Is the Budget Presser Over Yet?

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)

As soon as I go out and defend Gov. Newsom against charges that he’s too unfocused, he goes out and gives a press conference like that.

I’ll admit I didn’t make it to the end of Newsom’s presser to introduce the budget. It started at 10:30am, and the Twitter broadcast link went out on me at 12:10p (goodness I miss the CalChannel), as he started to take questions. It went on so long that I wondered if I should call hostage negotiators or a SWAT team to free my journalist friends who were stuck in there.

That’s right. Newsom talked for more than an hour and a half about his budget without taking questions. He also wasn’t reading; he seems to have the budget document close to memorized. 

He touched on very small items, and made various asides, not at all flattering to himself, about everything from his dyslexia to why he would not be telling reporters the full truth about various things. 

TMI, man!

Was there any method in this madness? Perhaps Newsom was trying to spare us the work of actually reading the budget, by reciting all the important parts himself. If that was his intention, then thank you, governor.

Or perhaps this was strategic. How? Well, the public doesn’t much care about budget details. Nor do most journalists, to be honest. But interest groups and legislators do. And if you went through the document, every significant interest and virtually every Democratic legislator got a mention for something that matters deeply to them.

In our era of targeted messaging, when pols use Facebook to customize a message for individuals, we might just have been seeing Newsom do that himself, in real time.

But that’s too much. Maybe next year, he can just send me an email. 

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