The First Question for Gavin

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)

Gov. Newsom’s COVID-19 briefing on November 23 was not confidence-inducing.

The governor couldn’t hear reporters questions for most of this press briefing. But reporters could. And the first question, from an AP reporter, was a direct hit: Governor, have you lost your credibility on COVID?

It was a fair question, and Newsom wasn’t dodging it. The briefing had technical difficulties, and when they were fixed, he tried to answer it.

But the larger problem was not technical—but involved Newsom himself. The governor is still giving these briefings, even though it’s hard to look at him with a straight face, post-French Laundry. Health Secretary Mark Ghaly, who should be leading such briefings, is still riding shotgun. 

Newsom, at the very least, should take a break, to give his reputation time to recover and to focus on governing. His team needs to be shaken up. He needs to pare down the sea of task forces and strike teams he’s commissioned; the latest report from a task force, on business and jobs, was so hilariously vague that you might wonder if the editors at The Onion wrote it.

“Are you still credible?” is a question Newsom has to ask, especially now with a recall attempt against him gaining momentum. The way to answer it is with less words, and more effective management.

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