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Opinion

Newsletter: Trump’s totally normal behavior after impeachment

President Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Mich., on Dec. 18.
President Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Mich., on Dec. 18.
(Jeff Kowalsky / AFP/Getty Images)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019. Before getting to the gravely divisive subject of this newsletter, let me wish all of you reading this newsletter a pleasant and comfortably brisk holiday season (especially to our subscribers — more on that below). With that said, brace for a look back at the week in Opinion.

The House of Representatives has voted to impeach President Trump. Aside from losing an election or being termed out of office, his impending trial in the Senate presents the greatest threat to his presidency. These are blunt truths not open to debate. In other words, Trump is in serious trouble. (I find the straightforward recitation of facts to be refreshing in this era of alternative facts and fake news.)

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What is worth pondering is how Trump behaves upon his inclusion in the exclusive club of impeached presidents. So far, the signs are not good.

As the House was voting on articles of impeachment, the president joked to Michigan rally-goers about the dead husband of a Democratic member of Congress “looking up” from hell — a cruel joke that drew a smattering of censures from Republicans but more importantly made the GOP just that much more Trumpy, writes Matt Welch. The next day, editors at the evangelical publication Christianity Today endorsed Trump’s removal from office, a startling rebuke that prompted not the cogent rebuttal one would expect from a president but more bombast and insults. “This is getting so old,” says editorial writer Scott Martelle.

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Since Trump’s acquittal in the Senate seems certain and his status as the incumbent makes him the most likely American to take the oath of office in 2021, whether impeachment chastens or emboldens him for the next five years will be critically important. Thank God Nancy Pelosi prays for him.

Trump is a raving lunatic. Not my words, but those of columnist Virginia Heffernan, who compares the president’s six-page letter to Pelosi with Edgar Allan Poe’s roaring madman who grows only more assured of his exceptional intelligence as he blurts out confessions to his crimes. “Poe had more range and skill, but both writers are singularly able to render the interior life of a barking lunatic who thinks he’s a genius and keeps confessing more than he ought to,” Heffernan writes. L.A. Times

Law professor Jonathan Turley uses another analogy to argue against impeachment. Last time it was a work of art consisting of a banana taped to a wall that fetched thousands of dollars, and now it’s the fevered rush of holiday shopping. Both analogies serve the same purpose: to illustrate Turley’s concern that groupthink and hysteria are getting in the way of careful deliberation. L.A. Times

New York Times opinion writer (and L.A. Times alum) Miriam Pawel wrote a piece that discussed with both nuance and breadth the recent rise of labor in Southern California, the concentration of political power in the Bay Area, the widening gaps here between rich and poor, coastal and inland, liberal and conservative, and how all this bears on the Democratic presidential race in the largest, hardest-to-pin-down state. Please, read the whole piece, even if it means ignoring the execrable headline, “Which Candidate Will Star in Hollywood’s Democratic Debate?” New York Times

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“If you want to be president, you must address the housing crisis.” That’s the message from L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti to the candidates who debated at Loyola Marymount University Thursday night. I’ll let the mayor speak for himself: “Housing is no less of a fundamental need than regular meals or accessible medical care, and it deserves to dominate the national conversation about our country’s future. It must be part of every candidate’s presidential campaign, and addressing it must take precedence the moment the winner of the 2020 election is sworn into office.” L.A. Times

If you’d made it this far, thank you — and please consider subscribing to our other great newsletters and to the Los Angeles Times. Go here to sign up for newsletters that cover a range of topics, and visit this page for information on subscribing to the L.A. Times. As always, you can reach me at paul.thornton@latimes.com if you have any suggestions for improving this newsletter.


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