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An interview with Gavin Newsom, Part 3

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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

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