When Gavin Newsom made like Achilles and took to brooding in his tent, back in the dark days of 2009 after quitting the race for governor and before re-emerging as a candidate for lite gov, the ex-mayor of San Francisco imperiously mocked the state job he now holds:
“What does the lieutenant governor do?” he said at the time. “For the life of me, I don’t know.”
Today, as Calbuzz formally demotes Newsom from the rank of Prince Gavin to the status of Lieutenant Starbuck, our intrepid cartoonist Tom Meyer offers his own, extremely helpful, suggestion to get the good lieutenant started on a new job description.
“What should Newsom do with his time?” politics guru Jack Pitney recently remarked to the indefatigable Jack Chang. “Accept speaking invitations, do lots of talks, spend time with the family, help raise his kids. It’s essentially a non-job.”
It’s true, of course, that the lite gov’s most solemn constitutional duty is to get up every morning, make sure Governor Brown is still breathing and then go back to bed. And sure, there are plenty of boring and conventional ways for newly-elected Newsom to spend his days.
But in our unstinting efforts to find positive solutions to intractable problems – we’re from the press, we’re here to help! – we’ve come up with a short list of other assignments for Lt. Starbuck to not only make himself useful but also keep his handsome mug squarely on the political radar in Sacramento.
Become California’s Chief Deputy Recycling Officer. Newsom will never be able to match the legendary tree hugger cred of Brown, who was totally green long before Kermit the Frog. But between banning plastic water bottles and starting an organic garden at City Hall, the erstwhile prince built his own, not inconsiderable, rep as a verdant pol. So what better way to save the Earth, while simultaneously meeting and greeting the folks who matter in Sacramento, than by making daily rounds of the Capitol, collecting bottles, cans and unread newspapers (as most, sadly, are).
Stop the squirrels from panhandling in Capitol Park. As S.F. Mayor, Newsom spent considerable time and political capital trying to tamp down the city’s well-earned image as a happy haven for aggressive, snarling street people. Now he has a splendid chance to apply those skills by forging a pragmatic but humane approach to handling the begging squirrels of Capitol Park (especially the nasty gray ones)– maybe with a new program for tourists to kick into a Rodent Food Bank instead of offering the annoying critters nuts and seeds on an individual basis.
Wash and service Kamala’s car. Sure, Attorney General Kamala Harris is Starbuck’s future rival for the Democratic nomination for governor, but unlike him, she has, you know, an actual job. While saving the Department of Justice a few bucks by volunteering to change the oil and wax down Herself’s state-financed ride, Gavin might even generate a few extra bucks for the general fund by connecting with other customers in the Capitol’s basement garage.
Launch a new state escort service. A recent study found that Sacramento is one of the few towns west of the Mississippi with a healthy surplus of single women over men. Given that Gavin’s greatest political asset is his movie star mien – hey, is that Matthew McConaughey?- why not put his good looks to work as the star attraction of California’s new Department of Arm Candy and Society Walkers, safely squiring unattached females to fundraisers and other big events in Sacramento’s non-stop social whirl?
Serve as the Legislature’s designated driver. Every year, it seems, at least one prominent state lawmaker gets stopped on a DUI, endangering his political career when word of his scandalous behavior reaches the district back home. What better insider gig for a guy with lots of time on his hands than hanging around the bar at Lucca and cheerfully grabbing the keys to ensure some soused solon gets safely tucked in bed?
Rearrange Jerry’s books. Our pal Greg Lucas recently provided a terrific guided tour through the eclectic and expansive personal library of Governor Gandalf, noting that his bookcase is “brimming — without organization — with topics like religion, urban planning, history, psychology and mysticism.”
Surely Gavin could earn himself some Brownie points – and begin working off the early demerits he racked up by undercutting Jerry’s bid to whack the U.C. budget – by spending a few hours getting the gubernatorial athenaeum in order, hopefully employing the Dewey decimal system, which the old-school Silver Fox would doubtlessly prefer.
On the day he was inaugurated this month, Newsom pathetically pleaded with reporters, who showed up to watch his swearing in but quickly decamped to fry some bigger fish: “This is the last time you’re going to want to talk to me,” he said. “Don’t forget me.”
No worries, lieutenant, we wouldn’t think of it.
Let the games begin: We hear the California Republican Party, struggling to recover its footing after getting pasted in November, is assiduously putting out feelers to potential 2012 presidential contenders in hopes of attracting some attention to its March 18-20 convention in Sacramento.
Party activists, of course, will be there to elect leaders, establish rules for top-two primaries and other fascinating chores, but whether normal people even notice the event may hinge on whether any presidentials come courting.
Included on the GOP’s wish list: Haley Barbour, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. Of course, they have to extend a warm invitation to Tundra Queen Sarah Palin, too, but we hear that some in the party dearly hope she won’t want to show, since she would consume all the oxygen and turn the convention into a Tea Party Extravaganza, when serious party rebuilding is what’s called for.
Calbuzz is not in the party building business but we sure would like to see the California GOP become relevant again in statewide elections: it’d be better for political reporters, not to mention democracy, if there was a little competition of ideas in California. That’s why we posted our Memo to the GOP (key item: figure out a way to support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants without sacrificing your Republican principles).
Meanwhile, back in the United States of Washington, D.C., the 2012 sweepstakes is already well underway. If you’re already behind — for shame! — here’s a preliminary reading list:
— Chris “The Fix” Cillizza offers an early line on the electoral college, concluding that Obama’s not nearly in the sad shape some would-be rivals would have you think.
— The Chron produced a swell set of charts for their pre-SOTU coverage comparing Obama’s standing on some economic and political measurables with those of recent presidents.
— The Times details how national political blogs are cranking up to go completely nuts with coverage.
— Politico confirms the accuracy of the Times story.
— Politico also smokes out our own Rob Stutzman, a key 2008 Mitt Romney operative, to buttress their situationer showing that Mighty Mitt is encountering a level of skepticism among political professionals that’s hardly befitting an alleged front-runner:
“I’m keeping my powder dry for now,” said Stutzman, Romney’s top California adviser in 2008. “I think new congressional maps and Senate races may provide the most exciting campaign opportunities in ’12.”
At least since that whole Meg Whitman thing, anyway.
Why football is America’s Game: The Jets blew their chance at the Super Bowl with a bunch of dog-ass play calls in a crucial series at the Steelers’ goal line last week, which means the big game’s entertainment value will be considerably lessened without the performance art stylings of madman head coach Rex Ryan.