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Opinion

Newsletter: How dangerous is Trump? Ask the Kurds

President Trump speaks to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the opening ceremony of the NATO summit in Brussels on July 11, 2018.
President Trump speaks to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the opening ceremony of the NATO summit in Brussels on July 11, 2018.
(Geoffroy van der Hasselt / AFP/Getty Images)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Beginning on a positive note, we should celebrate the fact that the Dodgers will avoid losing three World Series in a row. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

Last Friday, the Kurds in northern Syria went to bed after yet another day existing precariously between warring factions that would brutalize them were it not for the skeletal presence of U.S. forces. On Monday, the Kurds faced a military incursion from Turkish forces and a renewed threat from Islamic State made possible by a sudden American withdrawal. What happened?

This is one of those rare cases in which a president like Donald Trump can have immediate, deadly and long-lasting consequences, thanks to both the vast powers vested in the position of commander in chief and the malignant incompetence of the person holding it.

President Trump deserves blame for mishandling a number of issues, but a problem like the trade war with China was preceded by a generation of economic duplicitousness by Beijing. Trump’s sudden withdrawal from parts of northern Syria, however, has all the fingerprints of his particular unfitness for the job: his impulsiveness, his purely transactional approach to foreign policy (remember, they “didn’t help us with Normandy”), his affinity for autocrats like Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his supreme confidence in his own “great and unmatched wisdom.”

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This is what happens when we let Trump be Trump — or as the L.A. Times Editorial Board put it in a scathing piece: “This episode is a reminder that, whether or not Congress concludes that Trump committed ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ deserving of impeachment, he is operatically incompetent in discharging the duties of the presidency.”

Trump will only get more Trumpy. Virginia Heffernan writes that the the unconstitutional refusal by the president’s counsel to cooperate in the House impeachment inquiry is bad enough, but it pales in comparison to what Trump himself is doing: “To see a panicky president endanger our national security while he showers Erdogan and Putin with gifts is to see a leader over the edge. He has no intention of even pausing his traitorous crime spree on the way to impeachment.” L.A. Times

It’s (probably) safe to eat red meat again, but not because of some recent breakthrough in raising livestock. In fact, the food’s stayed the same, but the way some scientists are looking at the evidence has changed. Nina Teicholz writes that the latest flip-flop on red meat — clarification that, in fact, eating it has not been shown to be associated with a higher heart disease or cancer risk — uses the best science in place of scientists’ best guesses. L.A. Times

Want someone to blame for blackouts? Look in the mirror. Besieged utility Pacific Gas and Electric is getting plenty of deserved flak for its preemptive power outages in Northern California during high winds. But wind-driven wildfires sparked by malfunctioning electrical lines would be killing fewer people and destroying less property if so many Californians weren’t living in high-risk areas. L.A. Times

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Trump is creating the worst constitutional crisis in 150 years. The term “constitutional crisis” gets thrown around too often, and it really does not have any legal significance. It is used properly to describe a breakdown in the constitutional order, something that has happened only a few times in U.S. history, most significantly before the Civil War. And Trump, by refusing to recognize the House’s sole power of impeachment as afforded in the Constitution instead of simply making his case to the American people, has touched off that kind of crisis. L.A. Times

Everyone made money off her athleticism except the athlete. UCLA’s Katelyn Ohashi is one of the most celebrated college gymnasts ever; clips of her perfect-10 floor routine have gone viral. Problem is, the only participant in her fame who didn’t make any money from it was Ohashi. She explains why she believes that’s wrong, and why she supports California’s new law that will allow students to be compensated for their athleticism. New York Times

Reach me: paul.thornton@latimes.com


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