In the 2020 — and, in all likelihood, the 2024 — presidential sweepstakes, much has been made about the character and personality traits of Joe Biden and Donald Trump.
Neither one, the either side charges, has what biographer Geoffrey C. Ward famously described Franklin Delano Roosevelt as possessing in the title of his famous work about the political emergence of the four-term president: “a first-class temperament.”
Trump is brash, spur of the moment, contentious. Biden is equally combative and, as a plus, doesn’t particularly seem to know where and/or who he is a good 65 percent of the time. And then there’s Biden’s backstop, this inimitable woman:
The Vice President thinks the border crisis is a hilarious joke. pic.twitter.com/e3SA3JdfKa
— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) June 8, 2021
However, for those of you on the left who might be tempted to think there’s a savior in Sacramento named Gavin Newsom waiting in the wings like a deus ex machina, ready to save the Democratic Party from itself, I have one name for you: Hank Plante.
Plante, for the unfamiliar, was a fixture on California’s airwaves, both in Los Angeles and San Francisco. He’s best remembered for his time at KPIX-TV in San Francisco, from which he retired in 2010.
The year before, Newsom, then the mayor of San Francisco, announced he was dropping out of the race for governor, citing “a young family and responsibilities at city hall,” according to Politico. It probably didn’t help that he was up against popular former Gov. Jerry Brown for the nomination — or that, two years prior, he’d gone through outpatient rehab for what was described as a drinking problem after it was revealed he’d had an affair with the wife of a former aide and close friend; according to The New York Times, the woman in question admitted the affair to her husband while in rehab for a substance abuse problem of her own.
So, when he sat down with Plante after he dropped out of the governor’s race, Newsom immediately wanted to talk about San Francisco’s budgetary shortfalls. Plante, instead, wanted to know why the mayor had been missing in action after dropping out of the gubernatorial sweepstakes.
“Mr. Mayor, good to see you, let me start by asking you: Where have you been?” Plante said at the top of the cringe-viral clip.
Instead, Newsom countered with “$522.2 million shortfall. Last year, we had a $570 –“
“Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute,” Plante said, requesting an answer to the question.
Instead, Newsom pulled the oldest of political hack tricks: “Hey guys, I’m here to talk about tomorrow, today and tomorrow. Not yesterday,” he said. “I’ve been working my tail off. I’ve been out. I think I had 69 public events in the last two and a half weeks.”
Plante noted that he’d heard Newsom mention that he’d been at these events and asked his staff for a printout of these appearances. Their response: Well, you know, they were informal events and stuff. Newsom said, yep, that’s basically it.
“But look, you know, the criticism that you have been dodging, not just the press, but also the public, that you have been sulking after dropping out of the governor’s race, that you’re having a temper tantrum,” Plante said. “What do you want to say about that?”
Newsom’s response? He’d been “working my tail off, I’ve been here, uh, focused in San Francisco.”
Plante then mentioned a political cartoon in the San Francisco Chronicle, which showed him as a crying baby, along with the caption “Mayor, Mayor, Off the Wall.”
“No, — who reads that stuff? I don’t read that stuff. I focus on work,” Newsom said.
Yeah, who reads the paper of record in San Francisco — the city where Newsom was, at that point, the mayor of? I don’t know why anyone would accuse this guy of being an absentee mayor or anything.
Then came the official events that he’d missed, several of which he said he was sick for. Then there was the time his press secretary told the media he was sick only for everyone to later discover he was on a plane to Hawaii because, you know, gotta get away for a bit.
The press secretary later resigned, part of significant turnover in the mayor’s office at that point. However, Plante took issue with the fact this person was “blindsided. These are people who work for you, 15, 16 hours a day.”
“I don’t know where you come up with this,” a laughing, visibly uncomfortable Newsom said. “And it sort of misleads people and creates a sense of something that really doesn’t exist.”
So when it came time to talk about the deficit — which, remember, is what Newsom said he wanted to talk about — he clammed up. “Yeah. Just got a lot of work ahead of us. Big deficit.”
He would then quickly leave the interview, telling Plante as he took off his microphone to leave: “Off the record, I’m amazingly disappointed. Amazingly. I just am, personally, you know.”
— San Francisco Ironicle (@sfironicle) September 27, 2023
And people wonder why he gets compared to Patrick Bateman, the yuppie/serial killer protagonist of “American Psycho.”
Now, to be fair to Newsom, this is roughly a decade and a half ago. To be fair to the reality of the situation, he also hasn’t changed much. Newsom’s rise to stardom was only briefly arrested by his sexual dalliances, oenophilia, temper tantrums and absentee mayoralty. Newsom would run for lieutenant governor under Brown during Gov. Moonbeam’s second stint as the state’s leader, then Newsom would replace him.
Now, with two regular election wins and one recall election win for governor under his belt, it’s clear where his focus is. Just as in 2009, when his focus was on Sacramento as opposed to San Francisco, he’s now eyeing Washington and hoping to leave Sacramento behind as quickly as possible.
And yes, he may still have first-class hair — but he’s retained a third-class temperament.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.