Newsletter: A ‘thanks, Obama’ GOP defense of Trump

House Intelligence Committee ranking Republican Devin Nunes, left, of Tulare speaks with minority counsel Steve Castor during the impeachment hearing on Nov. 13.
(Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA/Shutterstock)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. Let’s take a look back at the sadly eventful week in Opinion.

This past week was eventful, but in so many terrible ways it was more of the same. Arguably, the two defining issues of the last several years have been gun violence and President Trump’s misconduct; this week, we got both of those. Tragically, mass shootings at schools happen far more frequently than public impeachment hearings, so we’ll lead off with the latter.

In a fair world where good judgment was put to use more often than political expediency, the House Intelligence Committee’s first two impeachment hearings would be seen as dealing devastating blows to the Trump presidency. Chairman Adam B. Schiff and his fellow Democrats focused almost exclusively on the indisputable facts regarding the president’s conduct, and the three witnesses behaved as competent, apolitical public servants who relayed only what they knew to have actually happened.


But filtered through the lens of partisan politics, none of that matters. No, really: Read this L.A. Times op-ed article by former Republican strategist Scott Jennings, and you’ll come away thinking President Obama’s failures to arm Ukraine in 2014 and thwart Russian meddling in the 2016 election somehow mitigate Trump’s conduct in 2019. His assessment is that the first day of impeachment hearings was a dud for Democrats. For other takes, read Virginia Heffernan’s reaction to the “goons versus diplomats” exchange and Robin Abcarian’s judgment that the Republicans were playing “dumb and dumber.”

And now, your regular interlude on gun violence: There was a school shooting in Santa Clarita, a large suburb north of Los Angeles, and yes, we should make it about guns, says the L.A. Times Editorial Board. This piece is especially heartbreaking: Farah Aziz of Pakistan sent her daughter to study for a year in the United States; she was killed in a Houston school shooting days before she was to return home. Two criminal justice researchers remind us there is not just one type of mass shooter; there are five.

Back to impeachment: Trump’s attempt to engage in witness intimidation during the testimony of his former ambassador to Ukraine was more akin to throwing “Twitter acid on Marie Yovanovitch’s face,” says Robin Abcarian. The president’s trash-tweeting of Yovanovitch “guaranteed that Republicans at the hearing would be playing defense — and would be obliged to heap praise on Yovanovitch’s service to the country even if they didn’t mean it,” writes Michael McGough.

Welcome to Stockton, a city of desiccated rivers and poisonous fish. The large city on California’s spectacular Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta has been racked by a municipal bankruptcy and high crime rates. Its fate is tied inextricably to the health of the San Joaquin River, one of California’s two great waterways, which has in the past been reduced to a toxic trickle because of upstream diversions. Now, Trump’s policy on the delta could further stress the river and bring financial peril back to Stockton. L.A. Times


Trump wants to make immigrants pay more to become citizens — a lot more. Rule changes proposed this week by the administration would bring the naturalization fee for a single immigrant from $725 to $1,170. These are fully documented, “legal” immigrants seeking to become fully American, not the border-jumping hordes Trump would have you believe he’s blocking. L.A. Times

Hundreds of thousands of people will find shelter during the 2028 Olympics. Why can’t we do something similar for homeless people? Believe it or not, there’s a plan for that, writes Rob Eshman: The man who holds an early patent on the laptop now has an idea for housing Los Angeles’ 60,000 homeless residents on land already owned by the city. It’s on open property near LAX, and the idea is to house as many people as possible temporarily, instead of slowly building expensive permanent apartments. L.A. Times

Reach me: