The LA Times begs Californians not to boot Newsom

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File

We’re one month out from the California recall election and the polls have continued to tighten, though most of them predict Newsom surviving by a slim margin. Perhaps it’s the unexpected closeness of the vote that moved the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times to publish a beseeching letter to Californians, urging them to not be tempted into opting for some new blood in the Governor’s mansion. Their concern for the welfare of the state (or should we simply say “the welfare state?”) seems touching, but the editors also don’t do a very good job of hiding their real reason for wanting to keep him. Also, when they get around to attempting to defend Newsom’s performance as governor during his first term, it comes off as more of an apology for him than a defense. Here’s their opening salvo.

Ballots for the Sept. 14 special recall election have been mailed to 22 million California voters. The ballot poses two questions. The first is whether Gov. Gavin Newsom should be removed from office.

The correct response is a strong, unequivocal no.

Removing Newsom and replacing him with an untested and unprepared alternative who wouldn’t represent the values of most Californians would be a disaster. It would doom the state to months of political and bureaucratic dysfunction and economic uncertainty. And for what purpose?

You can get a feel for why they are defending Newsom and his unimpressive record by reading nothing more than the first sentence of the third paragraph. If the leader in the polls to replace Newsom were a better Democrat – or just a different Democrat, really – I’m not sure they would have even bothered publishing this. That’s not the case, however. While they don’t mention him by name, the “unprepared alternative who wouldn’t represent the values of most Californians” is Larry Elder. As a conservative Republican radio host (for Salem Media, our parent company), he is the sort of “disaster” they are trying to avoid.

The editors don’t end the defense of this advice after basically saying, Dear God, don’t let a Republican in! But perhaps they should have. What follows in the rather lengthy editorial ends up being a laundry list of items showing just how bad of a job Newsom has done. Each is followed by an apologetic bit of hand-waving, essentially saying, but he’s not that bad, is he? Here are a few of the choice bits of this “defense” of Newsom’s tenure.

The editors start off by admitting that Newsom “hasn’t been perfect.” But who’s perfect these days anyway, right?

His public communications have been muddled and confusing at times. He has not worked as well with the Legislature as he could. He has occasionally promised more than he could deliver. His prodigious fundraising has raised legitimate concerns about the role of money in politics.

Poor communications. Doesn’t work well with the legislature. Doesn’t live up to his promises. Dodgy fundraising. Wait a minute… this is your defense of the guy? They then go on to say that all of these shortcomings are things voters might want to consider during a regular election (presumably against other Democrats) but they don’t justify using the power of the recall against him.

Attempting to highlight some of his accomplishments, the editors point to his choices to use generous federal funding to “start work on solving some of the state’s most intractable problems.” Closely note the word “start” in that sentence. They list these challenges that he’s “started” work on, including helping businesses recover from the pandemic, building more affordable housing, housing the homeless, and preventing and fighting wildfires. For what it’s worth, I tend to follow California news fairly closely. And from what I’ve seen, the pandemic recovery money was mostly handed out from Washington. California still has some of the most unaffordable, expensive housing in the country. The homeless epidemic remains an epidemic and when it comes to the wildfires, California is literally going up in smoke at the moment. These are his accomplishments?

The editors then go on to simply deny many of the criticisms leveled at Newsom by saying these problems don’t exist. They deny that the “streets are full of criminals.” (Crime, particularly in Los Angeles, has surged significantly.) They say that people aren’t fleeing the state when the census data clearly shows they are. They are partially correct when they say that Newsom didn’t cause the wildfires, but who has been saying he did? The question is, why hasn’t he come up with a better solution?

They even bring up the debacle of the French Laundry incident, writing it off as a “momentary lapse of judgment” and absolutely “not a firing offense.” There’s more where that came from, but I’ll leave you to browse through it for yourself. By the time I finished reading this “defense” of Gavin Newsom, I really only had one thing on my mind. Should I ever decide to run for public office, please (Dear Lord!) don’t let the Los Angeles Times pen an endorsement for me.