Archive for the ‘California Politics’ Category

Phil Trounstine: 1949-2022

Tuesday, April 12th, 2022

It is with heavy heart that we report the death of Calbuzz co-founder Phil Trounstine, who passed away peacefully at home on Monday afternoon. He was 72.

Phil for decades was a fiercely intelligent, hard-charging and widely-respected member of the California politics tribe – as the longtime Political Editor of the San Jose Mercury News, the onetime Communications Director for Gov. Gray Davis (Phil never tired of telling me that Gray was at 65 percent favorable when he left the governor’s office, well before the recall) and as founder and director of the San Jose State University Poll.

In 2009, he and I Iaunched Calbuzz and we had a blast for more than five years on the California campaign trail and state convention circuit, starting political food fights, committing more than a thousandacts of Actual Journalism and having too many laughs to count. As we often said, we were accountable to no one but each other.

We never put bylines on our stuff, because every piece we posted was a true collaboration, and in the years when we were cooking, before the health problems hit us, we’d talk to each other every day, dark newsroom humor-filled conversations, sometimes a dozen times a day or more.

Now it can be told: it was Phil who coined “Calbuzz,” who dubbed Meg Whitman “eMeg,” and labeled then-San Francisco Mayor Newsom “Prince Gavin.” He devised our site’s singular absurdist art work, illustrating most of the 1,335 pieces we’ve posted in this space. He designed our finger-in-the-socket logo guy, morphed Jerry Brown into Gandalf and merged Obama’s “Hope” poster with a rendering of Sigmund Freud to craft the image of our staff psychiatrist, Dr. P.J. Hackenflack.

As a reporter, Phil was the master of what we called the “perceptual scoop” – grasping the big picture meta-angle of hiding-in-plain-sight trends or shifts in the political zeitgeist that no one else had yet recognized, explored or explained.

Years before “soccer moms” became a thing in political reporting, for example, he understood and broke down for readers the critical importance of suburban women voters; outraged at the consequence-free lying of Whitman’s campaign for governor in 2010, he presciently railed against the “death of truth” in politics; back in the ‘oughts, he forecast the collapse of the California Republican Party and offered a detailed prescription for how they could come back. Needless to say, the GOP foolishly ignored his advice.

Having started his own polling operation at SJ State, Phil was persnickety and proprietary about our polling stories, and would never let me near one. But his writing on the subject was serious, substantive and insightful, and he relished diving deep into the weeds about survey methodology, trashing the proliferation of media junk polls and demanding custom cross-tabs from PPIC’s Mark Baldassare, UC’s Mark Dicamillo or any other poll-taker he thought worthy of coverage in Calbuzz.

Phil also was the Calbuzz Social Director and delighted in planning the logistics, menus and sites of the Hacks and Flacks Dinners that became a regular feature of state conventions. His most spectacular success was the Calbuzz Hackenflack Dinner that highlighted Jerry Brown’s Inaugural week in 2011, drawing scores of insiders, electeds, lobbyists and other political hacks, including Governor Gandalf his own self.

His proudest achievement, however, was his marriage to Debbie and their wonderful, far-flung family, most of all their eight grandchildren, who appeared on his Facebook page even more frequently than his political observations or Wordle scores.

On Monday afternoon, according to family, Phil lay down for an afternoon nap, his beloved dog Bingo beside him, and…didn’t wake up. After all he’d suffered and endured in recent years, it was a blessedly peaceful passage.

E.B. White wrote that, “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.” Phil was both, and I will treasure our partnership and our friendship forever.

RIP brother.


–Jerry Roberts

Why Gavin Will Crush Recall and Emerge Stronger

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

The MSM chases Caitlyn Jenner like dogs in heat and John Cox’s big bear makes it official: the attempted recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom is a circus.

On Planet Earth, however, which clown in the car is most popular matters not to Prince Gavin, whose focus is on the central issue of not getting Gray Davis Disease.

Yes or No on Recall, that is the question. All the rest is commentary.

Calbuzz is slavering over next week’s release of gobs of juicy new data from the Institute of Governmental Studies at Berkeley (bought and paid-for from a state government institution by the mighty, woke LA Times), but we can’t wait and so have limbered up for some serious punditry framing the recall.

We rarely make predictions but when we do, we’re always right — just ask President Hillary Clinton. Here’s another we feel comfortable typing for the record:

Gavin beats the recall easily; emerges stronger and wins a landslide re-election next year, forcing the rest of us to listen to him talk (and talk and talk and talk) until 2026.

There’s no Arnold this time. From polling that we’ve seen or know about and what you might call “Actual Reporting,” Newsom would triumph in an election held today with 55-60% voting No on recall. Catch you next year Caitlyn.

Wisely, Prince Gavin’s brain trust, stylists and coat carriers keep him aloof from the mud wrestling among the carnival of wannabes and fully engaged on behaving like a governor. That’s good for citizens ensconced in what you might call your wildland-urban interface during fire season.

So, Gavin talks (and talks and talks and talks) about vaccinations, low disease rates, Covid relief and economic recovery driven by unspeakable amounts of free money handed out by the state and Newsom’s pals Joe, Kamala and Nancy. Meanwhile, his surrogates — elected officials, union leaders, teachers, social welfare pleaders, the woke — do the hard work of flipping the question for voters from a referendum on Gavin to a plebiscite about Trumpism, its misogyny, xenophobia, hatred and racial injustice.

Our person in Vegas (she, her) says the smart money is heavy on the Democratic coalition succeeding in the mission.

The Feinstein model. As mayor of San Francisco in 1982, California Ultra Senior Senator Dianne Feinstein wept when she learned that a recall petition against her had qualified for the ballot.

But Clint Reilly, her political consultant at the time, seized on the measure as a splendid opportunity not only to skunk the recall but also to make Feinstein invincible in the regular mayoral election only months later.

Feinstein beat the 1983 recall, winning 80% of the vote. A few months later she was overwhelmingly re-elected to her final term in the regular election and spent the next four years dominating politics in San Francisco. In the immortal words of the late great TV political reporter Rollin Post, “She ruled like a Roman empress.”

(The 1983 recall is chronicled in granular if exhausting detail in “Never Let Them See You Cry,” the essential volume — plenty of free parking — about Feinstein’s prairie years and San Francisco’s history in the 1970s and ‘80s.)

That’s the model Team Gavin is aiming to use, not the flailing failure of Gov. Gray Davis to hold onto the governor’s office by losing control of the message and being thoroughly eclipsed by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

When all is said and done and Newsom survives the recall, he will be stronger, not weaker, than ever before. He will have survived the slings and arrows, knives and gunfire, of the most virulent negativists in politics. He will have been steeled in ways that few besides Feinstein can boast.

Faking sincerity — the key to success. Gavin currently is running around the state oozing sincerity and displaying just enough flashes of humility to atone for his maskless French Laundry dinner, if not his hair, orthodontia, arrogance, condescension and entitlement.

By forcefully re-defining the recall as a Trump coup attempt, Newsom wins the war of arithmetic in California where party registration is now 46.17% Democrat, 24.14% Republican and 23.73% No Party Preference

The most recent PPIC poll put Newsom’s job approval at about 56% — the same number of respondents who said no to recall. In that survey, 85% of Democrats and 58% of independents opposed the recall, numbers that eclipse the fact that eight in 10 California Republicans said they want to oust him.

Even factoring in inflated Republican turnout attracted by the circus of political bears and monkeys, Prince Gavin (the Trumpistas call him “Pretty Boy” – original!) is on a glidepath to winning a vote of confidence.

It’s partisanship, Jake.

A nationalized campaign. As one smart strategist close to Newsom pointed out to us, the media landscape is so completely different than it was for Davis or Feinstein, we now know about issues and people in places we never did in the past. We know who the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania is, the governor of Florida and the mayor of Atlanta’s middle name. Katie Porter and Eric Swalwell have nationwide name recognition that Howard Berman and Don Edwards never had.

When it’s over, people all over America will know that Newsom survived an all-out assault from the Trumpist Wing of the Republican Party which is — for all intents and purposes — the Republican Party itself. Sure, his negatives will be higher than they otherwise would have been. But the 35-40% of the reactionary base who will despise him were never his to begin with.

Of course, this national profile cuts both ways. More right-wingers around the country know who they don’t like in California. But there’s no single candidate for them to invest in, while Newsom picks up financial support from those who backed Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden.

Fred Davis’s Grizzly Bear ad for John Cox was nicely aimed at the Trump base. They buy that shit. But that’s not nearly enough to oust the governor. Any more than his Demon Sheep or I’m Not a Witch ads could lift their principals.

Newsom will survive. What he’ll do next is uncertain. He likely won’t ever challenge Kamala Harris for the Democratic nomination for president — they share the same consultants (which is partly why Newsom went for governor while Harris went for the U.S. Senate).

Take it from a couple of cancer survivors, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

What Is This ‘QAnon’ Thing They’re Talking About?

Monday, February 15th, 2021

Recent focus on the deranged views voiced by U.S. Rep Marjorie Taylor (Marge) Greene has elevated “QAnon” to a household word.

Attempting to understand precisely what “QAnon” is, however, represents a slippery and elusive task, because this shadowy, nut-case umbrella term has no universally accepted description.

The best nuts and bolts description, in a grueling Calbuzz internets investigation, comes from the global crowd source scholars of Wikipedia, who write in part:

QAnon[a] (/ˌkjuːəˈnɒn/) is a disproven and discredited far-right conspiracy theory[1] alleging that a secret cabal of Satan-worshippingcannibalistic[2][3][4] pedophiles is running a global child sex-trafficking ring and plotted against former U.S. president Donald Trump while he was in office.[5] According to U.S. prosecutors, QAnon is commonly called a cult.[6]  

the conspiracy theory began with an October 2017 post on the anonymous imageboard 4chan by “Q” (or “QAnon”), who was presumably an American individual;[22] it is now more likely that “Q” has become a group of people acting under the same name.[23][24] 

stylometric analysis of Q posts claims to have uncovered that at least two people wrote as “Q” in different periods.[25][26] Q claimed to be a high-level government official with Q clearance, who has access to classified information involving the Trump administration and its opponents in the United States.[27] 

Fair enough, but that’s a lot to process, and yet barely scratches the surface in terms of the wakadoodle ideas that QAnon adherents believe to be true. Consider just one of those ideas – known as, um, “Frazzledrip” — as outlined by Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times:

The lurid fantasy of Frazzledrip refers to an imaginary video said to show Hillary Clinton and her former aide, Huma Abedin, assaulting and disfiguring a young girl and drinking her blood. It holds that several cops saw the video and Clinton had them killed.

Because: of course.

Digging deeper. Here are several other descriptions that a variety of credible writers have employed in bids to wresle the nature, scope and meaning of QAnon to the ground:

— At its heart, QAnon is a wide-ranging, completely unfounded theory that says that President Trump is waging a secret war against elite Satan-worshipping paedophiles in government, business and the media:  QAnon: What is it and where did it come from? – BBC News — Mike Wendling

— Named after “Q,” who posts anonymously on the online bulletin board 4chan, QAnon alleges that President Donald Trump and military officials are working to expose a “deep state” pedophile ring with links to Hollywood, the media and the Democratic Party: QAnon: The alternative religion that’s coming to your church (religionnews.com) — Katelyn Beaty

— baseless belief an anonymous person called Q was revealing secrets about a child trafficking ring orchestrated by Democrats and global elites: (“Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, QAnon conspiracy promoter, rose with support from key Republicans,  The Washington Post — Michael Kranish, Reis Thebault and Sephanie McCrummen

— a wild conspiracy theory that alleges a massive global pedophile cabal: (“ Tucker Carlson stands up for QAnon supporters,”  The Washington Post — Aaron Blake

— QAnon is the umbrella term for a set of internet conspiracy theories that allege, falsely, that the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles:” What Is QAnon, the Viral Pro-Trump Conspiracy Theory? “- The New York Times (nytimes.com) — Kevin Roose

Key, but mostly unspoken, point: QAnon is not an organization, like the Republican Party, the John Birch Society, Students for Democratic Society, the Catholic Church or the Black Panther Party, or others which the MSM has described at various times as “extremist.”

Rather, it’s an uncertain, inconstant and shifting collection of conspiracy theories: One doesn’t “belong” to QAnon. There’s no sign-up sheet, list of members, leadership structure or regular meetings.

Saying someone associates with QAnon is like saying someone associates with pantheism:  the belief that reality is identical with divinity,[1] or that all-things compose an all-encompassing, immanent god.[2].

Delusion goes mainstream. To be sure, there always have been tinfoil-hat and survivalist weirdos who believe Elvis is still alive, the Moon landing was faked or that the Holocaust never happened. But inevitably they were fringe people, widely regarded as delusional, out-of-the-mainstream wackos to whom nobody paid much attention.

Now, however, significant portions of the Republican Party have defended and spread ideas common among QAnon theorists – like the belief that the Clintons and George Soros killed JFK or that the Sandy Hill School shootings were a “false flag” operation by anti-Second Amendment haters.

Or as Marge Greene – who holds a seat in the United States House of Representatives (and let that sink in) –famously retweeted, that Jewish space lasers set off the wildfires in California. Because: of course

In short, delusion has gone mainstream, the culmination of the “Death of Truth” trend in politics and culture of which we are among the first to write more than a decade ago.

Of course, the Delusionist in Chief, Donald Trump, played a pivotal role in spreading ideas like this and others, including denial of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election or that Hydroxychloroquine prevents Coronavirus.

When the Commander in Chief, the Leader of the Free World – the elected president of the United States – holds, spreads and spins an entire alternative reality, the effect is like aggressive cancer consuming the country.

The bottom line change. For decades, crazy thinking, virulent racism, corrosive xenophobia and crushing misogynism all were part of the American political landscape. But all the flying monkeys, biting insects and snarling monsters were tamped down and stuffed into a box by mainstream politics, media and social decency.

Then along came Donald Trump, who not only unlocked forever our American Pandora’s Box, but who endorsed, cheered and promoted virtually every one of the most dangerous and disgusting creatures and ideas that common sense had marginalized.

Now Qanon has become the unified theory of all the false and slanderous conspiracy stories. Which – at least for the moment –– is being debunked, repudiated and de-legitimatized under the Biden-Harris administration.

That crazy uncle has been sent back to the basement. Whether or not he stays there is an open question.

Dissecting Dueling IGS & PPIC Polls on Prince Gavin

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

A few months ago, when the Coronavirus pandemic was just getting real, a majority of Californians thought Gov. Gavin Newsom was doing a good job of managing the crisis.

Not so much anymore.

Today, only 31% of California voters give Newsom good or excellent marks for handling the “coronavirus pandemic” in a survey by Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, compared to 43% who give him poor or very poor marks.

And in the poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, registered voters are split almost equally with 49% approving and 46% disapproving Newsom’s handling of the “coronavirus outbreak.”

Which is why Newsom’s overall approval rating has dipped to 46% among registered voters in the IGS Poll and 50% among RVs in the survey from PPIC.

Much has been made of the difference between the findings of the two polls in part because IGS gave results for registered voters (46%) while PPIC focused on results from likely voters (52%).

But if you compare apples to apples – registered voters – the two polls are only about 4 percentage points apart on Newsom’s overall performance.

Bottom line, voters are not particularly happy with Newsom these days and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic/outbreak is the main reason. (Also: rank partisanship abides).  

What it means for recall

All of which suggests the drive to recall Newsom is likely to get on the ballot because Republicans hate his guts.

However, Prince Gavin is likely to survive a recall because Republican partisans represent only a small portion of California voters.

Our old friend George Skelton at the LA Times, along with Ben Christopher at CalMatters and Jeremy White at Politico have already done some fine reporting and commentary on Newsom’s standing in the polls and his chances in a recall election. They rely somewhat on analyses from Mark DiCamillo and Co. at IGS and Mark Baldassare at PPIC.

IGS said, in part:

Fueling the decline is the public’s much more negative assessment of the way Newsom and state government are handling the pandemic. T

he latest poll finds fewer than one in three Californians (31%) rating Newsom as doing an excellent or good job in handling the pandemic overall,down from 49% last September.

Also, just 22% offer a positive rating of the job he and state government are doing in overseeing the distribution of the coronavirus vaccines to the public.

In addition, only about half (47%) have a great deal or some trust in the way the governor and state government are setting the rules when issuing stay-at-home orders or setting  guidelines for business to follow to slow the spread of the virus, with majorities describing them as inconsistent (62%), confusing (60%) and ineffective (53%).

While PPIC said:

Assuming there will be a governor’s recall election in 2021, the political wildcard is the status of COVID-19 in California.

In the January PPIC Survey, about half of likely voters say that COVID-19 is the most important issue for the governor and legislature to work on in 2021.

Currently, Governor Newsom has mixed reviews for his handling of this issue (50% approve, 47% disapprove). And less than three in ten give the state government an excellent or good rating for its handling of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution. In contrast, seven in ten approve of the way that the pandemic is being handled by Joe Biden in his early days of presidential leadership.

Deep in the weeds

So, what are the key differences between these two surveys, much deconstructed and dissected in political circles this week, both produced by very fine pollsters?

(For what it’s worth, the dispositive 538 pollster ratings show that PPIC has about the same high rating as the now defunct Field Poll had, but enjoys a much better rating than Berkeley.)

PPIC uses live interviews and random digit dialing, which gives every telephone exchange (land line and cell phone) an equal chance of being surveyed, and they use an established method to get someone from the household on the phone.

This is classic polling methodology, developed over decades to ensure that a random sample of the population is surveyed.

But it has become increasingly more difficult (and expensive) to get people to take phone surveys.

PPIC’s response rate in its latest survey was about 5% for landline calls and 3% for cellphones (although for those in the sample who had participated in a prior survey it was higher – 44% for land lines and 25% for cells).

In addition, pollsters determine who is and who is not a registered voter (or a likely voter) by asking questions that respondents may or may not answer truthfully like:

Are you registered to vote? What party are you registered in? How much are you following the news? Do you plan to vote the next election?

Every pollster has their own combination of questions to try to make sure they distinguish who is and who is not a voter, but it’s as much art as it is science.

In addition, some people are so suspicious of authorities, institutions and researchers they won’t ever participate in a survey, even when the call is from the Public Policy Institute of California and not some “partisan” or egghead caller like, say, the University of California Berkeley.

IGS, on the other hand, can’t afford the huge cost of live surveys (for the most part) and so has turned to online polling, with sophisticated abilities to target and engage voters in the actual voter file from the California Secretary of State.

But they have to invite about 190,000 voters to participate to get a sample of 10,000 voters. And they can only invite voters who have listed an email address, which is now about half the registered voters.

So, their effective response rate is also about 5%, and it’s a pre-screened group of people who have listed an email address and will go to the trouble of filling out the survey online.

They have the same problem that live calling has of Trumpistas, who don’t want to participate at all so their views can’t even be given weight to represent their share of the population.

Moreover, online surveys can’t claim to represent a random sample of voters because not every voter has an equal chance of being surveyed.

So, they have to construct a representative sample based on sophisticated use of variables like age, gender, location, education, etc.

What this method does know for sure is that they’re dealing with actual voters and even how often they have voted, all of which is in the voter file.

There are many more issues that confront pollsters using either method. Needless to say, polling has become a hugely difficult endeavor which the most recent presidential campaign revealed starkly.

But this much we know for certain: Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing voters who no longer thinks he’s the bee’s knees.

And the only way he can guarantee survival in office is to make people believe that California is doing a better job of containing the coronavirus, distributing vaccine, opening schools and businesses and slowing the death toll.

Why 2020 Was Annus Horribilis for California

Monday, January 11th, 2021

For our farewell to 2020, Calbuzz was cleverly waiting for the results of the Georgia Senate races, in order to be able to more accurately discuss how 2021 would be shaping up – Democratic control of the U.S. Senate obviously would make things very different than divided government.

But our best laid plans were upended when a riotous mob, incited by President Trump, attempted a coup last Wednesday, overrunning the U.S. Capitol, defiling the building, killing a cop, causing the death of four other people, hunting for the Congressional leadership and assaulting the very principle of democracy.

And, oh yeah, erecting a gallows on the Capitol grounds.

Whether the Narcissist In Chief will be punished for the Trump Putsch (Coup Klux Klan?) In the meantime, a few reflections about how all this impacts Californians.

Sherman meets Rev. Warnock. Georgia, driven by the votes from descendants of slaves, has saved the Union, 160 years almost to the date after seceding from the United States and joining the Confederate War of Independence.

Not since Ohio-born William Tecumseh Sherman captured Atlanta on Sep. 2, 1864 and began his merciless March, to the Sea, has the Peach State played such a pivotal role in American history – this time by electing two Democratic senators who will shift the balance of power in Washington.

Instead of a hobbled government, Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be able to form the cabinet, appoint the judges and shape the policies they want.

This is especially welcome news in California where Biden and Harris won a five-million-vote, 63-34% victory over Donald Trump but which also has suffered 2.51 million cases of Covid and 27,461 deaths with a Governor who was slow to make testing easily available — and who crippled his credibility when it was revealed he had dined sans-masque at the tony French Laundry with some of California’s most notorious cash-sucking lobbyists.

At least one of us previously described this  as “a delicious, easily-digested soupcon of journalism that simultaneously summarizes, synthesizes and sticks a sharp needle into a politician’s puffed-up pomposity, releasing noxious gases of rank hypocrisy and reeking self-regard.”

How broken is state government? In the early days of the pandemic,  Newsom won praise for his swift and firm attention to the Covid crisis (except for the failure to rapidly make testing available), but as the disease now rampages throughout California and the death toll steadily mounts, he has ceded moral authority and political influence with an endless series of tortuous, bewildering and half-baked orders to businesses and local governments, which verge on self-parody, not to mention his own self-entitled behavior.

A couple of our very smart colleagues just today published a searing look at the problems Prince Gavin faces in Politico titled “It’s all fallen apart.”

Not only have public health officials lost control of the virus, but state administrators have bungled the distribution of unemployment and federal relief programs, leaving tens of thousands of out-of-work Californians entangled in bureaucracy even as imprisoned felons successfully scam millions, raising concerns about how efficiently the vaccine will be distributed in the state.

Who decides when kids go back to school? As a political matter, Newsom’s most urgent problem is finding a pathway for California’s six million public school students to return to classrooms, amid growing pressures from disheartened and exasperated parents throughout the state.

He has set forth a $2 billion plan of incentives for K-2 students to return in February, but the California Teachers Union is demanding stringent standards for school re-openings, setting up a potential clash between the preeminent special interest in Sacramento, and the Capitol’s dominant Democrats, who are usually on the same side.

Will Gavin join the Gray Davis Club? Widespread death, economic disruption and government disarray has fueled a Republican-led bid to qualify by March a 2021 ballot measure to recall Newsom. The recall started as a fringe effort, but recently has gained momentum, money and establishment GOP backing, and seasoned political voices are warning Newsom to take the statewide campaign seriously, or risk the fate of recalled Gov. Gray Davis in 2003.

A second term? Despite our decades of experiencing Newsom as a political Narcissus, we have held out hope that with the right people on his team, the former San Francisco mayor could to perform well as governor. Instead he has given former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, whom many Republicans view as the party’s best chance of ever winning a statewide office again, an opening to tweet:

His kids can learn in person. But yours can’t. He can celebrate birthday parties. But you can’t. He can dine on a $350 meal at one California’s fanciest restaurants during the worst recession in generations. But you definitely can’t. Can you believe this? I can’t.

Of course, Prince Gavin is fortunate to have no one like Arnold Schwarzenegger lurking in the wings. And while one former San Diego mayor – Pete Wilson — did make it as governor, that was a different era in terms of partisan division. Our take:  Faulconer has only run in non-partisan municipal elections. If he runs for governor, he’ll have a big red ‘R’ branded on his forehead. And today, statewide, that’s fatal.

Can new hands right the ship? Stung by all this, Newsom made a couple of moves in early December to right the ship: he installed our old friend Dee Dee Myers as his top business adviser and he laid down a policy aimed at separating his political advisers from lobbying.

Myers has been in the middle of sone serious shit storms from Dianne Feinstein to Michael Dukakis and Frank Jordan to Bill Clinton, and she has always seemed to be one offering a smart, transparent, competent way forward.

Moreover, as the Sacramento Bee reported:

The governor’s office issued a statement from [friend of Calbuzz] Ann Ravel, former chair of the Fair Political Practices Commission, applauding the governor’s new policy, calling it “groundbreaking for California.”

“Not only does it go beyond what’s legally required, it meets the spirit of upholding public trust, which is vital to our Democracy,” Ravel said.

Dan Schnur, a longtime political operative and government ethics expert, [and friend of Calbuzz] said the policy is both the right thing to do and the political savvy thing to do, given Newsom’s recent gaffes.

“It’s always a good thing when an elected official moves so strongly to eliminate potential conflicts of interests,” Schnur said. “But it’s also a very savvy damage control maneuver for a governor who’s taken more than his share of ethics hits over the past few weeks.”

Looking forward, we hold out hope that Prince Gavin will shake off his self-entitlement and pay attention to some of the very smart people who are eager to help him lead California.

Feinstein Losing Her Grip? Yes, we long ago noted that Feinstein is older than the Golden Gate Bridge. But we also have seen her as far more capable, experienced and competent than those who have arisen to challenge her.

Now, however, Lady DiFi has — with her doddering, forgetfulness and lack of connection to the here-and-now — begun to lose the confidence of her own Senate colleagues and apparently, some of her close staff.

As documented by the great (and, in this case, gentle)  Jane Mayer of the New Yorker, 

…many others familiar with Feinstein’s situation describe her as seriously struggling, and say it has been evident for several years. Speaking on background, and with respect for her accomplished career, they say her short-term memory has grown so poor that she often forgets she has been briefed on a topic, accusing her staff of failing to do so just after they have. They describe Feinstein as forgetting what she has said and getting upset when she can’t keep up.

Since at least half of us (we name no names) has actually chronicled the life of the Empress of Pacific Heights and we have a view of Feinstein that goes back decades.

Those who know her best say DiFi remains quite capable, but her memory lapses apparently are real and her lifelong commitment to compromise and civility is way out of fashion amid today’s unrelenting political warfare, raising speculation about Feinstein finishing her term, which doesn’t end until 2024.

As we head into the new year, we suggest that Dianne that she step down from any leadership positions in the Senate and concentrate on smaller, do-able projects, like helping California recover from four years of Donald Trump on environmental, health, immigration, economic and social problems.

Use her final few years and considerable seniority for the benefit of her home state and leave the partisan fights to those better suited to mount the tip of the spear.

Xavier to Capitol: I’m baaack. We’ve been impressed with Becerra since long before he was installed as California Attorney General.

He’s the real deal when it comes from working his way out of obscurity on the strengths of his intellect, skill and instincts. We’ve always regarded him as a potential governor and figured the perch of AG was just about ideal as a launching pad for a statewide race for the top job.

But with his background in Congress fighting for affordable health care and his more recent lawsuits against Trump, on issues ranging from immigration to pandemic policy, he was also seen by Joe Biden as a tremendous asset for the new administration.

At first blush, we were surprised to see him accept the spot of Secretary of Health and Human Services, which has historically been kind of a lesser, cubby-hole of a cabinet position.

But in the Age of Coronavirus, no cabinet position is going to be more important or high-profile in the next couple of years than the Secretary of HHS which, under Biden, appears to be the cabinet’s coordinator for pandemic policy.

After Becerra. Losing Becerra to Washington will open up a hugely important statewide post that Newsom will have to fill on a temporary basis.

We don’t expect it because there is no love lost between the Newsom and Jerry Brown camps, but former Gov. Brown, also a former AG, would make a terrific temporary appointee, leaving the seat open in 2022 for whoever wants to break into that career stream – someone who would defend immigrant rights, choice of abortion, coastal protection and environmental policy and other interests vital of California.

This has the advantage of putting someone in the top legal post who will spend absolutely zero percent of his or her time trying to build a political apparatus for future re-election to the post but will be fully concentrated on the issues that California confronts in the courts.

And in those cases where California must join or lead other states in helping share national policy, Brown would step in with an instant mountain of respect from other AGs around the country.

Senator Alex -Meh. To the surprise of no one – and to the disappointment of Black leaders who wanted an African American appointed – Gov. Newsom named his longtime ally, friend and fellow Ace Smith client Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill the seat in the U.S. Senate that is vacated by Kamala Harris’s election as vice president.

As the fist Latino from California ever to serve in the Senate and as an able and intelligent politician, we expect Padilla will represent California with distinction. He may not be the single best available choice for the job, but Newsom was smart to name a Latino leader with statewide bona fides and credibility.

Newsom then promptly nominated Assemblymember Shirley Weber to the Secretary of State post, a gesture to Black leaders who lobbied hard for another African-American to succeed Harris.

Mr. Speaker Kevin McCarthy? Joe Biden thumped Trump in California, but the 2020 election overall was good news for state Republicans, as voters backed conservative policies in conflicts over a host of ballot measures on taxes, affirmative action and criminal justice reforms, while the GOP reclaimed four of seven suburban House seats in the state which they’d lost in 2018.

Although newly re-elected as House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi now holds only a tiny majority in the House. Before the Insurrection, pro-Trump Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield aggressively was  positioning his caucus with an eye to 2022 and the congressional mid-terms, when the president’s party historically loses seats.

It will be intriguing to watch to see if McCarthy tries to soften his four years of bully boy fealty to Trump with his sudden, new-found desire for “healing.” Cough, cough.

Bottom line: The poison and violence Trump and his minions already have injected into the nation’s culture by refusing to accept the legitimacy of Biden’s election, however, will likely fester and putrefy our politics for generations.