Trump, New­som have some­thing in com­mon— a prob­lem

The Tribune (SLO) (Sunday) - - Opinion & Obituaries - BY DAN WAL­TERS CAL­mat­ters Dan Wal­ters writes on mat­ters of statewide sig­nif­i­cance for CAL­mat­ters, a pub­lic in­ter­est jour­nal­ism or­ga­ni­za­tion. Email: [email protected]­mat­

Gov. Gavin New­som punc­tu­ated his in­au­gu­ral ad­dress with sev­eral jabs at Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, re­fer­ring at one point to “the cor­rup­tion and in­com­pe­tence in the White House.”

Nei­ther man will ad­mit it, but they share a very sim­i­lar po­lit­i­cal prob­lem. Hav­ing made ex­trav­a­gant prom­ises to their par­ti­san bases, they now must de­liver or some­how wrig­gle out of those prom­ises.

The New York Times re­vealed that Trump’s pledge to build “a big beau­ti­ful wall” along the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der to de­ter im­mi­gra­tion was never a fully vet­ted pro­posal, but a throw­away line in his stump speech. Some­thing to re­mind him to talk about im­mi­gra­tion.

When the prom­ise gal­va­nized vot­ers in key in­dus­trial states, Trump was stuck with it. Now, that throw-away one­liner has led to a par­tial shut­down of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

In seek­ing the gov­er­nor­ship, New­som made some ex­trav­a­gant prom­ises aimed at the as­cend- ant Bernie­crat wing of his Demo­cratic Party. He told them what they wanted to hear and on pri­mary elec­tion night in June, promised “Guar­an­teed health care for all. A ‘Mar­shall Plan’ for af­ford­able hous­ing. A master plan for ag­ing with dig­nity. A mid­dle-class work­force strategy. A cradleto-col­lege prom­ise for the next gen­er­a­tion. An all­hands ap­proach to end­ing child poverty.”

Af­ter win­ning the gov­er­nor­ship, New­som be­gan to step back, cog­nizant that de­liv­er­ing on all those prom­ises would cost many tens of bil­lions of dol­lars.

While some of those prom­ises might be fea­si­ble, “Guar­an­teed health care for all” is New­som’s “big beau­ti­ful wall” — some­thing that draws cheers from the faith­ful but would be vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to de­liver.

Dur­ing a pre-in­au­gu­ral event Sun­day, New­som said, “Any­one who sug­gests that you can cre­ate uni­ver­sal this or uni­ver­sal that, even if you wanted to in six months to a year, our ca­pac­ity to de­liver on that is lim­ited, so we’re go­ing to cre­ate the ar­chi­tec­ture, the frame­work, we’ll set the goals.”

Set­ting a goal is easy. Say it, send out a press re­lease or even write it into law. Reach­ing the goal is some­thing else en­tirely.

New­som kissed off uni­ver­sal health care in a few words dur­ing his 2,700-word in­au­gu­ral ad­dress, say­ing, “In our home (of Cal­i­for­nia), ev­ery per­son should have ac­cess to qual­ity, af­ford­able health care,” while pledg­ing, “we will never wa­ver in our pur­suit of guar­an­teed health care for all Cal­i­for­ni­ans.”

It’s doubt­ful that fer­vent ad­vo­cates of uni­ver­sal health care will be pla­cated by his ini­tial ac­tions to ex­tend Med­i­Cal cov­er­age to a few more un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants and of­fer health in­sur­ance sub­si­dies to mid­dle-class fam­i­lies. Ad­vo­cates such as the Cal­i­for­nia Nurses As­so­ci­a­tion want noth­ing short of uni­ver­sal, sin­gle­payer cov­er­age.

Nor will Cal­i­for­nia po­lit­i­cal me­dia for­get about uni­ver­sal health care and other prom­ises New­som made, such as build­ing 3.5 mil­lion new homes in six years.

CAL­mat­ters and The Sacra­mento Bee have al­ready doc­u­mented those prom­ises and will chart his progress. Poli­ti­fact, which spe­cial­izes in sep­a­rat­ing fact from po­lit­i­cal fic­tion, has set up a “New­som-Me­ter” for that same pur­pose.

Gov. Jerry Brown stum­bled badly in his first stint as gov­er­nor 40 years ago by do­ing 180de­gree flips. He was more cau­tious in his sec­ond go-round, mak­ing very few spe­cific prom­ises, de­liv­er­ing on those he made and avoid­ing bat­tles he couldn’t win.

New­som talks about hav­ing “big au­da­cious hairy goals,” but promis­ing too much and reneg­ing will make him ap­pear flaky. He should ask Brown about the ef­fect of such an im­age on one’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.


RE­NEE C. BYER [email protected]

Eleni Kounalakis, right, jokes with Gov. Gavin New­som, left, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, cen­ter, cheers them on af­ter Kounalakis was sworn in as lieu­tenant gov­er­nor at the Tsakopou­los Li­brary Gal­le­ria on Jan. 7.

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