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By Gail Collins and Bret Stephens

Ms. Collins and Mr. Stephens are opinion columnists. They converse every week.

Bret Stephens: Hi, Gail. Have I ever mentioned to you that I’m not an Elon Musk fan?

Gail Collins: Well gee, no. But I have to admit, Bret, it’s been a long time since I heard anybody say “Elon Musk is making the world a better place.”

Still, I’m guessing that his Twitter experience is really irritating you. Explain.

Bret: From the moment in April that he offered to buy Twitter at a share price of $54.20 — the 420 in that number is slang for weed — the whole effort felt like a stunt that was sure to come to nothing, just like his false and arguably fraudulent claim back in 2018 that he’d secured funding to take Tesla private at $420 a share. Stock pickers often look at a company’s price to earnings ratio. Someone needs to calculate Musk’s baloney to earnings ratio.

I know people love their Teslas and the rocketry business is cool, but Musk just seems emblematic of the image-over-substance age in which we live, from Donald Trump to the Kardashians. Anyone else come to mind?

Gail: Well, we’re in an election season so it’s not all that tough to come up with people who aspire to high office on the basis of career achievements that would seem more likely to qualify them as one of the people who wear funny costumes and pass out promotional literature in shopping malls. For instance, Mehmet Oz, TV-doc-turned-senate-candidate, who has no real experience in government or living in the state of Pennsylvania in the 21st century, where he is nonetheless the Republican nominee.

Bret: As I mentioned to you a while back, Oz once played an indispensable role in a family medical emergency.

Gail: Well, we can leave him out of it then. There are a ton of other Senate-hopeful versions of Elon Musk. In Georgia, Herschel Walker is famous for his inspirational speeches on fatherhood, except now it turns out he’s got secret children he apparently neglected to mention to his staff. And — well, you get to take a turn.

Bret: Walker’s a dreadful candidate, and he won the primary thanks largely to Trump’s endorsement — another reminder of how toxic the former president is to his party’s fortunes. Democrats should be grateful that the only thing worse than Trump’s business acumen is his political judgment.

Then again, there are more than a few Democrats who serve the same function for Republicans. Like New York’s own Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who’s busy conducting a guerrilla campaign against moderate Democrats running in purple districts …

Gail: OK, quick defense of AOC. You can’t compare totally unqualified celebrities who parachute in from outside politics to someone who created a grassroots reform movement and made it work. I know her politics are way out of your comfort zone, but there’s nothing wrong with trying to push a party to the left before its new crop of nominees are chosen.

Bret: “Unqualified celebrity” is sorta my description of AOC.

Gail: Sigh. Go on with your list of Democrats who make things worse ….

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