Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, June 11, 2022. Friday was the final day of classes in the Los Angeles Unified School District (more on that in a bit). Let’s look back at the week in Opinion.
Before we get to what I really wanted to write about this week, allow me a moment to reflect on the practice of opinion journalism broadly, especially as it relates to the House Jan. 6 committee hearings. Right now, as the long-awaited public airing of what happened on Jan. 6, 2021, gets underway in Congress, surely you’re reading a lot of commentary from smart people — certainly smarter and more accomplished than I — along this line: “What good will these hearings do anyway? We all saw what happened that day, and America is so polarized that there’s little to gain politically with this spectacle.”
That is the politically savvy opinion to have on this, and those familiar with it may have read a recent column by the New York Times’ David Brooks. I’m going to ask you to ignore those opinions, and here’s why: Mainstream opinion journalism, in my view, has what I call a savvy problem — that is, an impulse to project an unfazed, almost cynical attitude about everything in politics, because earnestness evinces naiveté, and one of the worst things you can be as an insider political pundit is naïve. This results in conspicuous and dramatic overcorrections, of which Brooks’ column declaring the Jan. 6 committee hearings a failure before they were gaveled into session is an example.
I’m here right now, hardened by politics as any other opinion writer, to tell you this: You have permission to feel shocked and horrified and angered by what you hear as the committee’s presentation unfolds. Gasp when Republican Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) reveals that witnesses heard a sitting president say the vice president “deserves” to be hanged. Wince when Capitol police recount fellow officers bleeding and throwing up as they were under attack. Tremble at the realization that a lot of powerful people wanted the mob to win.
So ignore the savvy commentator’s impulse to filter all this through a political lens, as if the greatest good in Washington right now is holding onto power and not laying bare the fragile state of our democracy. In my view, at worst the Jan. 6 committee will perform a valuable service to the historical record, and at best it will stir the electorate’s emotional attachment to nonviolence, decency and democracy in time for voters to once again reject authoritarianism.
Now let’s get to what I really wanted to talk about: Some months ago, my colleague Karen Foshay (at L.A. Times Studios) and I began reaching out to teachers at schools throughout Los Angeles and making our pitches to graduating high school students, both in person and remotely. We wanted to hear from this group, whose last “normal” full year of school was their freshman year, about their concerns and hopes as they graduate and head off to life, work or college. June 4, we published the results of that effort, featuring 21 letters from students at local public and private schools, and a video of brief interviews with the new graduates. These students, entering a world beset by crises even without COVID-19, bared their souls to us: They spoke and wrote about their mental health struggles, their isolation during the pandemic and their outlook on the future, which I think is best summed up with one of the students’ quotes, “We’re looking to fix some stuff.” Please, take some time to read their letters and watch their interviews at latimes.com/classof2022.
Here’s hoping for a quality mayoral runoff in Los Angeles. The Times Editorial Board urges Rick Caruso and Karen Bass — who finished first and second, respectively, in the June 7 primary and will face each other Nov. 8 — to abandon the sound bites: “Caruso might not be our pick — The Times endorsed Bass for mayor — but he may well be L.A.’s chief executive next year, and he owes it to the Angelenos who supported him in the primary and those who might in November to be transparent about his intentions and realistic about what he can do as mayor. Bass, meanwhile, has to make a far-more compelling case to voters that she can deliver the holistic reform she’s talked about.” L.A. Times
I don’t normally do this, but from that editorial I wanted to highlight one portion that serves as a historical lesson and so succinctly demonstrates the egregious oversimplification of public safety and budgeting in Los Angeles. Take notes, because this is really good editorial writing: “Take, for example, Caruso’s campaign pledge to add 1,500 officers to the Los Angeles Police Department before the end of his first four-year term. That will be an enormous expense; the force is currently about 9,600 officers and the department’s roughly $3-billion budget consumes almost half of the city’s unrestricted revenue. How will Caruso pay for his plan? It took former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa his entire eight years in office to increase the LAPD by 1,000 officers and he had to triple homeowners’ trash fees and cut other city services to do it.”
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Chesa Boudin is out, but criminal justice reform still won in California. Ignore the warnings that the ouster of San Francisco’s progressive district attorney bodes ill for criminal justice reform in other parts of the state. As the editorial board points out, Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta easily bested the tough-on-crime Sacramento County district attorney, who garnered less than 10% of the vote. “Taken as a whole, Tuesday’s election results show little evidence of an end to the criminal justice reform era here or across the nation,” says the board. “Most Californians want a justice system that is fair, measured and responsible, not one that is based on fear and the longest possible prison terms for the greatest number of people. With a few notable exceptions, they made that clear by the choices on their ballots.” L.A. Times
Want to stop immigration? Empower immigrants in the U.S. to help their families back home. The Summit of the Americas was in Los Angeles this week, and the Biden administration’s focus on slowing immigration into the United States was sadly in character, writes Jean Guerrero. She offered this powerful, stinging assessment of the former President Obama-like “compassion” to immigrants from Latin America, whom President Biden really would rather not come: “Biden has used the summit to inhabit a self-defeating archetype: the compassionate nativist, as former President Obama did when quoting Scripture’s advice against oppressing the stranger even while setting records for deportations. The compassionate nativist takes pains to distinguish himself from the sadistic one. He won’t insult the stranger. He’ll tell her not to come, sure, but he won’t call her names. He’ll stifle her movement by militarizing borders, but he’ll also boast of ‘aid’ and private investments to address immigration’s supposed ‘root causes.’” L.A. Times