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The Trump re-election strategy has revealed itself: Cast American cities as hotbeds of chaos, and place the blame entirely on the Democratic Party. Yet why is unrest being seen as a weakness for Joe Biden, and not the man in charge? Is the media unthinkingly accepting a Republican narrative?

This week on the podcast, Frank, Michelle and Ross argue about the protests and counterprotests in Portland, Ore., and Kenosha, Wis., and disagree over the politicization of the clashes. They debate the lines between vigilantism and rioting and discuss the role coverage plays in the perception of the violence.

And as a fitting parting gift on his final episode of “The Argument,” Frank recommends a short story that goes from jocular to chest-gripping grief in just 10 pages.

ImageA confrontation between both ends of the spectrum in Portland, Ore., in August.
Credit…David Ryder for The New York Times

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Meet the Hosts

Frank Bruni

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I’ve been an Op-Ed columnist for The Times since 2011, but my career with the newspaper stretches back to 1995 and includes many twists and turns that reflect my embarrassingly scattered interests. I covered Congress, the White House and several political campaigns; I also spent five years in the role of chief restaurant critic. As the Rome bureau chief, I reported on the Vatican; as a staff writer for The Times’s Sunday magazine, I wrote many celebrity profiles. That jumble has informed my various books, which focus on the Roman Catholic Church, George W. Bush, my strange eating life, the college admissions process and meatloaf. Politically, I’m grief-stricken over the way President Trump has governed and I’m left of center, but I don’t think that the center is a bad place or “compromise” a dirty word. I’m Italian-American, I’m gay and I write a weekly Times newsletter in which you’ll occasionally encounter my dog, Regan, who has the run of our Manhattan apartment. @FrankBruni

Ross Douthat

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I’ve been an Op-Ed columnist since 2009, and I write about politics, religion, pop culture, sociology and the places where they intersect. I’m a Catholic and a conservative, in that order, which means that I’m against abortion and critical of the sexual revolution, but I tend to agree with liberals that the Republican Party is too friendly to the rich. I was against Donald Trump in 2016 for reasons specific to Donald Trump, but in general I think the populist movements in Europe and America have legitimate grievances and I often prefer the populists to the “reasonable” elites. I’ve written books about Harvard, the G.O.P., American Christianity and Pope Francis, and decadence. Benedict XVI was my favorite pope. I review movies for National Review and have strong opinions about many prestige television shows. I have four small children, three girls and a boy, and live in New Haven with my wife. @DouthatNYT

Michelle Goldberg

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I’ve been an Op-Ed columnist at The New York Times since 2017, writing mainly about politics, ideology and gender. These days people on the right and the left both use “liberal” as an epithet, but that’s basically what I am, though the nightmare of Donald Trump’s presidency has radicalized me and pushed me leftward. I’ve written three books, including one, in 2006, about the danger of right-wing populism in its religious fundamentalist guise. (My other two were about the global battle over reproductive rights and, in a brief detour from politics, about an adventurous Russian émigré who helped bring yoga to the West.) I love to travel; a long time ago, after my husband and I eloped, we spent a year backpacking through Asia. Now we live in Brooklyn with our son and daughter. @michelleinbklyn

“The Argument” is a production of The New York Times Opinion section. The team includes Phoebe Lett, Vishakha Darbha, Kathy Tu, Kristin Lin, Paula Szuchman and Isaac Jones. Theme by Allison Leyton-Brown.