subscribe: Posts | Comments      Facebook      Email Steve

An interview with Gavin Newsom, part 5



SH: There is a hardcore element [of homeless campers] who won’t leave the streets. They like it out there. What do you do with them?

GN: Small percentage. I’ve found those who are service-resistant to be one of the great myths of all times.

SH: We just had a string on and someone quoted a homeless guy at Lake Merritt [in Oakland] who said, “We’re not going anywhere. We like it out here. Let them try to move us.”

GN: That’s an understandable response when it’s framed in the context of getting rid of an encampment and being punitive and, quote-unquote “getting tough.” But my experience is, maybe the seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth time [you’ll get success]. You have to meet people where they are. Someone who’s service-resistant, who claims they have no interest in getting off the street, and they have not been able to get the appropriate supportive housing unit that allows for couples, or they have a dog and don’t have the appropriate opportunities to accommodate a dog, or, frankly, they’re not willing or capable on their own of getting clean and sober, and they’re not willing to go to a program that says everybody has to be clean and sober. So, by definition, people develop a resistance. But if you can meet people actually where they are, when you don’t give up, in my humble experience [of] 17 years in government of doing this, the overwhelming majority of people are indeed not service-resistant. So that’s to me an excuse for not doing our job. But this is a statewide problem and a national problem. I’m going to elevate this issue, and I’m going to call out the federal government that also needs to do significantly more.

SH: I want to hit on some other things before Nathan throws me out! Safe injection sites?

GN: Not ideological about it. It’s a tough issue. I like experimentation. We’ll see what the Governor does. If he doesn’t sign the legislation, I’ll look at it in detail. It’s something I pursued, full disclosure, at the end of my tenure as mayor, and I got my hand slapped because the community had no interest in it. We were talking about a site in Haight-Ashbury.

SH: You mean the greater community, or the drug community?

GN: The greater community. Many people felt they were overwhelmed by over-concentration of services, and so I think it’s site-specific. But in broad strokes, we pursued it. But I don’t know the details of what this legislation offers.

SH: Tasers for cops.

GN: With training and transparency, I’m open to it and have been for a long time. But there’s real abuse, and one has to be very, very cautious about it.

SH: Let’s touch on the National Guard at the border.

GN: [I] do not support it. Jerry [Brown] and I disagree on this. I think he made a mistake and I think he did it because it was a reaction to Jeff Sessions and what happened with the assault on the sanctuary [city] policy, and I think he was trying to show that he was willing to reach out and collaborate. I don’t see that he or this country, let alone the State of California, has benefited from that collaboration.

SH: I was reading in a San Diego publication that the California National Guard is assisting [U.S.] Border Patrol agents making arrests.

GN: Yeah. That was not what we intended. To the Governor’s credit, he was very prescriptive with the memorandum of understanding, but I’m not convinced, based on some of these reports—and you’ve just added another as a proof point—that they have indeed had limited utility. I think they have done things that were never intended, and I have no interest in continuing that policy.

SH: Does the Governor have the power to take all the troops [back]—?

GN: Yes. We do. And I would.

SH: You’d get hit so hard from the right.

GN: Bring it on. First of all, it’s a de minimus number of people [i.e. the number of National Guard actually deployed]. It’s completely symbolic. It’s only marginally substantive. At the end of the day, it was feeding Donald Trump’s political narrative and I have no interest in doing that. And by the way, I support border security. I am not an open-borders Democrat. And I do not believe sanctuary policy should be a shield to criminal activity, and I reject the assertion by the right that I believe in any of those policies! I simply do not.

SH: Thank you for making that clear. It’s important to get that in. Do you remember a couple of months ago, a restaurant called The Red Hen asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave?

GN: I didn’t feel very comfortable with—

SH: And following that, Maxine Waters called for mass harassment of Trump supporters to tell them they’re not welcome anywhere.

GN: I’m just not comfortable with that. Look: I have family members that align with Trump and Trumpism and I’m not going to have a litmus test for every customer that walks in [to a PlumpJack facility]. I’m uncomfortable with that, as a merchant, as a restaurateur. Good people can disagree. Quite literally: good people can disagree, even if I find them disagreeable. If they play by the rules and they’re honest, even if they don’t believe in the same things I do, I just think it’s a slippery slope, I think it’s dangerous.

SH: When you say that good people can disagree—

GN: And I don’t mean that from a white nationalist perspective!

SH: Well, I was going to say, because the mind automatically goes to Charlottesville and Trump’s infamous “fine people on both sides” remark. So did Trump have a point?

GN: No. No. Nazis, I do not subscribe to that point of view. White supremacy, I do not subscribe. But my point is specific to Sarah Huckabee Sanders. I don’t think she’s a white nationalist—my personal opinion. And I don’t think she’s a Nazi. And I don’t think there’s evidence to bear that out. And with Maxine, I understand the spirit of what she’s saying: Get off Facebook and get in people’s faces. But if we’re going to get in people’s faces, let’s do it in a way that doesn’t excite or incite violence. I just think we need to soften the edges, and we can get in people’s faces in a more benign and enlightened way. She could have softened the language.

SH: Are Democrats like me just too angry?

GN: No. People have a right to be angry. I’m in the spirit of Reverend Lawson, of Doctor King. Meaning, I think you can meet resistance and you can be resolved without crossing that Rubicon, of inciting the other side to violence. I worry about this nation fraying at the edges. We’re better than that. You lose your moral authority when you cross that line. I think we have the moral authority; the President does not. Honestly, I spent a couple hours with Rev. Lawson, who studied Gandhi. He had more impact in terms of making the vernacular of the Sixties more gentle to life in this world. And I approve that approach, or at least support it, as opposed to the Antifa approach, which I do not support.

SH Let’s end on a lighter note. What do you do for relaxation?

GN: Nothing! It’s a big issue. Quite literally, and it’s becoming a bigger issue. I love photography; I vaguely recall doing it. That was my relaxation. That would be my third life, business being my first, politics my second.

SH: I remember back in the day you’d jog down at the Marina.

GN: I do a little of that. I try to get to the gym. All last week I missed it. Today, I did it. So there’s a little of that.

SH: Where is your gym?

GN: In Marin [County]. I already met some Make America Great folks. One guy walks in everyday with a Trump shirt, I’m told, because I’m there. I want to tell him, I know you’re doing this because you need attention. I’m happy to hug you and offer you whatever attention I can give you. But, honestly, think about these mixed-status families, and what you’re communicating, how threatened they feel by your simple act of neediness. Anyway, I want to hug this man. In fact, I helped him the other day. He was leaving, and he left a bottle on top of the car, and I ran over to the car, and he literally thought I was about to tackle him, and I said, “Oh! You left the bottle.” And I think he’s still processing that I wanted to help. Because I see his humanity. I see it in everyone. And that’s the spirit of what I’m trying to communicate. I don’t wish to see anyone hurt. I just don’t. I’m empathetic to people struggling, suffering, people who are wrong-headed, naïve, I’m empathetic to that. And I think you can find something in everybody. That’s the spirit of renewal, rebirth that’s needed in this country.

SH: I’m going to meditate on your words! [Newsom erupts into laughter] I’m not there yet, Governor! Are you reading anything?

GN: Interestingly, I had never read “My Life,” Bill Clinton’s book. I read it last weekend, 950-plus pages. Fascinating on so many levels. Fascinating particularly at this moment: everything changes, nothing changes. Also because I’m a Bobby Kennedy fanatic. It’s obvious to me, so much of Clinton’s [thinking] all comes out of Bobby. I didn’t fully appreciate it [before]. Plus there’s a nugget that comes out of that that’s relevant to this, and that was, when Clinton lost, two years after he was [first] elected [Governor of Arkansas, in 1978], Jerry Brown [who then was Governor of California] reached out to him and asked him to be chief-of-staff, after Gray Davis left.

SH: Really!

GN: And Clinton thought about it, and was persuaded not to do it by Mickey Kantor [who later was campaign manager, in 1992, for the Clinton-Gore campaign]. Jerry made an argument that people come to California and they make careers and opportunities. If nothing else, what a nugget!

SH: One of the great What-ifs of history.

GN: What if he had gone to work for Jerry Brown?

SH: History would have pivoted off in a different direction.

GN: Isn’t that incredible? I’m going to see President Clinton next week, and I’m really looking forward to picking his brain on how we can—

[At this point, Newsom’s scheduler was frantically motioning to him. He was very behind on his next appointment.]

SH: Okay, gotta move on. Last movie you saw?

GN: What was that movie? I cried, oh my gosh. My kids were like, “Yeah.”

Nathan Click: Coco.

GN: It was for the kids [but] it touched me in a deep way.

SH: Favorite T.V. shows.

GN: Increasingly, The Eleventh Hour [on MSNBC]. I’m a huge Brian Williams fan.

SH: He’s killing it.

GN: He is brilliant, and he is so good.

SH: I do think that he happens to be employed by a liberal network so he has to be the late-night liberal. I don’t know if his heart is in it, but that’s fine. He’s doing yeoman’s work.

GN: And of course, Rachel [Maddow] tonight has Hillary Clinton, which is so exciting.

SH: Have you ever been on MSNBC?

GN: I’ve had to focus on this campaign, put my head down and avoid the bright lights. But I’ve been on Rachel 5, 8, 10 times, [and] Meet the Press, This Week, I did all that for years and years. And so I don’t feel I need to do it, except that to the extent it helps the State of California.

SH: Desert island food?

GN: Oh gosh. I mean, it’s my go-to, Pasta Della Casa, a North Beach restaurant. That’s what I demand for my Death Row last-eat session! And I’ll take a bottle of ’47 Cheval Blanc!

[The scheduler is begging with him. “You’re super-late for your next meeting.”]

GN: I know, but this is personal.

SH: Okay, last question! Songs on your playlist.

GN: [Looks at his phone] This proves I have kids! My playlist. [He plays a silly kids song.] My daughter is downloading everything! All these young boys. I mean, my daughter’s heart is breaking at nine! Seriously. But for me, I have Chvrches. And I’m deep into Peter Gabriel.

SH: Okay, thank you Governor! Let’s take some pictures.



An interview with Gavin Newsom, part 4



SH: Why did you give me this interview? I mean, a little blog–

GN: Because it’s more than 25 years (of friendship)! Loyalty. Loyalty. That’s what I told them [his schedulers], “What? You got 85 people [lined up for me]? You’ve gotta get Steven.” And I got angry, because I was like, “What’s taking so long?” And then they told me you had to do it on the phone, and I was, like, “Well, that’s Steve’s problem, not mine.” I mean, now I know why it was taking so long, because I thought it was just a phone call. I was like, “This is so easy to do.”

SH: I don’t do phone.

GN: I didn’t know that. And when they told me that, I said, “Oh, now I know why it’s hard.”

SH: Well, let’s move on to some issues. You’re in favor of single payer [healthcare].

GN: I believe in single payer. I’m not sure how to achieve it. It’s going to be a challenge.

SH: Republicans already are slamming you. I just saw an article in Forbes that said you running on single payer as a campaign issue will be your “demise.” How do you feel about that?

GN: Well, I mean, fifty days to go, we’ll see what happens. But there’s not a lot of evidence that it’s going to be our demise.

SH: It wasn’t clear from the article what their implication was. Maybe it was that after you’re elected and push for it, you’ll find out—

GN: Well, I’m not reckless. Assuming—if they know nothing about me, and it’s just lazy punditry, and they’ve not bothered to research my twenty years in elected office, if they think I’m—but if they believe I’ll take the risk to do something, they’re absolutely right.

SH: But the funding is really questionable.

GN: Well, the funding requires waivers from the federal administration, it requires all kinds of concurrence and collaboration from the executive branch in Washington, D.C. It requires changing the Gann Limit, and Prop 98, [and] requires a ballot initiative; there’s a tax reform component. It requires a series of levers that’s profoundly complicated, and I’ve been very honest about that.

SH: You’re saying the lion’s share of the money would come from Washington?

GN: Well, the vast majority already, about 70%-ish, and that’s a loose percentage, of our existing [budget] is single payer, which is a great irony: maybe Forbes could do a little analysis themselves on that, for the Veteran’s Administration, Medicaid, Medicare, etc. That said, the lion’s share of that money does come from the federal government.

SH: But you’re still need more money from the tax payers.

GN: We would need [it] in the transition, and that’s the challenge, going from something old to something new. That’s why no one’s been able to figure it out.

SH: So you’ll look for some source of revenue within California?

GN: I’ve got a team; there’s 30-ish people working on this. I’ve just literally come back from lunch with healthcare advocates having a conversation on this. We have probably gone deeper than any candidate for a statewide office in modern times on this issue.

SH: But no resolution yet?

GN: It is exponentially more complicated than people believe.

SH: Would you be in favor of ending the Prop 13 limit on corporate taxes?

GN: Yeah, but that also comes at a big price. I was also meeting this morning with green tech companies that want to bring manufacturing back under the provisions the Governor just advanced, and they said, [If] you get rid of that [Prop 13 limit, which is] the only thing that creates stability in terms of our commercial rates, then you’re not going to get any of those manufacturing, middle class jobs in this state. So I’ve long supported a split role. I have supported it, but it’s something that can’t be done without considering the consequences.

SH: Homelessness is such a massive issue, and I don’t pretend to know the solution, but two questions. One, you call for a region-wide approach, so instead of San Francisco dealing with it on their own—

GN: –or any city–

SH: What does that mean?

GN: One of the great realities, tempered by experience, is that everyone has a role and a responsibility to play. And no one city is going to do it alone or should have to do it alone. Everybody needs to step up; everyone needs to be accountable. I want to attach real dollars for incentives to good behavior, and I want to be punitive for bad behavior. So we’re putting together a regional plan. I have 15 points that we’re doing, from assisted living waivers, specific strategies we laid out on brain health and mental health, substance abuse treatment. It’s predicated on a housing-first model. We’re going to require regional plans and we’re going to incentivize along the lines of what the [inaudible] grants were under the Bush administration, these super-urban area grants. There’s a framework in terms of allocating state dollars that will encourage and incentivize regional collaboration. That’s the spirit we’re seeking.

SH: And what is the punishment?

GN: Same with housing production. I’ll give you the specifics on housing. We want to tie [in] regional transit dollars and we want to hold those back if you’re not meeting your housing element, under your general plans. And that’s an example of how you can begin to, not just be organized through incentives, but be punitive in terms of disincentivizing.

SH: I don’t want to go too far down the homeless rabbit hole, but I live in downtown Oakland and it’s really—

GN: Out of control.

SH: Horrible. And it’s tearing liberals apart.

GN: Compassion fatigue.

SH: Right down the middle, Democrats versus Democrats. What is the answer? There’s 4,000 homeless people and [Oakland Mayor] Libby Schaaf is building 200 Tuff Sheds.

GN: Yeah. It’s not going to do it. There’s no way a city can do it alone. You will bankrupt the cities.

SH: What is “it”?

GN: Housing first. Housing first. Housing first. Housing and supportive services.

SH: How long does that go on?

GN: Permanent supportive housing.

SH: So if you’re homeless for the rest of your life, you can get, what? Healthcare–?

GN: The alternative is to pay exponentially more on the back end. Quite literally, there are individuals who cost a million dollars a year to the taxpayers. That’s the status quo. I’m not interested in perpetuating that.

SH: Is the high cost of housing the cause of what we see now in our cities?

GN: Partially. But substantively, you’ve got, for the single adult population you see out in the tents, streets and sidewalks, that is not your [entire] homeless population. That’s a subset of it. And the vast majority of those folks are self-medicating on drugs or alcohol [or suffering from] bipolar disease, paranoia. And if they don’t have those issues, they’re going to develop them. Then you have deep physical health issues, mental health issues, and then your vocational deficiency issues, educational issues, and I would argue, Skid Row, parts of L.A., a disproportionate number have criminal records which are a big part of this. So it’s criminal justice reform, it’s health reform, it’s blended interventions, and this, again, intentionality, support from the state, matching local contributions, amplifying good behavior, disincentivizing bad behavior, holding accountable these regions that aren’t doing a damn thing, and then we have to nationalize the issue, because the state can’t do it alone, just like the cities can’t do it alone. We have a national problem manifesting in the state, we have a state problem manifesting in the cities.

Wednesday: Newsom on homeless people who resist services, safe injection sites, tasers for cops, California National Guard at the southern border, mass public protests of Republicans, Democratic anger, and Antifa

An interview with Gavin Newsom, Part 3



SH: In our last interview you predicted that Trump’s base would “desert” him because he could not deliver on his promises.

GN: I think that’s happening.

SH: He’s still at 90% [favorable] among Republicans.

GN: Yeah, but there’s some erosion. It’s softening. There’s a core base, but he certainly hasn’t delivered save one important issue: tax reform.

SH: Well, he got Gorsuch on the Court.

GN: And we’ll see what happens with Kavanaugh, but you’re right. Look, at the end of the day, these guys will hold their noses, the evangelicals, they no longer care about character, they just care about choice.

SH: Fiscal conservatives no longer care about deficits.

GN: These guys are bankrupting this country and a whole generation. It’s almost criminal what they’ve done to the deficit.

SH: It was written that you and [Senator] Kamala Harris had struck a deal [where she’d run for Senator and he’d run for Governor]—

GN: I read about that too. I wish I was in the room!

SH: Did that happen?

GN: I wish I was in the room when it happened.

SH: That’s all you’re going to say?

GN: That’s just nonsense.

SH: Did you guys, like, pick a card?

GN: No. We have many mutual friends, including mutual press secretaries—you’re looking at one right across from me right now, Mr. Nathan Click, the entire team is the same, everyone around us is the same, our friends are the same, our biggest supporters are the same.

SH: Do you feel, personally, more equipped for executive skills as opposed to legislative?

GN: Oh gosh, yes. Running businesses, running a city, it’s my mindset. I like business, I like the implication, the implementation, I am not one of those guys to just sit there and ask questions in a hearing. I’d last a week. Out of my element, not my passion. And Kamala has excelled. She’s now a leading candidate for President.

SH: You think? For 2020?

GN: By objective measures she’s a leading candidate. I think she can make a pretty compelling case. I think she’s going to be a very formidable candidate if she runs. [READERS: I wish I’d reminded Newsom that he’d previously said, concerning 2020, “I don’t think we’ll go for another novelty. I don’t think we’re gonna go for something untested.” But I didn’t. My bad!]

SH: How about Brown-Harris?

GN: Well, [they’re] both California, so that would never work. But I can see Biden-Harris.

SH: The minute you’re elected—and I’m assuming this has crossed your mind—suddenly you become a name on that [Presidential] list.

GN: I mean, if you come from California, that’s naturally been the case. It comes with that job.

SH: How do you feel about that?

GN: I don’t feel—it means absolutely nothing to me. It’s a distraction.

SH: Well, I’m just saying. You can’t say it. [Newsom laughs] I was watching Sen. McCain’s memorial service, which was very moving—

GN: It was.

SH: And Obama, when he spoke, said, “All politicians are alike in that they have big egos.” How would you describe your ego?

GN: Yeah. I don’t know about that. I think there’s also, all politicians are alike in another way: they have deep anxieties, and they often over-compensate for that.

SH: Do you have deep anxieties?

GN: No. I used to joke, most politicians didn’t get enough hugs from their mother.

SH: So is it something you crave?

GN: No. I always make a subsequent joke: I don’t want to go to therapy to find out that was the case. But I did get a lot of hugs from my mother, so it may not apply, necessarily. But the point is, I think about the archetype of a politician, those I admire and those I frankly don’t, who I think are doing it for all the wrong reasons. And I often wonder why they’re doing this.  And I think there is a need to be needed. There are, you know, probably some deeper-rooted issues. And then there are the enlightened souls there for all the right reasons. But I don’t know about all of us having big egos. I don’t think that’s true. I don’t honestly think that’s true. For Obama, I understand: I mean, Obama never denied, and certainly, [there are] legendary examples, books written about him, his closest friends and allies. There was never any self-doubt. Or didn’t appear to be, at least; I’m sure there is. But I’m not sure that’s the case.

SH: Since we’re on that topic, who were the best retail politicians of your lifetime?

GN: Oh, the best I’ve ever seen is Bill Clinton. It’s true. I’ve had experiences. I’ve sat there on the lines with him, I’ve been there with Jerry Brown and myself and Bill Clinton on typical campaign stops, in San Jose and one down at UCLA. I watched the contrast between the two: One [Clinton], a natural-born politician and then a natural-born political animal, meaning Jerry. Jerry’s at another level in terms of his political capacity and instincts, but he’s not natural to the position.

SH: He’s not a glad-hander.

GN: But intellectually, he plays three-dimensional chess. So he’s on par with Clinton in that respect, but there’s a natural expression that Clinton advances. I just remembered, at UCLA, when we were done speaking, we [i.e. Newsom and Clinton] immediately ran to the line to say hello to everyone, and Jerry took right off. I thought that was a perfect contrast and expression of the difference.

SH: Do you think you’re a good retail politician?

GN: I have a difficult time in town halls being told I have to leave. I love rallies, I love the energy of people. I think I go to a “15” on a scale of zero to ten when I’m around folks. But I also then just turn off afterwards. I have two speeds; I don’t have any middle. But I am wildly engaged and energetic around a lot of folks. So I’m natural for that; I want to feel people, to get a sense of where they are, I want to see physiology, I want—there’s an experiential quality to politics. It’s why I walk the streets, connect with homeless. I need to be out, I need to be engaged.

Tuesday: Newsom gets wonky: single-payer healthcare insurance, Prop 13 and homelessness

An interview with Gavin Newsom, Part 2



SH: Governor, now that you have got the nomination, how has your life changed?

GN: I don’t think it dramatically changed the concentration or the schedule, meaning being overwhelmed, which is the number of folks that we needed to reach out [to] after the primary. When you go from a scrum with 27 candidates and come down to two, you want to build back a cohesive framework, encourage those who opposed you to come onboard, to get those who may have been on the sidelines onboard, and begin to organize a narrative for the Democratic Party overall, since you are in essence the nominee of the Democratic Party.

SH: You had a sole police officer one time when we met at Whole Foods and you were Lieutenant Governor.

GN: Yeah. Certainly, as we discovered in our week-long bus tour, we [now] have a lot of “new friends” that are not necessarily very enthusiastic, so as a consequence, you have a few extra people around you, because there’s a few more folks with red hats.

SH: You mean MAGA hats?

GN: Make America Great! [laughs] They call me “traitor.” They’re showing up. So it requires a few more [security] folks around me.

SH: I get death threats.

GN: Oh yeah?

SH: For my blog, because of…

GN: So you get a sense of it.

SH: Where does your sense of social idealism and justice come from?

GN: My father. He was, I mean, social justice, racial justice, economic justice, environmental justice were [on the] tip of his tongue, part of the conversation, and it was also demonstrable, meaning it wasn’t just the words or the stories he shared, but it was the example: his leadership, his advocacy, and his engagement with me, despite being divorced and not raising me. All of my time with my father was spent cause-related.

SH: That’s a whole other—I feel like we could talk for an hour about your father.

GN: Yeah. But just on that, substantively, it was river trips, it was hikes, but always around some cause he was connected to. So that’s where it comes from.

SH: How’s he doing?

GN: I was literally just on the phone with my sister. He’s in the hospital again, so hard.

SH: I do wish your father well. Let’s go to the red hats. When I interviewed you last time, we had a bit of a contretemps, because you said, quote, “I wish Trump success.” This was shortly before or after the inauguration—

GN: You were so angry with me. [laughs]

SH: I was.

GN: That was sort of in the spirit of what Feinstein said.

SH: I was just going to call it Feinstein-esque.

GN: But it was also, it was a point, and I believe it. Look: I don’t wish other people ill. I wish people success. And I believe if you’re representing a country like ours, his success is our success.

SH: But your rhetoric has changed.

GN: Has it?

SH: I think it has, from reading the papers and T.V.

GN: Yeah. I don’t know that it has.

SH: You’re much more—

GN: I’ve been very consistent and constant, in terms of my critique and condemnation. But I’ve never deviated from a fundamental belief that I want to see—Look, someone who represents me and has the influence and power over the lives of so many people, not just here in the country but the rest of the world: I don’t want to see them trip on themselves. I don’t want to see them fall on their own face. I don’t want to see them fail. Because all of us suffer. I don’t want to see people suffer. I want to see someone elevate. I want to see someone meet the moment, and I wish that on everybody, including my worst enemies. I really do. I want them to change. I want them to be better.

SH: If the House reverts back to the Dems, do you favor impeachment hearings?

GN: I think we’re on that course.

SH: Do you favor it?

GN: I want to read the—look. I think obstruction of justice is pretty evident. I don’t know what more evidence you need of that, including what just happened. [He refers to Trump declassifying those intelligence documents.]

SH: With the release.

GN: There’s just more and more obstruction. I think on the collusion it’s more of a question. I do look forward to the Mueller report. But I think there’s an inevitability to it. That said, do I think it’s healthy for the nation to spend the last two years of an administration on impeachment hearings? I don’t think it was healthy for the nation during the Clinton years. I don’t know that it’s healthy for the system now. I don’t necessarily know that it will enhance our ability to work together and collaborate together, but I think it’s a necessity if indeed the Mueller report is as condemning as I think it will be, and obstruction of justice is in and of itself arguably impeachable.

SH: Do you think the House will flip?

GN: Yeah, unquestionably.

SH: And the Senate?

GN: I think that’s still open. There’s a new poll showing Cruz up nine points [over Beto O’Rourke]. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Other polls have Beto slightly up.) That’s disappointing. But that said, there’s a chance, an opportunity. Every single day, I feel more optimistic, more hopeful, more expectant that the Democrats are going to have an extraordinarily successful November. And by a significant margin beyond the 23 seats [in the House].

SH: Let’s continue on that. I was watching Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC yesterday. She had Jerry Brown on, and she asked him, and he said he does not see, quote, a viable Democratic candidate for 2020.

GN: Except in the mirror.

SH: In the mirror?

GN: Yeah. He sees it every morning in the mirror.

SH: Do you see a viable candidate for 2020?

GN: I think Jerry Brown was the antidote to Schwarzenegger. In many respects he’ll be the antidote to Trump. I think we’re gonna dust off an old sage, someone that calms the nerves, that has a real history of execution and also a quality of imagination. I think in so many ways Jerry Brown is prototypically the answer. Now is it Jerry? Is it Biden, by extension? Perhaps. I don’t think we’ll go for another novelty. I don’t think we’re gonna go for something untested, because our nerves are too frayed. I think we need to calm them. Elections are often [about] contrasts. That’s why it’s a bit of an anomaly, if I’m successful as governor, then you have a two-term Democratic governor followed by another Democratic governor. I don’t think that’s happened in at least modern history, if we are successful, and I think Brown would tell you it’s unique, because he’s unique.

SH: So is that an endorsement?

GN: I think Jerry Brown would be—I don’t think there would be a more compelling candidate for President of the United States. By the way, I don’t need to say that. I’m not paid to say that. But I do think he has a unique set of skills and a record that few people can compete with.

Monday: Newsom on Trump’s base, Kamala Harris, his own Presidential prospects, the difference between Obama and Clinton, and why he gave me this interview

An Interview with Gavin Newsom, part 1



Part 1: Introduction

(The full interview will appear over the next few days)

The hair is a little greyer, the face more lined than when I first met Gavin Newsom nearly 30 years ago. But at the age of 50, he’s still trim and handsome. And there’s something striking there now that wasn’t earlier, or at least I didn’t see it: gravitas.

He was, in the early 1990s, just a private citizen, starting up a wine shop in San Francisco, with some help from his father, William, a judge on the California Court of Appeal, and the billionaire Gordon Getty, to whom Judge Newsom was a close advisor. Gavin’s subsequent success in building up his PlumpJack Group empire of wine shops, resorts, restaurants and bars got, at the very least, a considerable boost from wealthy and powerful people who loved him and wanted to help him.

Yet it is unequivocally true that everything that Gavin Newsom has achieved—not just the business empire but his political success as he sits on the threshold of being Governor of California– has come about through Newsom’s vision, hard work and inner focus. (Newsom himself would say that his greatest achievement has been his family, which includes his wife, Jennifer, and four kids.) The drive that was so palpable to those of us who knew him in the early 1990s is, if anything, even stronger today.

The political biography is a matter of record. In 1996, San Francisco’s mayor, Willie Brown, appointed him to the city’s Parking and Traffic Commission, a tedious sinecure that could not have held much interest for the young man, but it was a start… A year later, again with Brown’s help, Gavin found himself on the Board of Supervisors, the city’s legislative body, where, as has often been pointed out, he was the only straight, white male.

By then the trajectory was clear. He was re-elected to the Board several times before being elected, in 2003, Mayor of San Francisco. He had begun, by this time, to forge the political relationships that would be so important to his future career: Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, environmental activists. He was re-elected easily four years later.

As Mayor, Newsom was largely—not entirely—successful. His number one issue was homelessness, which he promised, if not to end, then to reduce. That he did not do so is obvious from the state of the city today–although he argues, not unpersuasively, that this was the fault of subsequent mayors for not following up on his lead. And what mayor, anywhere in America, has solved homelessness? Newsom at least made a concerted effort.

And yet, on another issue, Mayor Newsom made his mark, in the national media, in the history books and, in the minds of some of us, in the annals of moral courage. In 2004, he began presiding over same-sex marriages at City Hall, in violation of state law—the first mayor anywhere to do so. It was an audacious (some said outrageous) move. Newsom says he inherited that sense of justice and social equity from Judge Newsom; indeed, he inhaled, from his earliest days, what Republicans derisively call “San Francisco values,” Democratic ideals that inform his thinking to this day.

And then there were the two terms as California’s Lieutenant-Governor. Probably, from his point of view, the less said about that, the better: Newsom made no secret of his boredom with that largely ceremonial post. Probably he would have run for Governor in 2010, except for one barrier, and a formidable one it was: Jerry Brown. After two terms, he wanted the job again. It was a coronation for the popular Brown: the best, most graceful thing Gavin could do was smile and be the “heir and a spare.” He knew his day would come. Now, eight years later, it has.

He won, to no one’s surprise, the Democratic nomination for Governor last Election Day, and immediately hit the ground running. The position papers, the hustings, the interviews and fund raisers: the routines of a candidate. (Gavin Newsom no less than Barack Obama has mastered the art of fund-raising from an army of small supporters through social media.) Of all the times I’ve interviewed him over the years, this was by far the hardest to arrange, as I knew it would be. Getting an interview with a Mayor or even a Lieutenant-Governor is relatively simple. I had Gavin’s email. I would send him a request, he’d get right back to me, and we’d figure out where to meet. The last few years when he was Lieutenant-Governor, we’d meet in his San Francisco office, which he chose to be, not in the State of California building, a dreary, ugly complex in Civic Center, but in a shared workspace, a South of Market hive near AT&T Park. Newsom clearly preferred to spend his time with bright, creative twenty- and thirty-somethings rather than be stuck inside a drab office surrounded by bureaucrats.

But this time, getting an appointment took more time and effort. At first his people offered me a 15-minute telephone interview. I said, with some petulance and irritation, no. They told Gavin; he intervened and gave me thirty minutes in his new offices, in the Financial District. The half-hour extended to closer to an hour as our conversation kept on going and Newsom’s scheduler’s anxiety mounted.

Newsom is heavily favored to beat the Republican candidate, John Cox, whom he’s crushing in the polls in blue-blue California. As soon as he becomes Governor of California, the photogenic Newsom will be short-listed as a future Presidential or Vice-Presidential candidate; as he points out, that goes with the territory of being Governor of the fifth largest economy in the world.

I began by asking Newsom how winning the primary has impacted his life.

 Tomorrow: Newsom on his father, campaigning, Trump, impeachment, the November elections, and a surprising suggestion for the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate

« Previous Entries

Recent Comments

Recent Posts