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Opinion newsletter: If only Joe Biden could fight fires

Joe Biden
Joe Biden puts on a protective mask after speaking to the media in Wilmington, Del., on Sept. 4.
(Associated Press)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

This was an important week for the Los Angeles Times as an institution. Surprising no one, the editorial board endorsed Democrat Joe Biden for president, a recommendation that really should not need to be made when his opponent is a crypto-fascist with a Twitter addiction. But the editorial board did a lot more than select Biden because he isn’t President Trump; rather, its endorsement was a full-throated statement of support, praising the former vice president as the ideal leader for a nation and a government damaged almost beyond repair. (And did you know that supporting Democratic candidates is a relatively new trend for The Times? Editorial page editor Sewell Chan delves into the history of what was once a reliably conservative institution.)

But I’d be misleading you if I gave you the impression that the election feels like the most important news story of the moment. As I write, I sit in the western San Gabriel Valley, fatigued by a winter-like daylight even though it’s still summer, inhaling ominously translucent air, with the mountains that normally loom as a picturesque backdrop belching smoke and flames. There’s no end in sight to this.

And there’s no escape. Oregon and Washington state are also on fire. The entire American West is drying out. More and stronger hurricanes wallop the southern U.S. As editorial writer Karin Klein writes, the concurrent crisis of COVID-19 and climate change “remind us how small we have made our planet.” On our op-ed page, Sen. Dianne Feinstein calls on the federal government to emulate California and do more to transition to renewable energy.

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And our president? Much of the air over the western U.S. is unbreathable, the sun barely shines on San Francisco anymore, whatever’s left of California’s vegetation is primed for combustion, and he feels good about Kim Jong Un’s health. So there is that.

More on Trump: Yeah, he knew. The president has clumsily denied any responsibility for immiserating and sickening millions of Americans, but it’s hard even for him to deny with any effectiveness that it wasn’t his own voice on Bob Woodward’s tape confessing he knew in February that the coronavirus was transmitted through the air and much deadlier than the flu. The editorial board states the plain truth simply and painfully: “Trump lied and Americans died.” In a separate piece, Mariah Kreutter writes that this puts to the test Trump’s 2016 boast, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters” — with the caveat it wasn’t “somebody” who died, it was more than 190,000 people.

File this under “Terrible Timing”: A far-right, anti-immigrant Norwegian lawmaker nominated Trump for a Nobel Peace Prize just before the Woodward bombshell exploded, proving once again that the plague of racist white men in power is itself a global pandemic, even in a place as peaceful as Norway (and as the son of a Norwegian, it pains me to write that). If it’s peace the pro-Trump Norwegian lawmaker values, he might also consider nominating Mitch McConnell, who’s kept the peace in the Senate by not bringing nearly 400 bills passed by the Democratic House up for a vote, writes Scott Martelle. L.A. Times

A physician is not at all surprised when his COVID-19 patients say they “feel fine,” so it disturbed him when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance such that it no longer recommends testing asymptomatic people, even if they have been exposed. Dr. Zainab Saadi of Irvine suggests a different approach: “Identifying the innocent, hidden spreaders of this preventable, deadly Russian roulette-like disease is critical to controlling the spread of COVID-19 — and requires a unified national public health approach.” L.A. Times

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The editorial board is making endorsements in more than just the presidential race — and it’s doing this soon, since the state of California is sending out mail-in ballots in early October. In addition to president, The Times has also made recommendations for Congressional District 25 (Christy Smith) and on Proposition 23 (no), and it will make endorsements on state ballot initiatives, local measures, races for city and county officials, judges, the L.A. Unified school board and the Los Angeles Community College District. L.A. Times

This newsletter will go dark next weekend. I am on vacation — or perhaps more accurately, a brief paid leave to help with my kids’ at-home schooling — and will not send out an Opinion roundup next week. As always, thanks for reading, and I look forward to seeing you in your inboxes in two weeks.

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As always, you can share your feedback by emailing me at paul.thornton@latimes.com.

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