Most popular op-eds of 2018: A year of drama and disaster

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(CNN)In a year dominated by the Trump presidency and the run-up to the midterm elections, readers came to CNN Opinion looking for insight into the ongoing battles raging in Washington and across America. But politicians and policy divides weren't the only headline makers. Stories of gun violence, celebrity deaths, a royal wedding and a series of horrific natural disasters attracted your attention, too.

Here are excerpts from a selection of some of the most popular opinion pieces of 2018.

Julian Zelizer: Obama's stern warning for Trump

Julian Zelizer
January 13
    To say that Donald Trump is not acting presidential is not to romanticize what we have seen from previous inhabitants of the office. But it is to hold him accountable for going far beyond the proper limits on presidential behavior.
    The biggest danger is that by tolerating Trump's behavior in office, the public will make what he is doing and saying part of our conception of what it means to be presidential.
    It is vital that members of both parties admit what they see when these moments happen and avoid normalizing these kinds of reckless departures from presidential history. For if the political class, and the public, starts to brush these moments off as "Trump being Trump" or "nothing worse than what we have seen" we will lower the bar so far it will be impossible to ever repair the presidency.
    Read more here.

    Lucia Brawley: Let's be honest about Aziz Ansari

    Lucia Brawley
    January 17
    As a society, we must take this incident -- appearing in the public consciousness during our #MeToo moment -- as an opportunity to have some painful, nuanced conversations.
    For example: Sexual assault and rape are never the victim's fault. But we cannot indiscriminately start destroying careers over consensual sexual activity, which based on her account is what this case appears to be.
    When we do that, we trivialize the brave victims who are coming forward about actual sex crimes.
    Read more here.

    Simone Biles: I went from foster care to the Olympics

    Simone Biles
    February 5
    Although I was young when my foster care ordeal began, I remember how it felt to be passed off and overlooked. Like nobody knew me or wanted to know me. Like my talents didn't count, and my voice didn't matter.
    Finding a family made me feel like I mattered. Finding a passion, something I loved and was really good at, made me feel like I mattered. Representing my country and being part of such an amazing Olympic team matters, as does being a role model for those looking to fulfill their own dreams.
    Read more here.

    Cameron Kasky, Parkland student: My generation won't stand for this

    Cameron Kasky
    February 15
    We can't ignore the issues of gun control that this tragedy raises. And so, I'm asking -- no, demanding -- we take action now.
    Why? Because at the end of the day, the students at my school felt one shared experience -- our politicians abandoned us by failing to keep guns out of schools.
    But this time, my classmates and I are going to hold them to account. This time we are going to pressure them to take action. This time we are going to force them to spend more energy protecting human lives than unborn fetuses.
    Read more here.

    Peggy Drexler: Why does Melania stay?

    Peggy Drexler
    February 17
    But perhaps most important, although divorcing Trump would surely please the "Free Melania" crowd, the first lady hasn't really shown that she cares much what other people think of her -- or needs to be saved.
    She has not tried particularly hard to win public approval: Besides her scant appearances and botched RNC address, she's become known for wearing the wrong things at the wrong time, like when she donned a pair of Manolos to visit victims of Hurricane Harvey. Which is also why it's perhaps too hopeful to expect that the pressure of these new revelations (which, let's be honest, are likely not new to her) will cause her to leave the life she seems comfortable in -- one that's very clearly sponsored by, if not warmly inclusive of, the President.
    Read more here.

    Gloria Borger: The great unraveling: Trump's allies are really worried about him

    Gloria Borger
    March 2
    Not since Richard Nixon started talking to the portraits on the walls of the West Wing has a president seemed so alone against the world.
    One source -- who is a presidential ally -- is worried, really worried. ...
    Even by Trumpian standards, the chaos and the unraveling at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are a stunning -- and recurring -- problem.
    But there's an up-against-the-wall quality to the past couple of weeks that is striking, and the crescendo is loud, clear, unhealthy, even dangerous.
    Read more here.

    Paul Callan: The lawyer Trump wants to represent him has been dead for 32 years

    Paul Callan
    March 24
    It's becoming increasingly clear who President Donald Trump really wants to represent him in the Robert Mueller investigation -- and there's a good reason he can't have him.
    When John Dowd quit this week as lead counsel on Trump's legal team and the President made an effort to recruit "deep state" conspiracy theorist and conservative legal commentator Joseph diGenova to the team, the conclusion could only be that Trump wants to go to war against Mueller, using the tactics favored by his onetime mentor Roy Cohn.
    In effect, the President wants to wage an aggressive, and probably dirty war, on the special counsel. Cohn, having died in 1986, isn't available. But there may be other lawyers who can fill that role
    Read more here.

    Jonathan Wackrow, former Secret Service agent: Barbara Bush's code name was absolutely perfect

    Jonathan Wacrkrow
    April 19
    As a special agent with the United States Secret Service, I had the opportunity to work on many protective assignments with Mrs. Bush. While I was never permanently assigned to her detail, I am thankful for two specific moments with Mrs. Bush, ones I will cherish as defining experiences in my career and testaments to her legacy, her candor and grace.
    The first occurred when I was a new agent, assigned to work a midnight shift at the Bush family's summer residence in Kennebunkport, Maine. I was walking in the front yard at daybreak, preparing to end my shift, when Mrs. Bush suddenly appeared.
    In my world, it was better to be unseen, but in this instant, I was in the former first lady's full view with nowhere to hide. Mrs. Bush gave me the warmest smile and said, "Well, it is good morning for me, but it looks like you have been up all night, so I will wish you a good night's sleep." Stunned, I thanked her.
    Read more here.

    Paul Begala: Sean Hannity is a welfare queen

    Paul Begala
    April 23
    Sean Hannity is a lot of things. Needy isn't one of them. Greedy, in President Reagan's framing, seems more like it. Perhaps the program that guarantees Hannity's investments is a wise one. Perhaps, on the other hand, it is a wasteful welfare program. That's not the point. It's the hypocrisy, stupid.
    Hannity is a very wealthy man. So is Donald Trump. It appears that part of the way they became rich was by decrying welfare for poor folks, then grabbing it for themselves. They view their voters, their viewers, as saps. Stooges. Suckers. As another great huckster said, there's one born every minute. And Hannity is laughing all the way to the bank.
    Read more here.

    Einat Lev: Why Hawaii's volcano is in danger of going ballistic