Newsletter: Opinion: What was Brock Turner’s father thinking?

Brock Turner, right, makes his way into court in Palo Alto on June 2.
(Dan Honda / Associated Press)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, The Times’ letters editor, and it is Saturday, June 11, 2016. Today’s sunrise time in Los Angeles — 5:41 a.m. — along with several days before and after, is the earliest of the year.

Here’s a look back at the week in Opinion.

Brock Turner might be the most hated man in America right now. His father, Dan Turner, is surely a close second.

The elder Turner penned an apparently effective letter to Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky begging for leniency after his son, formerly a student-athlete at Stanford University, was convicted in the grotesque sexual assault of an unconscious woman. Turner’s letter expressed anguish and heartfelt sympathy — for his son, not the victim.

Los Angeles-based writer Randye Hoder shows why “there is so much wrong with the missive”:

No doubt, many parents would do everything in their power to protect their children from going to prison, no matter what they’d done; some might argue that it’s their obligation as parents. And who knows? Given the contentious debate around sexual assault on campus, maybe Dan Turner even convinced himself that his son is not guilty.

But make no mistake. After a lengthy trial in which the defense tried to discredit the victim, a jury convicted Brock Turner of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated person; sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object; and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.

Fully aware of the details, Turner’s father maintains in his letter that Brock “has never been violent to anyone including his actions” in this case. He does not acknowledge that his son has committed a crime, or seem to understand that his son’s victim is the one who has truly suffered.

The father is only concerned that his son has “been deeply altered forever” by what he euphemistically calls “the events” of Jan. 17, 2015. Indeed, he cannot even bring himself to name what his son has actually done, grossly mischaracterizing the rape as “20 minutes of action.”

It was this sort of callous language that led Peggy Orenstein, author of the new book “Girls and Sex,” to tweet Monday: “I often wonder who raises the young men who assault their classmates on college campuses. Now I know. It's this guy.”...

How is the son supposed to accept responsibility for his actions when the father cannot? How is the son supposed to learn the difference between sexual assault and sexual intimacy when his father cannot? How is the son supposed to learn that what he did was rape someone when his father insists that all his son did wrong was get caught up in the college party scene?

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Beware the “rape accusation culture.” Columnist Meghan Daum warns of a campus climate that “allows women (and sometimes men) to think they can reframe consensual — if possibly regrettable — sex into something more nefarious long after the fact.” She says the Turner case highlights both the dangers of rape culture and rape accusation culture. L.A. Times

Removing the judge who sentenced Turner to six months in jail: It’s complicated, says The Times’ editorial board. Efforts to remove Judge Persky are underway, proving the truism that people tend to like judicial independence in principle but ridicule it when it’s exercised in an unpopular way. Whether the judge in this case ought to be removed presents a quandary for the editorial board, which supports California’s system of judicial elections but generally endorses sitting judges in the name of judicial independence. L.A. Times

Bernie Sanders has lost. Truer words about Tuesday’s election could not be uttered, but supporters of the Vermont senator running against Hillary Clinton persist in the delusion that their candidate is more electable than Clinton against Donald Trump and has a real chance at winning the Democratic Party’s nomination. Says The Times’ editorial board, “No, Sanders has been a formidable contender, but he will not be the party’s nominee.” L.A. Times

Paul Ryan, you disappointed Jonah Goldberg. The House speaker, says our #NeverTrump columnist, has “long felt [like] my kind of politician.” But Ryan’s reluctant embrace of Trump risks seriously setting back the House speaker’s fiscally conservative agenda, Goldberg writes. L.A. Times

Could a California-style top-two voting system fix Congress? An Opinion piece in the New York Times looks approvingly at the results of California’s primary, which selected two Democrats to face off in November to replace outgoing Sen. Barbara Boxer (also a Democrat), and says a similar system in, say, Texas could have prevented someone like, say, Ted Cruz from ever making it to Washington. New York Times

Don’t panic, Democrats: Clinton will beat Trump. Author and talk radio host Mark Green, after laying out the demographics and other trends standing in the way of a Trump presidency, sums up his argument with this reassurance: “Based on historic trends and their comparative assets, my best guess is that Clinton prevails by at least 53% to 46%, perhaps even a double-digit landslide. The most unpopular presidential nominee ever won’t be elected president. At least not if Democrats remember Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ admonition: ‘The way the inevitable came to pass was effort.’” L.A. Times

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