Newsom: I'd appoint a black woman to the Senate -- if Feinstein gets out of the way; UPDATE: Newsom walks it back

Stay classy, GavinWith a recall challenge ahead of him and his prospects for a second term dimming otherwise as well, California’s governor needs all of the progressive credibility he can muster. What better way does Gavin Newsom have to accomplish that than by, er, pushing his fellow Democrat Dianne Feinstein into resigning?

No seriously, what better way does Newsom have to pander?

California Gov. Gavin Newsom may have to fill another senate vacancy, and if he does, the governor intends to appoint a black woman.

The California governor told MSNBC’s Joy Reid in an interview on Monday that he already has a couple of ideas of whom he could appoint to fill a seat in the event Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 87, chooses to retire before her term is up in 2025.

“I have multiple names in mind. We have multiple names in mind — and the answer is yes,” he said in response to Reid’s question about if he’d nominate a black woman.

We shouldn’t let this pass without a reference to the way Reid frames this question. She wants to know if Newsom plans to “restore” the Senate seat to black women after he replaced Kamala Harris with Alex Padilla. That’s an ownership claim that should at least raise some eyebrows, even if Newsom understandably (and pusillanimously) plays along with the idea here. That seat belongs to the voters of California, not Newsom and not any particular demographic.

This certainly looks like a big hint that Newsom would dearly love to deliver on an appointment, however. Who compiles these kinds of lists — let alone decide on demographic prerequisites — without hoping to make the appointment? Newsom also obviously needs that kind of feel-good moment in California, which makes his weird enthusiasm in this exchange understandable. Creepy, considering that Feinstein’s still alive and kicking, but understandable.

For her part, Feinstein’s still trying to be understanding. In reaction to Newsom’s cheery willingness and apparent preparations to replace her, Feinstein accused reporters of making a mountain out of a molehill:

“Please, we’re very good friends. I don’t think he meant that the way some people thought,” Feinstein (D-Calif.) told reporters in reference to Newsom, who is also a Democrat.

“I don’t know about his plans, but his relationship with me, I think, is good and strong,” she added. “I mean, you’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”

Pressed on whether she felt physically able to serve, Feinstein said: “Absolutely. I think that’s pretty obvious.”

The pressure on Feinstein to retire has escalated over the past year, especially after the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court justice Amy Coney Barrett. Her conciliatory approach to then-Senate Judiciary Committee chair Lindsey Graham infuriated progressives and led to Chuck Schumer demoting her on the panel. That’s when rumors about Feinstein’s “mental acuity” began circulating, and when California media started suggesting she could help Newsom by retiring and allowing the governor to appoint a Latino and a black woman to the Senate at the same time. That way Newsom could have pandered to both constituencies at the same time without having to choose between the two.

It seems pretty clear that Newsom still wants to close that loop. Maybe Newsom didn’t completely chuck his “very good friend” under the bus, but Newsom clearly has the transit vehicle in his sights and is limbering up for the toss.

Update: This is a lame walkback. Jake Tapper pressed Newsom to explain why he told Reid that he had people in mind for Feinstein’s seat. He only gave Reid the answer she wanted?

All Newsom had to do was tell Reid, “I don’t expect to have to make that decision and I’m confident that Senator Feinstein will complete her term.” In fact, Newsom does offer that answer to Tapper, but with the lame excuse that he wanted to give Reid a direct answer. Riiiiiiiiight.

Stick with the rest of the clip, in which Newsom dodges Tapper on Andrew Cuomo as well. What happened to giving people the direct answer they want?