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The Bezos Story Is Big

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Gail Collins: Bret, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m going to give you the gift of deciding what current event we should start off with. Virginia? Jeff Bezos? Trump investigations? Supreme Court? Rapidly exploding population of Democratic presidential candidates?

Bret Stephens: Oh, Gail — that’s the most wonkishly romantic gesture I’ve ever heard. Maybe we should talk about Bezos, because it involves a lot of double entendres and it reads like the next installment in the E.L. James series. Let’s call it “50 Shades Richer.” Billionaires! Sex! Political intrigue! Allegations of blackmail! And a storybook villain named David Pecker, which is a name worthy of a Charles Dickens character.

Gail: The Bezos story does have everything, including Donald Trump, whose great pals at The National Enquirer got hold of, um, embarrassing pictures Bezos exchanged with his girlfriend. Then according to Bezos — who’s the owner of The Washington Post — Pecker’s team threatened to make them public unless he said the National Enquirer’s stories about his sex life weren’t politically motivated.

Several thoughts here. One is that even if you’re a super-billionaire, texting a “below the belt selfie” is a bad plan. But that aside, it seems as if Bezos has been handling the whole thing well. And third: Everything sleazy always seems to wind up with a Trump connection.

Bret: Yes, Bezos has dealt with it brilliantly. It helps — how shall I put this delicately? — that his pride got the better of his embarrassment, and that there was nothing embarrassing about his pride.

Gail: O.K., that’s a quote to remember.

Bret: It also helps that Bezos has the financial means and journalistic tools to get to the bottom of the hacking. I don’t know if the government did the hacking — the truth is probably prosaic, but Pecker’s friendship with Trump raises an eyebrow — but if it did it would be a scandal for the ages.

Gail: In an age when it’s hard to ignore any big political scandal, we’re going to be reminded of this one every time we see a package from Amazon, which is approximately every three waking minutes of the day.

Bret: Even now the connections are tantalizing. Why is Pecker “apoplectic” about Bezos’ investigation into who leaked the story to the Enquirer and whether the leak was politically motivated? And how might the potential withdrawal of legal immunity that Pecker obtained last year in connection with his handling of Trump’s hush money payments to his mistresses affect the Southern District’s investigation of Trump’s probable violations of campaign-finance laws?

Going forward, I think we need to start describing all of these ties as the Axis of Pecker. Just........

© The New York Times