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Opinion: Grow a spine, Republicans, and push back against Trump

epa05955837 Republican Senator from Texas Ted Cruz (C) speaks to members of the news media following
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and his fellow Republicans don’t seem worried by President Trump’s scandalous firing of FBI Director James Comey.
(Michael Reynolds / EPA)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, The Times’ letters editor, and it is Saturday, May 13, 2017. Warning to travelers: Today may be the start of the toughest weekend ever for flying out of Los Angeles International Airport. Here’s a look back at the week in Opinion.

Remember — you don’t have to think far back — when Republicans regarded any perceived impropriety out of the White House as a scandal? When Constitution lovers like Sen. Ted Cruz preached in favor of appointing a special prosecutor to frisk the Obama administration over the IRS’ scrutiny of conservative tax-exempt groups?

The sound judgment of Donald Trump appears to have calmed these excitable Republicans, because few seem worried by the president’s extraordinarily scandalous firing of FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing his agency’s counterintelligence investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 campaign. In an op-ed article, Matt Welch says these Republicans, who control both houses of Congress, are abdicating their responsibility to keep Trump in check:

Trump’s crude self-dealing, outsize ego and willingness to wield state power against individuals were hardly secrets during the presidential campaign. Any politician who criticized executive-branch abuse under President Obama (and preferably President George W. Bush as well), should understand instinctively that this norm-breaking president requires more, not less, prophylactic restraint in the form of independent institutions and personnel.

Valuing such protections does not require any belief in Russia-conspiracy Twitter threads. To the contrary: Those who believe there’s no fire under the Russian smoke should want an unimpeachable, nonpartisan source to discover and publicize that conclusion.

[Sen. Rand] Paul, Cruz and [Sen. Mike] Lee (who also supported Comey’s sacking) are arguably the Senate’s three most eloquent voices declaiming the legislative branch’s constitutional abdication in making war, surveillance policy and even budgets. They are right about this, and they were right in demanding more investigative independence in the Obama administration. Here’s hoping they extend the discourtesy to Trump.

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Turns out we were right: The day Trump fired Comey, the Times’ editorial board declared that “absolutely nothing about James Comey’s firing passes the smell test.” The reasoning first offered by the White House — which in retrospect seems quaint — was that the deputy attorney general had written in a memo that Comey’s mistreatment of Hillary Clinton during the campaign violated Justice Department norms and therefor ruined the FBI director’s credibility, and that Trump was simply agreeing with that reasoning. Who knew that days later, Trump himself would prove us right? L.A. Times

Now what happens to the FBI’s Russia investigation? The editorial board asks that the next FBI director demonstrate his or her commitment to seeing through the investigation that Comey was personally handling (but really, a special counsel is preferable). Harry Litman, a former U.S. attorney and Justice Department official, writes in an op-ed article that the FBI’s obsession with the perception of it as this country’s most professional and competent law enforcement agency means that its Russia investigation will not go away anytime soon.

A 64-year-old liberal retiree can take up any number of hobbies. Like shooting. And what better place to buy your first gun than at an NRA convention? William Alexander explored the recent Atlanta expo and noted that, while there was some age and gender diversity, what there wasn’t was much variation in thought: “No matter their age, gender or social class, every person I spoke with regurgitated the same NRA talking points: self-defense, guns-don’t-kill/people-kill, and 2nd Amendment rights .… One common thread among the conventioneers I met was fear. Real, genuine fear.” L.A. Times

There’s (another) election in Los Angeles on Tuesday, and we have recommendations. The editorial board is especially harsh in its “no” endorsement of Measure C, which it calls a “union ploy to go soft on police misconduct.” In the two City Council runoffs, the board recommends Monica Rodriguez in District 7 and gives perhaps its most tepid endorsement ever to District 1 incumbent Gil Cedillo. For the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, the editorial board picks Nick Melvoin in District 4 and Kelly Gonez in District 6.

Do we need to hear much more from Hillary Clinton? Doyle McManus doesn’t think so, saying that the woman who almost became the United States’ first female president and who has served as a senator, first lady and secretary of State “has more than earned her right to be a major voice in American politics,” but “maybe it’s time she moved on to higher pursuits.” L.A. Times

Whatever Trump says, California does the opposite. And it’s working. The president has identified burdensome regulations and environmental protections as major reasons employers are not adding more jobs. But California, which has the most stringent environmental laws in the country and is known for its highly regulated business market, “is the chief reason America is the only developed economy to achieve record GDP growth since the financial crisis of 2008 and ensuing global recession.” Bloomberg

Reach me: paul.thornton@latimes.com


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