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Newsletter: Mitt Romney is a hero who deserved to lose in 2012

Sen. Mitt Romney returns from a recess during the impeachment trial of President Trump on Jan. 30.
Sen. Mitt Romney returns from a recess during the impeachment trial of President Trump on Jan. 30.
(Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

Can you praise Sen. Mitt Romney for casting the lone Republican vote to remove President Trump and still be glad that he did not win the White House in 2012? Of course you can!

In that election, Romney promised to repeal Obamacare, gleefully accepted the endorsement of prominent birther Donald Trump and crassly wrote off the so-called 47% of Americans who he said got free stuff from the Obama administration. Just as much as he deserved to lose in 2012, he deserves to be praised in 2020 for taking a principled stand against a president rightly impeached for soliciting foreign interference in our election.

But to Opinion contributing writer Scott Jennings, a former Republican strategist, it isn’t so clear-cut. As someone who “worked [his] heart out for Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012 and came to believe that he was indeed a compassionate man,” Jennings recalls a nastiness among Romney’s harshest critics, who pilloried the Republican as “a murderer, a tax cheat, a felon, a robber baron who destroys jobs and hates workers, a misogynist who would return women to the 1950s, and a joke for worrying about Russia’s malign influence on the world.” For Jennings, it’s more than a little hypocritical for liberals now to claim Romney as their hero.

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I get that, but Jennings’ objection is more an indictment of those who are prone in any election to painting their political adversaries as evil, a judgment Trump throws at his critics with abandon. Adopting the intellectually lazy rationalization of this president’s most craven enablers, who brush off any number of Trump’s offenses with the meaningless concession that our leaders are human and therefore imperfect, those lionizing Romney could similarly concede that he too isn’t perfect and just be done with it.

But in reality, Romney is being praised for simply doing the right thing. Today, that counts as heroic.

Trump’s acquittal leaves us in a very bad place. The outcome of the Senate trial was never in doubt, says the L.A. Times Editorial Board, but that doesn’t make it any less disheartening, especially since the president is emboldened to run afoul of the Constitution again. In an op-ed piece, UC Berkeley law school dean Erwin Chemerinsky warns that the defenses used by Trump’s lawyers and the senators’ behavior during the trial strip the crucial constitutional check of impeachment of all its meaning.

Speaking of foregone conclusions, Sen. Kamala Harris of California took to our op-ed page to explain why she was voting to remove the president: “Donald Trump thinks he is above the law. He’s told us that multiple times. Before he was elected president, he said, ‘If you’re a star, they let you do it,’ when talking about sexually assaulting women. He told a group of young people that Article II of the Constitution gives him the power to do anything he wants. He has declared himself to be someone who should be free from accountability, and it’s the Senate’s job to tell him no.” L.A. Times

Trump’s presidency is an argument for constraining executive power. Instead of asserting that the problem is the ever-accumulating power of the presidency rather than the actions taken by this president in particular, the Democrats running to replace Trump believe the antidote is to use such power, just differently. That’s a far cry from what Congress did in the wake of Richard Nixon’s imperial presidency, says Matt Welch, the editor at large of the libertarian Reason magazine and an Opinion contributing writer. L.A. Times

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Welcome to the club, New York: The Trump administration came for California, and now he’s coming for you. California has long been in the White House’s environmental cross-hairs, and now both states have offended the vindictive president with their policies on harboring immigrants targeted by the Trump administration for removal. This week, the White House announced that residents of New York state can no longer enroll in the Trusted Traveler Programs under the Department of Homeland Security, part of what the New York Times editorial board says is a “well-established pattern of seeking to penalize jurisdictions that displease and defy him.” New York Times

There’s no housing crisis in Los Angeles if you’re a car. The city has about 6 million parking spots, or 1.5 spaces per resident. Local laws require them, so space that could be devoted to more housing or retail is instead set aside for vehicles, accounting for a massive footprint in a city starved for housing. One solution, according to housing analyst Anthony Dedousis: Instead of mandatory minimums for including parking spots in new construction, the city should pass mandatory maximums. In other words, developers could still build parking, but only up to a point. L.A. Times

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As always, you can share your feedback by emailing me at paul.thornton@latimes.com.


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