Despite strident denials that he is eyeing a 2024 presidential run, California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent high-profile globetrotting suggests he is positioning himself as a national figure. Visiting Israel Oct. 19, amid the international crisis unfolding there, placed Newsom at center stage, on a tightrope between the Jewish state and Gaza. Now in China to sign climate agreements with provincial officials, Newsom postures as an international leader in a sensitive political arena instead of tending to the rising homelessness and crime in his home state.
Having survived a 2021 recall effort and then easily won re-election, it appears the Golden State governor is safe until he reaches his term limit in 2027 – unless he gets drafted in at the last minute to replace an ailing Joe Biden during the upcoming presidential campaign. Will American voters be impressed by Newsom’s overseas adventures, or would his state’s track record prove an untenable sell on the national stage?
A Stop in Israel
On his visit to Israel, Newsom expressed sympathy for Israelis but stated his visit was “limited in scope,” so he did not engage in any diplomatic discussions of a ceasefire. “I wish I was president of the United States … I could start doing all those things,” he reportedly joked. He also said he was working to get medical supplies to Gaza “separately and above the aid we’re providing for Israel.” Newsom seeks plaudits from both sides.
The China Climate Tour
The governor’s China tour includes visits to an all-electric bus fleet, an offshore wind facility, and a wetlands preserve. California’s climate governor is slated to “sign agreements with leaders of Chinese provinces to set mutual commitments on a host of climate goals,” but it is hard to imagine how such symbolic rituals (China largely ignores climate obligations) will impact the environment. California generates less than 1% of the world’s greenhouse gases versus around 30% from China.
Newsom is not expected to ask his Chinese hosts about the use of slave labor or coal mining in Chinese solar panel manufacturing, the methodical theft of intellectual property by the Chinese government, or whether China supports (or helped fund) the Hamas killings in Israel. Perhaps if he became POTUS, he “could do all those things.”
What Gavin Did
Newsom’s track record on doing things may be his undoing. He pushed costly environmental regulations and spending in California that continue to come home to roost economically. Homelessness has grown steadily: California accounted for 30% of all homelessness in the nation in 2022, with only 12% of the country’s population. Newsom launched a California public safety plan in December 2021, but statistics show violent crime increased sharply in 2022 in California: stolen vehicle cases increased 60% in Los Angeles between 2019 and 2022 and nearly 50% in San Francisco. Arrests are down.
It appears to many that Gavin Newsom is seeking to build his international resumé for a shadow presidential campaign on the off-chance that Biden becomes untenable for a 2024 run. Meanwhile, the quality of life for millions of Californians continues to deteriorate under the burden of economic and policy disasters. Liberal policies to defund the police, weaken prosecution, and encourage drug use have shredded California cities and countryside alike. Homelessness, drug addiction, retail theft, and business failures have spread like a progressive laboratory virus. Citizens who can afford to are fleeing the state, including high-income earners.
A Do-Nothing Vision
Gavin Newsom is touring the world to do nothing. He did nothing to alleviate the conflict in Gaza, will do nothing to reduce Chinese greenhouse gas emissions, and is doing nothing to repair the damage his policies have seeded in California. As a candidate for president, Newsom would likely push similar climate policies for the nation, promising to unleash California’s economic and social maladies across the land.
Surely it would be better if he just did nothing.