, and uses it as his public dream journal. Sweet dreams, Frankie.

Senior politics reporter at Splinter.