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Sweet Home You-Know-Where

Ex-senator Jeff Sessions (left) and Coach Tommy Tuberville, Senate candidates in Alabama (Reuters)

My latest guest on Q&A is an old friend and colleague, Elaina Plott. We have had a lot of bright, literary Yalies at National Review (starting with the founder). Elaina was one. She wrote for us even before she got here. When she was a sophomore in college, studying in Beijing, she contributed this: “China’s Fear of Shame.”

After her stint at NR, she went to Washingtonian magazine, then to The Atlantic, then to the New York Times. She is now a national political reporter for the Times. (Incidentally, WFB loved it when his people could go “mainstream.” He did not want to build and maintain a ghetto.)

Elaina is from Alabama — Tuscaloosa — and she is there right now, sheltered in place. But she is also doing an Alabama story: a profile of Jeff Sessions, the ex-senator, who is trying to get back in. She and I talk about the Sessions–Tuberville race — with Trump hovering over it all, of course.

We also talk about growing up, and college, and working in journalism. What does she think of the epithets du jour, “fake news” and “enemy of the people”? (True, the second of those has a long, nasty pedigree.) We talk about some of the recent pieces she has done, including one on Greg Abbott, the Texas Republican, and one on Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Democrat.

There is also race, that omnipresent American issue. Elaina has lived both in the South and in the North. Does she see a difference in race relations? Incidentally, she is working on a book about George C. Wallace, who was maybe worse than a racist: someone who played a racist, for political advantage.

In the course of our podcast, I mention two pieces that I think are my favorites of Elaina’s — the first one should certainly be anthologized. It is “The Bullet in My Arm.” Its subheading — long — is “I grew up in a gun-loving town in Alabama. My grandfather’s store sells firearms. But only after I was shot did I begin to understand America’s complicated relationship with guns.”

The second piece, I was rather moved by (as by the first, true): “Her Facebook Friends Asked if Anyone Was Actually Sick. She Had an Answer.” Its subheading: “Heaven Frilot is normally a private person. But this is not a normal time. So she and her husband are now the face of the coronavirus for their conservative Louisiana community.”

Elaina Plott is a writer of unusual sensitivity and grace. She is also a delightful person. Meet her, if you haven’t already, on our podcast — again, here.

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