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Opinion

Newsletter: Attack Obama? How foolish can Democrats be?

Ten Democratic presidential candidates take the stage before they debate in Detroit on July 31.
Ten Democratic presidential candidates take the stage before they debate in Detroit on July 31.
(Scott Olson / Getty Images)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and I write this Aug. 3, 2019, edition from one of the latest cities to be called out by President Trump at a campaign rally. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

Dismayed liberals (and really all half-moral humans) who have long had their eyes on the first Tuesday of November 2020 as the date America will deliver itself from indecency forget a simple, unsettling fact: Donald Trump is the incumbent, and that alone qualifies him the most likely individual to take the oath of office Jan. 20, 2021. I don’t relish admitting this, and I say it as someone who tells his children that Trump is a bad man.

It doesn’t help that at their most recent debate, the Democratic candidates for president targeted perhaps the most popular, unifying figure among people who oppose Trump: President Obama. Scott Jennings, a Republican advisor dismissed by some of our readers as a hack, took to our op-ed pages to offer essentially free advice for beating his preferred candidate: If you want to win an election, it does your side no good to attack a popular ex-president just so you can win the primary.

The second big takeaway: Marianne Williamson, who built an entire career on getting people to listen to advice she has no business dispensing (like on vaccines and antidepressants), is really good at doing the same in politics. Here are two diverging opinions on her big debate performance:

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Williamson won the debate, and we’re probably all doomed. Brian Boyle, the editorial page’s summer intern, admonishes Democrats to stop giving Williamson such a big platform, because we’ve all seen what happens when media darlings who preach of America’s moral rot get too much attention: “Like Trump, she’s uncovered a disaffected corner of the party. The kind that doesn’t vote; the kind that’s inspired more by an appeal to ill-defined existential emotions than effective policymaking. Like Trump, she projects a coming American apocalypse, tapping into liberal nightmares rather than conservative ones. Like Trump, she then presents herself and her own spiritual gut instinct as the sole (and soulful) path to salvation.” L.A. Times

She might have just shown the Democrats how to beat Trump. Elections turn on emotions, and Williamson delivered plenty of them at the Democratic debate. Editorial writer Scott Martelle concedes that Williamson almost certainly will not win the White House, let alone her party’s nomination, but by drawing deafening applause at the debate and sustained chatter online afterward, she showed her fellow Democrats what they need to say to win in 2020. L.A. Times

Also from the week in Opinion:

Ronald Reagan was governor of California when he made newly revealed virulently racist remarks. The man to whom he made them, President Richard Nixon in 1971, had been a senator from California and unsuccessfully run for governor. Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis writes of her shock upon hearing racial slurs uttered in her father’s voice: “The words he used in his conversation with Nixon cannot be interpreted as anything but ugliness. That’s what makes this so painful. Legacies are complicated, though, and for people to be judged fairly, the landscape of a lifetime has to be looked at.” Washington Post

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Tulsi Gabbard is both an Army Reserve major and a U.S. representative, and that raises all kinds of problems, says Army Lt. Col. ML Cavanaugh: “Whether members of Congress should simultaneously serve as reserve or National Guard officers is a question that should be officially addressed. At a minimum, those who formally seek the office of commander-in-chief should follow the example of Gen. George Washington — and leave military service behind before ascending to political office.” L.A. Times

If you’re homeless in L.A. and want to spend the night in a shelter, lots of luck. Editorial writer Carla Hall tells of her recent experience trying to get a victim of domestic abuse into a bed in one. It should have been easy enough — after all, this woman wanted to go to a shelter, and getting homeless people to want that is half the battle. But the search proved excessively time-consuming and discouragingly bureaucratic for Hall, a journalist who covers homelessness for The Times and knows all the right phone numbers to call. Imagine how impossible it might be for an exhausted, hungry, battered woman living on the street. L.A. Times

Trump’s xenophobic venom is disgusting but not at all unprecedented. In fact, almost exactly 100 years ago, the last Oval Office occupant to release a torrent of anti-media vitriol was a Democrat now revered by many historians as one of the nation’s greatest presidents, Woodrow Wilson. There is one key difference between Trump and Wilson: “The president who oversaw this particular 100-year flood was no Donald Trump, not in his manner anyway. Wilson carefully kept his image as an above-the-fray idealist by outsourcing inflammatory rhetoric to others.” L.A. Times

Reach me: paul.thornton@latimes.com


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