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The Times’ 2012 list of the naughty and the nice

The Times editorial board puts Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., top left, and Fox anchor Anchor Megyn Kelly, top right, on its "nice" list. On the "naughty" list, among others: David H. Petraeus' biographer Paula Broadwell, bottom left, and "Hobbit" director Peter Jackson, bottom right.
(Pablo Martinez Monsivais, ISAF, Jon Furniss / Associated Press, Los Angeles Times)

Santa’s not the only one who makes lists. As we reflect on 2012, we too have thoughts about who should look forward to a cheerful holiday morning and who deserves a lump of coal. Below, The Times’ reflections on who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. Merry Christmas!

NICE

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Duncan Hosie, a gay freshman at Princeton University, was more than nice. He was brave and decent. Hosie offered Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia a lesson in civility when he respectfully questioned the justice about his inflammatory comments comparing homosexuality to bigamy, incest and bestiality.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck made us proud with his decision to limit the department’s participation in Secure Communities, a controversial federal immigration enforcement program. The chief’s decision means police will continue to hand over to federal authorities those immigrants with serious criminal records but not those arrested for minor offenses.

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Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. surprised us with a remarkable act of intelligence and bravery when he exercised judicial restraint by voting to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

It’s easy to pick on the Legislature and the Los Angeles City Council, but both deserve some credit for real efforts to address costly public worker pensions. Reform advocates didn’t get as much as they sought, but even labor-friendly Democrats showed a refreshing willingness to rein in abuses and limit future liabilities.

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Fox News is not usually high on our “nice” list, but this year it opted for journalism over politics on election night. It was among the first outlets to call the election for Obama, and stood by its decision when Republican strategist Karl Rove said it was too early to call Ohio and, with it, the election. Anchor Megyn Kelly memorably asked: “Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better?” It can’t be easy to challenge Rove on Fox, but Kelly did it admirably.

Pope Benedict XVI, a traditionalist pope, recognized that his “new evangelization” required engaging 21st century communication tools. The pope opened a Twitter account under the handle @Pontifex, an allusion to “pontifex maximus,” a title originally conferred on pagan priests in ancient Rome but applied for centuries to the bishop of Rome.

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California voters don’t always make the right decisions, but this year they passed Proposition 30, which provides money for public schools and community colleges and prevented draconian cuts to the California State University and the University of California systems. Voters also tempered the state’s “three-strikes” sentencing scheme and gave President Obama a 2-million-vote victory margin, nearly half of his margin nationally.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton proved to be a savvy and successful stateswoman in turbulent international times. She leaves office more politically popular than ever, and we expect to be hearing more from her soon.

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The new owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers deserve some credit too. The team struggled down the stretch, but the owners kept a promise to spend on players and now have a payroll roughly double the size of that under former owner Frank McCourt. Money doesn’t always add up to success in baseball, but we hope it will add up to more fans in the seats and a more entertaining team.

NAUGHTY

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was naughty — and cynical. Apparently worried about offending creationists, he gave this answer when asked by a reporter how old the Earth is: “I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created, and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all.” After he was widely ridiculed, Rubio acknowledged that “it’s at least 4.5 billion years old.”

Republicans in the U.S. Senate suggested that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice deliberately misled the nation about the September attack on a diplomatic installation in Libya that killed four Americans, including a U.S. ambassador. Rice’s suggestion that the attack stemmed from a spontaneous demonstration against an anti-Muslim video was incorrect, but she was conveying a preliminary assessment based on “talking points” drawn up by the intelligence community. This manufactured scandal figured in her decision to withdraw from consideration as secretary of State.

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The California State University trustees and the University of California regents actually considered imposing new fee hikes just after voters passed Proposition 30, which saved the two university systems from dire cuts. Fortunately, intervention from Gov. Jerry Brown staved off the increases, at least for now.

Was Republican Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri naughty or just stupid? He torpedoed his chances of winning a seat in the Senate by insisting that victims of “legitimate rape” could ward off pregnancy through some biological incantation, and his strange pronouncement hurt Republicans elsewhere too. The scariest aspect of Akin’s notion: The congressman used to sit on the House Science Committee.

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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is trying to deny driver’s licenses to young illegal immigrants who qualify for what the Obama administration calls “deferred action.” That makes no sense because the whole point of deferred action is to protect these students from deportation and allow them to go to school. Especially embarrassing was Brewer’s insistence that state law prohibited Arizona from issuing the driver’s licenses; it later turned out that the state has issued licenses in the past to other immigrants who were granted deferred action.

New Jersey and Florida state education officials tried to bar U.S.-born college students — American citizens, for goodness’ sake — from receiving state financial aid or lower in-state college tuition if their parents were in the country illegally. That’s not just naughty. It’s mean. Thankfully, the courts stepped in to put an end to the foolish and discriminatory policies which merely discouraged bright young citizens from attending college.

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Tone-deaf California Fish and Game Commissioner Daniel W. Richards shot a mountain lion while on a hunt in Idaho and posed for a photo, showing off the dead animal and his own poor judgment. Although lion hunting is legal in Idaho, it has been illegal in California for decades. Not only didn’t it occur to Richards that the photo might offend his California constituency, but he responded to 40 state lawmakers’ call for his resignation with a huffy letter telling them to back off. Lion hunting aside, his record on the commission shows he has been an abysmal steward of wildlife.

Paula Broadwell was naughty in a more traditional way. Her obsession with the married CIA chief David H. Petraeus prompted her to threaten another woman she apparently thought was also having an affair with him — a woman who happened to have a buddy at the FBI. The resulting scandal forced the resignation of Petraeus and later entangled Gen. John R. Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan; their sophomoric hijinks besmirched the reputations of these two leading military commanders.

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With an estimated billion members and an initial stock price of $38 a share, valuing Facebook at $104 billion, many individual investors figured Mark Zuckerberg and the company’s executives knew how to make money for them too. Apparently not. Facebook’s IPO was great for insiders but bad for others. Investors have found there’s not much to “like” about its prospects as a growth stock.

Long after former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has settled into retirement, Americans will remember his cynical dismissal of the “47%" who were beyond his campaign’s reach because they paid no taxes and were dependent on the government.

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Director Peter Jackson split his adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” into three movies instead of just one. Was that really necessary? Does he really expect us to sit through all three? In any case, we hope Jackson is building a mountain cavern to hide all his gold.


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