Newsletter: An early spotter of ‘Mayor Pete’s’ rising star

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, left, speaks with then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on May 1, 2015.
South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, left, speaks with then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on May 1, 2015.
(Robert Franklin / Associated Press)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, April 13, 2019. As you read this, I’m frantically collecting all the tax documents I need to figure out how much I owe Uncle Sam — or how much he owes me. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

In a presidential campaign that began minutes after Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, there’s ample time for each of the innumerable Democrats vying to replace him to enjoy a few days alone in the national spotlight. If it doesn’t get you the party’s nomination, it’ll most certainly land you a book deal, so why not run for president?

The Democrat commanding national attention right now is Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old Navy veteran, former Rhodes scholar and mayor of South Bend, Ind., who’s endearing himself to voters by tussling over gay rights with America’s least principled politician, Vice President Mike Pence. Many Democrats may only have just figured out how to pronounce “Buttigieg,” but one writer whose radar “Mayor Pete” crossed nearly a month ago was our own contributor Melissa Batchelor Warnke:

Why exactly does it put an actual spring in my step that a politician I’ve barely followed got enough donations to show up to a 10-person debate?

Is it because I learned everything there is to know about Mayor Pete in the last six seconds and am ready to lead his rhythmic clapping section? Absolutely not. But he’s made a hopeful splash in a largely dull, demented or compromised field. Things were quite a snooze before Saturday, what with my dear Liz Warren fatally wounding herself in the DNA fiasco, Kamala Harris trying to be cool, Joe Biden mounting his third run (as I yowled about here), Amy Klobuchar throwing binders, and Howard Schultz metaphorically walking into walls while blindfolded. Bernie Sanders, whatever else might be said about him, is nearly 80. Beto O’Rourke’s hot nerd charisma is wearing off fast.

Water, water, everywhere, and no drops I want to be POTUS....

Much of my initial Buttigieg interest is sparked by his willingness to challenge long-established political narratives (long-battled, too, including by Sanders, the subject of a reverent essay Buttigieg wrote in high school). Democrats “are not yet comfortable working in a vocabulary of ‘freedom,’” Buttigieg told the New York Times in 2016. “Conservatives talk about freedom. They mean it. But they’re often negligent about the extent to which things other than government make people unfree.” Language matters — and Buttigieg speaks like someone who realizes its power. He’s both plainspoken and fun to listen to. He’s got a touch of Obama, whose campaign he canvassed for in 2008. (In 2016, the former president included Buttigieg in a short list of Democrats to watch.) That’ll liven up the debates.

Between now and those debates, which start in June, you’ll want to learn Mayor Pete’s name. For the record, it’s pronounced BOOT-edge-edge.

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Israelis can’t quit Bibi Netanyahu, and that’s too bad for them, writes Nicholas Goldberg, who first covered the current and future prime minister in 1995. He started out then as the Likud Party’s charismatic hawk who opposed the Oslo accords, and he’ll probably continue on as the defining force in Israeli politics for the forseable future: “Perhaps in the months ahead his hold on power will be cut short, if not by voters then by prosecutors. But don’t count on it. Netanyahu has survived many crises over many decades, and he shows no indication now that he is ready to slink away into obscurity.” L.A. Times

It’s official: Israelis are fine with apartheid. UCLA professor Saree Makdisi wasn’t hopeful before Tuesday’s election that much would change for the Palestinians, no matter the results. Here’s Makdisi’s takeaway: “The two-state solution is dead. What remains is a single racist state whose beneficiaries are satisfied with their government and whose victims are deeply unhappy and desperate for something new.” L.A. Times

Julian Assange’s arrest is not a 1st Amendment issue. UC Berkeley law school dean Erwin Chemerinsky, who isn’t known for having a narrow view of free speech rights, says there’s a difference between publishing government secrets that may have been obtained illegally, and actually engaging in illegal activity to obtain those secrets. “The Constitution does not give reporters the right to break into buildings or computers to gather information, even for very important stories,” Chemerinsky writes. L.A. Times

Nipsey Hussle loved his blackness. The South L.A. rapper’s tragic death has captured the nation’s attention because the themes in his personal story (pull yourself up by your bootstraps, fight the powers that be, etc.) have appeal across the ideological spectrum. But that doesn’t explain it all, says Michael Eric Dyson: “The main reason his story is so compelling is because love was at the core of his beliefs and behavior. Love of his craft. Love of his blackness. Love of his neighborhood.” New York Times

Trump wants to dump immigrants who are in the country illegally into “sanctuary cities.” We’ll take ’em. Editorial writer Scott Martelle reminds the president that sending people who have been arrested on suspicion of being in the country illegally to cities whose leaders are aligned against him politically would probably improve public safety, as numerous studies show that immigrants commit crimes at rates lower than the rest of the population. L.A. Times