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Opinion

Editorial: Who was naughty and who was nice in 2019?

President Donald Trump
President Trump tops The Times Editorial Board’s naughty list for another year.
(Kirsten Ulve/For The Times)

For this year’s naughty-or-nice list, we could have filled the page just with names from the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry. But the disappointments and delights of 2019 extended far beyond the drama on Capitol Hill. Here are some of the public figures whose actions stood out as the most lamentable — or laudable.

Naughty:

President Trump, for oh so many things, not the least being his effort to strong-arm a novice foreign leader into helping his reelection bid by investigating former Vice President Joe Biden.

U.S. Atty. Gen. William Barr, for acting as if he’s the president’s defense attorney and not the leader of the federal government’s top law enforcement agency.

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Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine), for holding on to his seat instead of resigning immediately after pleading guilty to using his campaign fund like a personal bank account, just so he could collect a few more weeks’ pay.

Boeing executives and their enablers at the Federal Aviation Administration, for the egregious safety lapses in the design, approval and oversight of the 737 Max jetliner.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, for reinstating Caren Carl Mandoyan and other deputies previously fired for cause, and then mislabeling the whole thing a “truth and reconciliation” process.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, for provoking massive pro-democracy protests and then grossly mishandling the government’s response.

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Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva
(Kirsten Ulve/For The Times)

Chinese leader Xi Jinping, for his role in the Hong Kong crackdown and for outrageous human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims in western China.

Pacific Gas & Electric, for mishandling seemingly every aspect of the wildfire threat.

The Sinaloa cartel in Mexico, for murderously besieging the city of Culiacan to free the son of its imprisoned boss, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

Actor Jussie Smollett, for triggering an outpouring of concern by claiming to be the victim of a horrific, racist assault in Chicago. Law enforcement officials believe the attack was faked.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
(Kirsten Ulve/For The Times)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for engineering the United Kingdom’s likely, and terribly unfortunate, exit from the European Union.

Financier Jeffrey Epstein, for not just the sex crimes he allegedly perpetrated, but for killing himself before justice could be done.

William “Rick” Singer and the wealthy parents who hired him, for bribing and cheating their kids’ way into prestigious universities.

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All the NIMBYs in L.A. County who declare they want more homeless housing, shelters and services to help get suffering men and women off the streets — but not in their neighborhood.

General Motors, Toyota, Fiat and the other major automakers that sided with the Trump administration in opposing California’s vital efforts to clean the air and slow global warming.

The San Francisco Board of Education, for acquiescing to misguided demands to cover over a historic mural at George Washington High School because it accurately depicted our first president as a slave-owning proponent of polices that oppressed Native Americans.

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, for rewriting history in arguing that the Emma Lazarus poem on the Statue of Liberty about opening our arms to “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” referred only to immigrants “who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”

Illustrations for Christmas Day 2019 op-ed
Greta Thunberg
(Kirsten Ulve/For The Times)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, South America’s version of Trump, for encouraging expansive destruction of the Amazon rainforest to increase grazing and farmland despite the grave threat deforestation in the region poses to global warming.

Nice:

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, for focusing the world on the damage that climate change will inflict on future generations.

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The Twitter parody account Devin Nunes’ cow, for poking fun at the thin-skinned Republican congressman from Tulare, Calif., prompting him to file suit.

John Crilly and a Polish chef called Lukasz, for grabbing a fire extinguisher and a narwhal tusk to stop a knife-wielding terrorist in London.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), for deciding that Congress could not look the other way when Trump sought to subvert U.S. foreign policy to serve his political ends.

Comedian Jon Stewart, for helping to shame Congress into extending financial and medical aid to ailing 9/11 first responders.

The courageous diplomats and civil servants who defied Trump’s order not to testify in the House impeachment inquiry.

Artist Shane Grammer, for the murals on burned-out buildings that brought touches of beauty to wildfire-devastated neighborhoods in Paradise, Calif.

Gymnast Simone Biles, for not just dominating her sport, but expanding the boundaries of physical achievement.

Simone Biles
Simone Biles
(Kirsten Ulve/For The Times)

L.A. Councilman David Ryu, for pushing the council to stop taking campaign cash from developers seeking approvals from the city.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, for declaring a moratorium on executions in California, a welcome recognition that the system is fundamentally and irredeemably flawed.

Soccer star Megan Rapinoe and the rest of the U.S. Women’s National Team, for not only winning the Women’s World Cup, but also fighting in court to be paid at the same level as members of the struggling men’s team.

State Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), for pushing through the bill that allows student athletes to strike licensing deals for use of their images despite a ban on the practice by the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. — which later amended its policy to align with California’s law.

Baby Yoda from “The Mandalorian” on the Disney+ streaming service, because we all needed something adorable to look at when the impeachment hearings got to be too much.

Lakers Anthony Davis and LeBron James, for helping the team’s fans forget (at least for now) the six years they’ve been frozen out of the NBA playoffs.

Doctors treating Ebola patients in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for continuing to respond to the crisis despite repeated attacks by misguided community members.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch, for showing that women can walk in space without a male chaperone.


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