Newsletter: Will Trump’s vanity shut down the government?

President Trump argues about border security with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer at the White House on Dec. 11.
President Trump argues about border security with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer at the White House on Dec. 11.
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. In the spirit of the holiday season and out of civic pride, I wish you a most pleasant Bill of Rights Day. Let’s take a look back at the week in opinion.

The Oval Office meeting was already awkward, but everyone had been on his or her best behavior. President Trump, seated between Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Charles E. Schumer — and next to his inanimate vice president — spouted off a few points about tougher border security and averting a government shutdown. Then, Pelosi did something unpardonable for the president: She mentioned his name unflatteringly, saying no one want wants a “Trump shutdown,” and whatever it was that had kept the fragile peace vanished from the Oval Office.

An argument ensued in front of live-streaming cameras. Pelosi gave Trump a civics refresher on how a bill passes out of Congress, and Schumer goaded Trump not only into accepting responsibility for any negotiation impasse, but also into declaring that he would be “proud” to shut down the federal government.

So expect another shutdown, even though the Republicans still control government, and also even though the border wall is just a vanity project for the president, says The Times Editorial Board:

This debate isn’t, and never has been, about the best way to secure the border. It’s about the symbolism of the wall. To Trump, it’s the embodiment of his Fortress America approach to the rest of the world; to the more rational among us, it’s a terrible signal that the world’s greatest superpower has a bunker mentality.

That’s the backdrop for the meeting set for Tuesday between the president and top congressional Democrats, who will look for a way out of the impasse that Trump has created. And although compromise is vital to a functional democracy, lawmakers should continue to resist throwing $5 billion worth of tax dollars at what amounts to a vanity project for Trump. What both sides should be focused on is a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration law that addresses the full panoply of issues associated with decades of failed policy.

That’s a huge lift, and Congress simply doesn’t have enough time left in the current session to get there. The president needs to recognize that and stop holding the basic functions of government hostage to his wall ambitions. If he can’t persuade lawmakers to fund the wall, he shouldn’t put a huge chunk of the federal workforce on leave (which, if history is any guide, will ultimately become a paid vacation) to try to change their minds.

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Trump’s tactic is bold, risky, and probably foolish. Jon Healey says the president, in owning the looming government shutdown, is betting that people are more afraid of immigrants than they would be upset by federal agencies going dark. Readers who watched the Oval Office skirmish lament the absence of compromise in Washington and suggested the president fulfill a campaign promise by making Mexico pay for the wall.

Do you like vegan protein meals? Then you’re in luck, because L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz wants to require certain concessionaires and restaurants throughout the city to add a vegan meal option to their menus. Columnist (and soon-to-be L.A. Times reporter) Gustavo Arellano decries Koretz’s nanny-statism and reminds him that forcing restaurants to offer choices dictated by anything other than their customers’ tastes could eat into their already sushi-wrap-thin margins. L.A. Times

California’s death row population is 740. Jerry Brown should bring that down to zero. It would be both inhumane and impractical for the state to execute that many people, and that doesn’t even account for the almost certain fact that wrongfully convicted inmates remain on death row in California. Six former governors who halted executions in their states call on Brown to use his power of clemency and save the lives of 740 people. New York Times

Trump’s in major legal trouble. But what about holding him morally accountable? Jonah Goldberg writes that any president’s gravest offense is violating the public trust, but the discussion on Trump deals mostly with illegalities that range from trivial to grave. As for impeachment, Goldberg reminds us that Congress can indict and remove a president for any reason it wants. L.A. Times

L.A. wants better enforcement of speed limits — so it’s raising them? The dispiriting logic behind City Hall’s decision to raise the top posted speed on certain streets — because a state law precludes radar-gun enforcement of speed limits in the absence of a recent traffic study — demonstrates the sad fact that the car is still king in California. And yes, this is the state that has anointed itself the vanguard of this country’s fight against climate change. L.A. Times

Fight Sacramento, not the Los Angeles Unified School District. L.A. teachers are right: The district’s last, best contract offer doesn’t pay them enough money or provide enough resources. But going on strike would punish students who cannot afford to miss school. Nick Melvoin, vice president of the district’s Board of Education, blames the district’s financial hardship on state government and encourages teachers to join the district in demanding more resources from Sacramento. L.A. Times