Did Newsom Never See the Bridge on the River Kwai?

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)

I understand and respect Governor Newsom’s decision to hold his tongue and build a relationship with the federal government in the midst of a pandemic and historic wildfires.

But that doesn’t mean he has to pay obeisance to President Trump in public.

Unfortunately, that’s what the governor did when Trump visited the Sacramento area. Newsom gave Trump the honor of a public meeting, and even praised him to his face—an unspeakably servile act towards a president who has repeatedly slandered and oppressed California and his people. The governor was even weak on the vital issue of climate change, framing the scientific consensus on climate change as some sort of regional “opinion” that the president should, and somehow does, respect. He doesn’t. 

That sort of public performance isn’t required. Newsom could simply have skipped the meeting. He has to talk to the feds because it’s his job, and Californians, as Americans, are entitled to federal assistance, benefits and relief. But appearing in public with Trump actually undermines California’s principled anti-Trump position, and it literally gives aid and comfort to one of the world’s leading enemies of democracy and human rights.

Watching this horror show, I wonder if Newsom had ever seen the classic William Holden and Alec Guinness film, The Bridge on the River Kwai. It’s about a World War II British officer, captured by the Japanese, who out of a maddening sense of nobility, helps his Japanese captors build a rail bridge that will actually help the enemy. Only in the end does he realize that his bridge is itself an atrocity.

When will Newsom realize that his bridge to Trump is a bridge too far?



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