Until Tuesday, Alabama hadn’t elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in 25 years. Is it a sign of something bigger to come?
Alabama Rolled to Doug Jones
Doug Jones declared victory. Roy Moore refused to concede defeat. President Trump’s first tweet was strikingly measured and gracious, after he saw yet another candidate with his backing lose a race. And the word most often heard in the media: “stunning.” The upset victory in Alabama’s U.S. Senate election didn’t just send a message to the scandal-plagued Moore, it dealt a serious blow to Trump. Once the results are certified, it will mean one less GOP voice in the Senate and leave the party with just a one-vote advantage, even if Jones is a conservative Democrat. It could also portend bigger things in 2018, as The Times’ Cathleen Decker writes in her analysis. Exit polls show voters were closely split on Trump even in this heavily Republican state. Here are five takeaways.
Trump’s Lawyers Have a Very Special Request
President Trump’s legal team has joined a chorus of Republicans who want to investigate the prosecutors investigating the White House by having a second special counsel appointed. The president’s lawyers have taken care not to criticize Robert S. Mueller III himself, but Democrats say the message is clear: to sow seeds of doubt about his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Watch for it to come up when Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein testifies before the House Judiciary Committee today. Meanwhile, Trump attorney Ty Cobb is suggesting (or just wishfully thinking) that the Mueller investigation may be nearing an end.
-- After half a dozen Democratic senators called on Trump to resign over sexual misconduct allegations, he attacked New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Twitter, saying she “would come to my office ‘begging’ for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them).”
-- A pivotal congressional meeting and a Trump speech on the Republican tax plan are expected today, as House and Senate negotiators have been trying to hammer out a deal. Some religious leaders wonder why the plan would allow churches to endorse candidates.
-- One of Trump’s proposed judges is in danger of defeat, as Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley said the Senate should not confirm a 36-year-old lawyer and blogger who has never tried a case.
When One Crisis Begets Another
Officials say the Bel-Air blaze that destroyed six homes, damaged a dozen others and produced some apocalyptic video last week in the affluent neighborhood was sparked by a cooking fire at a homeless encampment. This “makes a tragic event even more tragic,” said Los Angeles Councilman Paul Koretz. Now, a new task force for fire prevention will look at how to lower the risk from hillside encampments, but with the homeless population soaring, it won’t be easy.
San Francisco’s Sudden Loss
Ed Lee began his first term as mayor of San Francisco talking about “jobs, jobs, jobs” as the city emerged from the Great Recession to become what he called the Innovation Capital of the World. By his second term, that mantra had shifted to “housing, housing, housing” amid a skyrocketing real estate market unleashed by those jobs. Now, as the city mourns the death of its first Chinese American mayor at age 65, it’s also contemplating how those economic forces might change without him.
A Tour de Force
When “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” hits theaters this week, it should have one of the biggest box-office openings of the year — and even could help Disney battle Netflix for streaming viewers. One thing’s for sure: At 2 hours and 32 minutes, the series’ eighth official episode is its longest. But is it any good? Times film critic Justin Chang calls it “easily its most exciting iteration in decades — the first flat-out terrific ‘Star Wars’ movie since 1980’s ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’ ”
-- Remember The Times’ “Dirty John” series? This week, women victimized by John Meehan shared the stage and discussed domestic abuse issues.
-- Watch Rams player Andrew Whitworth surprise elementary students in Watts with new bicycles.
-- Authorities say they have turned a corner in fighting the Thomas fire along its eastern flank in Ventura County, but it’s still threatening coastal Santa Barbar County, including Montecito, where lush ornamental vegetation increases the fire risk.
-- California allows women to get birth control from a pharmacist without a prescription, but only about 11% of pharmacies in the state offer the service.
-- The Los Angeles Police Department said it is investigating allegations that director Roman Polanski in 1975 molested a 10-year-old child, even though the statute of limitations has expired.
-- Columnist Robin Abcarian says there’s no better place to see the transition from marijuana prohibition to legalization than the Emerald Cup, which has gone from funky festival to branded event.
HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS
-- Bon Jovi can stop living on a prayer: The band is headed to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, along with the Cars, Dire Straits, the Moody Blues, Nina Simone and gospel singer-guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
-- What do “Dumbo,” “The Goonies” and “Titanic” have in common? They’re among 25 films being added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.
-- The mother of Keaton Jones, the boy who was in a viral video about bullying that sparked a backlash, says, “I knew that it could be great, and I knew that it could be awful.”
-- Dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster has named “feminism” its word of the year for 2017. “Dotard” fell short.
Dick Van Dyke, who was born on this date in 1925, is known for his work on TV shows such as “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “Diagnosis Murder,” in films like “Mary Poppins” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and on Broadway in “Bye Bye Birdie.” But after his own struggles with alcoholism, he suggests visiting Midnight Mission on L.A.’s skid row, especially during the holidays. “I recommend everybody go down there,” he told The Times in 2012. “It’ll change your life.”
-- “I did it for the Islamic State”: A criminal complaint alleges the man charged with detonating a makeshift pipe bomb in the New York transit system was radicalized through internet propaganda.
-- Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions and the new chief of Homeland Security linked the subway bombing to what they said were misguided immigration rules.
-- Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador formalized his bid for Mexico’s presidency, vowing if elected to wean the country off U.S. agricultural imports and consider amnesty for drug war criminals.
-- In 2013, Mats Järlström’s wife got a $260 ticket in the mail for running a red light in Beaverton, Ore. Little did he know it would turn into a battle over free-speech rights.
-- Is “man flu,” an infectious disease that renders healthy males utterly incapable of self-care, for real? A study suggests it may not all be in a guy’s head.
-- A French commercial real estate giant went shopping. Its acquisition: Westfield Corp., which operates upscale malls in Los Angeles and in dozens of other U.S. cities and in Britain.
-- Is it appropriate for the chairman of the FCC to joke about being a Verizon shill, just days before forcing an FCC vote that would help Verizon? Columnist Michael Hiltzik explores.
-- Columnist Dylan Hernandez says the next Shohei Ohtani is already waiting in the wings. Meet Yusei Kikuchi.
-- Good luck: The Lakers have asked LaVar Ball to tone down the rhetoric.
-- Even our Republican Congress should be able to recognize the danger Scott Pruitt of the Environmental Protection Agency poses.
-- Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel: A seemingly dumb game that contains the moral world in miniature.
WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING
-- Does Boston deserve its reputation for racism? (Boston Globe)
-- Inside a Syrian radio station in exile. (Roads and Kingdoms)
-- How do you teach a toddler about Hanukkah? (Forward)
ONLY IN L.A.
What is a hamburger all about? That must be one of the questions new managers ponder at In-N-Out University in Baldwin Park, right next to the chain’s flagship location. But if you visit, as travel writer Christopher Reynolds did, please bear in mind that what appears to be In-N-Out’s first burger shack is a replica. Perfect for selfies, but for shakes and fries, not so much.