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NYT columnists on what Biden should say in tonight’s State of the Union speech

What David Brooks, Gail Collins, Ross Douthat and Brett Stephens would like to hear.

If you have the time and the inclination, and if you plan to watch President Biden’s State of the Union message (and if you have access to the New York Times Op-Ed page), I recommend a not-overwhelmingly-long compendium of four different versions of what Biden should say tonight by four very smart New York Times columnists, namely (in order of their appearance in the compendium) David Brooks, Gail Collins, Ross Douthat and Brett Stephens.

I’ll pass along a couple of paragraphs from each, with the obvious reminder that they are pretending to be Joe Biden speaking tonight:

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David Brooks:

We Americans have fomented coups and supported dictators. We also led the fight against fascism and helped nurture democracy in places like Germany and Japan, which we conquered but never sought to own.

This skein of sin and heroism, guilt and virtue, runs through our history. Maturity is being humble and confident at the same time. Today, as Russia attacks and China grows more menacing, I hope we can humbly make it clear that we can’t change other nations in ways they don’t want to change but also confidently declare that the global weather patterns are fairer when the United States spreads the message of human dignity and supports the forces of democracy.

Gail Collins: 

As much as we all want to go back to normal, there’s no way I’m not going to push for something new. The one initiative I really, really want to get accomplished is help for low-income parents. Financial aid and access to high-quality child care. If I can just do that, I’ll be satisfied. Many of my colleagues won’t be, but hey, I’d be happy to be remembered as a president who made things better without high drama. I’ll be the one who’s grinning when everybody yawns.

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Ross Douthat:

I also want to say something on a personal level to those young Americans who look at the world around them, who look at climate change or the pandemic or the threat from Russia and get worried about bringing a kid into this world. I’m not that young myself, as you may have noticed, which means I’ve seen a lot of history. When I was born, World War II was raging, we’d just gone through the Great Depression, and a big part of the globe was in the hands of ruthless totalitarian dictators bent on mass murder. And then when it came time to have kids of my own, the Cold War was on, and we all lived under the threat of nuclear war.

I’m not going to tell you that my life was easy. I’m certainly not going to tell you that raising kids was easy. I’ve seen a lot of struggle, a lot of tragedy, in the world and in my own family. But looking back, even with all the risks, all the danger, all the sorrow, I just want you to know: It’s worth it. It’s worth it. The challenges are big, but they’ve always been big — and the thing is, folks, human beings are bigger, and every new life you bring into the world is another candle lit against the dark.

Bret Stephens:

In the Jewish tradition it is said that “in every generation they rise up to destroy us.” That has often been true about democracy itself, from white supremacy to fascism and Communism to Al Qaeda. It is true today. We will face Putin down, just as we faced down past enemies. We will mend our divisions. We will build democracy back, better than ever, at home and across the free world.

We will start again — and we will start now.

If you have access to the Times Op-Ed page online, the full compendium is here.