The Maitre’d Governor

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Watching Gavin Newsom deliver a seemingly endless press conference to present his revised May budget proposal, one couldn’t help but be impressed by his command of—and love for—policy details.

But his manner of delivery was another story. Newsom’s style is both sweet and sour, a strange mix of smooth, accessible delivery and a habit of reciting the full litany that becomes, frankly, exhausting.

How to describe it? Then, it hit me.

He’s the maitre’d governor.

Ever been to a fancy restaurant where the maitre’d is smart, attractive—and offers just too many details to all of your questions about the place or the menu or the specials?

Newsom is like that.

Which makes sense. He comes out of the wine and restaurant businesses. And so like a server or a sommelier, he can tell you everything about how your wine was grown, your food was prepared, or about Medicaid reimbursement or kindergarten facilities. And he wants you to know that he’s got everything handled.

There’s a lot of good in this approach. Our Maitre’d Governor is sweating the details in ways that his predecessor—a retread who loved to celebrate the virtues of inaction—never did. And Newsom’s menu—I should say, his agenda—is as ambitious and long as anything that’s ever come out of a New York deli.

But the governor’s method of communication is hard to follow. He’s honest, to a fault, full of caveats, and sometimes even offering the case against the policy he’s pursuing along with the case for it. Our Maitre’d Governor is running a restaurant for adults, and he’s treating us like adults.

But do we really want that high level of service, and detail?

Comment on this article


Please note, statements and opinions expressed on the Fox&Hounds Blog are solely those of their respective authors and may not represent the views of Fox&Hounds Daily or its employees thereof. Fox&Hounds Daily is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the site's bloggers.