Opinion | Gavin Newsom: ‘We Decided to Pull the Band-Aid Off’

Opinion | Gavin Newsom: ‘We Decided to Pull the Band-Aid Off’


[MUSIC – THEME, “SWAY”]

archived recording

(SINGING) When you walk in a room, do you have sway?

kara swisher

I’m Kara Swisher. And this is “Sway.” [MUSIC]

archived recording

Yeah. Chris, hey. The smoke is very thick. And the burn scars here are still very fresh. take a look over here. Never in the American West has so much burned so quickly or so destructively. We have a map to indicate that this fire is now more than 105,000 acres. That’s just tremendous.

kara swisher

California is burning right now. Hundreds of thousands of acres are on fire. At this moment, five of the 10 largest wildfires in the state’s history are ongoing, even as California is still reeling from Covid. [MUSIC CHANGE] The man in charge is Governor Gavin Newsom. He’s using these tragedies to focus the country’s attention on global warming. 10 days ago, he had a painful meeting with President Donald Trump about the fires. Governor Newsom spoke about the threat of climate change. The president dismissed it.

archived recording (donald trump)

It’ll start getting cooler. You just watch.

kara swisher

Little did Trump know what Newsom had up his sleeve. Actually, little did we know. Yesterday, he announced what might be the most ambitious state climate initiative in history. He’s banning the sale of all gas powered cars in California by 2035. That’s a huge impact. If California were a country, it would have the fifth biggest economy in the world. He’s calling for a fracking ban, too. Two bold and controversial initiatives in one day, both of which are likely to be challenged in court. Governor only since last year, Newsom has mostly had to be reactive, dealing with the twin existential crises of Covid and wildfires. But now, with an unprecedented executive order, he’s setting the agenda.

Hello? Governor Newsom?

gavin newsom

Hey.

kara swisher

Can you hear me OK?

gavin newsom

Perfectly. Perfectly.

kara swisher

Oh, man. You make news.

gavin newsom

I told you we were going to do something.

kara swisher

All right, well, you’ve done something here. All right, let’s talk about your performance on climate. You just issued a huge new executive order banning the sale of gas fueled cars by 2035. Why now?

gavin newsom

Because if we don’t double down on our efforts, we’re never going to meet our audacious goals. And we just can’t wait. I mean, the reality of climate change is self-evident to anyone who lives in California, is reading about California. With historic wildfires coming out of historic droughts, floods, we have an obligation to accelerate our efforts. And that’s what this will do.

kara swisher

Now did you talk to the car manufacturers? Did you give them warning about this?

gavin newsom

Well, what’s incredible is the partnership we’ve developed with six of the leading American manufacturers, led by Ford, Volvo, Honda that is really committed to low carbon green growth goals. In fact, they have voluntarily joined to abide by California’s vehicle mission tailpipe emissions, standard regardless of Trump’s efforts to overturn them.

kara swisher

This is bigger.

gavin newsom

And so they are committed to greening their fleet. And they recognize this is an imperative internationally in order for them to be competitive. And so we’ve been talking very directly with Audi and with Ford and broad strokes, I think they’re very supportive.

kara swisher

You think they’re supportive? You don’t expect any pushback from them, legal pushback or anything else?

gavin newsom

No. I mean, it’s the great mythology as it relates to what Trump is trying to do to overturn the Obama-era tailpipe emissions standards, is he claims he’s doing it for the automobile manufacturers. When you talk to each and every one of them, they’ll privately tell you they’re already moving to accelerate the cleaning up of their fleets. And so in every way, shape or form, it’s pure politics. It’s theater. It doesn’t advance a cause that the companies themselves claim that they don’t need.

kara swisher

All right. Speaking of the Trump administration, they challenged California’s authorities to set your own pollution standards for cars and trucks. Do you anticipate you’ll be defending your executive order in court with them? And if so, how are you going to win the battle?

gavin newsom

Well, we have a great winning percentage. We’d be in the Hall of Fame if this was a sporting event. But we are involved in over 100 lawsuits with the Trump administration. Those that have been adjudicated, we’ve won the vast majority of them. And I imagine it’s inevitable, based upon California’s long established rights and waivers that have been provided for decades that they’ll challenge those yet again as it relates to this matter.

kara swisher

You think they’re going to do it here?

gavin newsom

I just — I don’t have — the bar of expectations is so low. Because of the vandalism of the EPA, the politicalization, turning over to polluters most of our regulatory frame. And the complete aggressive assault down the line of Obama-era standards. And certainly, California leading this acceleration will offend, I imagine, their senses. But it’s completely consistent with California’s authority and completely consistent with our leadership over half a century.

kara swisher

All right. California has a long term goal to be carbon neutral by 2045. Correct?

gavin newsom

Yeah. We’ll never, though, achieve those audacious goals of decarbonizing our economy on the pace we’re currently on. It’s an interesting and stubborn fact. While California’s led the nation in fully functioning cap and trade, the one area we’ve slipped back is emissions from transportation. We’re actually going in the wrong direction. So based upon that trend line, there’s no way we’ll achieve our goals. And already, we have 34 manufacturers in California that are producing electric vehicles. We think this will accelerate more manufacturing in the state, allow us to be more competitive. So this is a game changer economically, environmentally, from a public health perspective. And certainly 15 years is plenty of time to bring down the cost of these vehicles.

kara swisher

Not even less — some countries are 10? Did you think about doing 10?

gavin newsom

Look, our open argument, at the end of the day, we think 15 is firm. We think it’s the right thing to do. But this is a dynamic environment, quite literally, not figuratively, we’re living in. And so as conditions change, as new evidence presents itself, obviously California will consider that. But we needed a put marker down, and this is a profoundly important one.

kara swisher

I can’t help but compare it to when you dropped gay marriage on the United States of America, just did that all of a sudden. You got a lot of pushback. But did you think about that? You just did it. I remember when we talked about it once. Is this the kind of thing, you’re, like, that’s enough?

gavin newsom

I mean, I guess this is one of those moments where you say, you know, you’re at peril of being judged, I mean, in looking back at what my kids or grandkids would say. I think the thing that frustrates me more than anything else, and I’ve been on a lot of panels over the years with people that talk about the fact they coulda woulda shoulda.

kara swisher

Yeah.

gavin newsom

And I told my staff, I remember years ago we did something. It was a fancy group of people, some of the top leaders around the world. And it was around drug policy. And all of them said, I wish I did. And I said to myself, you know what? I don’t want to ever be on a panel like this in 20 years. And that’s why we led and I initiated a ballot to legalize marijuana in the State of California. And it was literally because of that meeting. And so it really is sort of a guidepost of consideration. That while it’s nice to look back and say you coulda woulda should’ve, I’d rather burn out than rust out.

kara swisher

OK. All right. OK, Neil Young. But you know, you didn’t call for an executive order for banned fracking. Why not do that, too, with fracking?

gavin newsom

Well, our entire legal team suggested that we do need the California legislature. And so we marked in the executive order affirm date 36 months. We want to make it happen.

kara swisher

All right. Speaking of potent politics, #RecallGavin2020 is trending right now amongst conservatives.

gavin newsom

[LAUGHS]

kara swisher

What do you — does that make you proud or what? What’s your reaction?

gavin newsom

Look, you know, we come and go. You’re given a moment in time.

kara swisher

Yeah.

gavin newsom

And I think the old adage is dogs don’t bark at parked cars. So we could just sit back and buy time and not make a damn decision and judge ourselves quite harshly in the annals of one’s own life. I don’t want to do that. And so these folks have been at it, I think this is the third or fourth attempt in the first 20 months I’ve been in office. And it’s part and parcel of the political world we’re living in and the polarization of our politics, unfortunately.

kara swisher

All right. This is really great of you. Are you breaking any other news in the next 24 hours, anything around tuna fish cans or anything like that, that I’m going to have to call you back? Because we’re going live tomorrow morning, so please stop.

gavin newsom

Going live? Well, I think we’re good. [LAUGHS] [MUSIC PLAYING]

kara swisher

More with California Governor Gavin Newsom when we come back. [MUSIC ENDS] Most people can’t imagine being a governor in an emergency with COVID going on at the same time. So I would really just like a TikTok of your day, like today, or one of your days this week.

gavin newsom

Yeah. I spent the last two weeks, I’ve been to seven or eight fires, most of the evacuation centers. And I’ve seen people choking up because of air quality. It’s one thing to intellectualize that in a state operations center. It’s another to actually see people’s faces. I mean, I’ll tell you the strangest experience. It was literally moments after I was coming down Santa Cruz mountains. The Democratic convention, they were blowing up my phone saying, we really want you to record a video. It’s 4:30. I’m up in the mountains. They kept calling and calling. I just jumped out of the car, went into the forest, did a quick selfie video, and went down the mountain, didn’t even know that they aired the thing. And met with a woman that was just evacuated. And she was shaken up. She came up to me. She said, I’ve lost my home and everything else. And I need you to understand something. I said, “What is it?” She goes, “I need to vote. What am I going to do to vote? I was expecting to get my absentee ballot.” She’d lost her home. She had been evacuated. And all she was thinking about was this election. So for me, I say that as a frame of indelible memory. Because there’s a juxtaposition of politics and policy reality in this— the world we’re living in, I mean, it’s at a remarkable moment in time. And even in the depths of people’s despairs and anxiety, we’re still living in this deeply political and polarizing moment. And it was just deeply impactful. Because of the perversity of it, that that should be the last thing at the moment she should be concerned about. But it was the most important issue for her at that particular moment.

kara swisher

So these fires are an annual nightmare. Let’s stick with the fires for a minute. I do want to get to the politics of what’s going on. But these fires an annual nightmare. It’s been decades and decades happening in California.

gavin newsom

Centuries.

kara swisher

Centuries. And there’s also the land management issues. And people move up to these deathtrap towns because California hasn’t forced cities to allow dense, affordable, market-rate housing. Whose heads do you have to knock to fix it? You were mayor of San Francisco. This was exactly the same problem.

gavin newsom

I mean, all of those are — I mean, there’s components of truth and veracity in all of those points. But they kind of miss the fundamental point.

kara swisher

OK.

gavin newsom

The hots are getting a hell of a lot hotter. And the dries are getting a hell of a lot drier. And you’re having mega fires, not traditional wildfires. The fact is, something ferocious is happening. It’s not just occurred because we weren’t managing our forest in the last decade. It’s a combination of factors. But vegetation management, forest management, fuel load is deeply part of it. But that also happens to connect to drought and climate risk.

kara swisher

But not this concept in California, take over the land and make it bend to our will.

gavin newsom

Well, there is, I mean, there’s sure, a little, you know, the frontier spirit. I mean, Horace Greeley, go west young man, go west in the 1850s. And that pioneer experience is a big part of this state. I happen to have a property up in Placer County. It was built during the Gold Rush. And it is in the wildland-urban interface. It’s part of that interface where our house is one of the most vulnerable in the state, along with literally hundreds of thousands of other homes similarly built. And certainly, land use is a big part and parcel of what we have to look forward to in the future and avoid exacerbating that tension and that dynamic between the wild and urban interface. So that’s part of it. But, again, there’s an underlying trend that’s now the headline. And it’s not an area of concentrated focus. This is nothing compared to what I think our future will look like.

kara swisher

All right, what about SB 182? There’s a bill sitting on your desk right now that would make these really risky communities build a lot more anti-fire measures into new developments. You’re insisting that insurers insure these areas. Maybe people shouldn’t be living there. So why haven’t you signed it?

gavin newsom

I’ve got about 400 bills on my desk. So there’s 400 questions you can ask.

kara swisher

It’s in there somewhere.

gavin newsom

Yeah, it’s quite literally stacked.

kara swisher

Yeah.

gavin newsom

No, I mean, honestly, quite literally. So we’ve got till the end of the month to sign hundreds of bills. And so we quite literally just started the process a few days ago when these wildfires started to get under control. Look, the end of the day, insurance is going to go up. I’ve been an advocate for density bonuses around transit corridors. And as a former mayor of a larger city, San Francisco, that’s a part and parcel of our DNA. And it should be part and parcel of our future in the state. But you can’t make up for a century of built environment and tell everybody to move out of their houses and abandon them in some massive dislocation. And I think there are ways to manage your forests better, to create fuel breaks, to address the issue of ingress and egress, and address some of the vulnerabilities of many communities. And we’ve been doing that in historic ways, 35 high profile, large scale projects that we advanced to protect those communities in a way where we’re not abandoning those communities.

kara swisher

Well, let’s talk about that. President Trump, the expression he used, I think, was “clean your floors.” The brush hasn’t been cleaned out. Other experts say the trees is the problem, these dry trees, this fuel that keeps lighting up. When you heard that, what is your answer to that? The idea of —

gavin newsom

I mean, you don’t answer that. I mean, how do you take seriously —

kara swisher

I don’t know. How do you?

gavin newsom

If I responded to every single utterance and everything else, I’d be quite literally doing nothing else. And all of us are prone to some gaffes and misrepresentations in terms of facts. And clearly, the president was told by somebody about raking the forests, including leaves, as a protective measure. Now for me, I gave him the benefit of the doubt two years ago. But he doubled down on it. And so now I’m convinced it’s not just a conversation he had he was repeating. But it’s an ideological frame where he’s basically saying climate change is a hoax, which he has said. And he clearly doesn’t want to connect that dot. He wants to fight against that. But he still has to rationalize historic fires. So it’s mismanagement. The irony of that is 57% of the land —

kara swisher

Yes.

gavin newsom

— that is forested in California’s federal. It’s under his jurisdiction. 3% is California’s land. Three to 60%, so if indeed that’s the top priority, I wish he would make it a priority so that we can address it more forthrightly. We, unlike the president, with respect, who is not acknowledging climate change, all acknowledge culpability over a century plus, two centuries, as it relates to forest management. And I would argue that’s an issue for the entire Western hemisphere, not just the West Coast of the United States or California. That said, we are committed to doing more and better and just announced a partnership with the federal government, ironically, with the president and his team to double the amount of acreage that we manage. And that’s a good first step. But it’s a first step in this respect.

kara swisher

Is essentially what you’re saying, these are federal lands. I can’t do anything about them?

gavin newsom

No. We actually are using half the money that we use for vegetation of forest management on federal property. So we punch above our weight. We’re taking respons — I think the worst damn thing that’s happened to the Republican Party is they have all become victims. It was one of the things, when I grew up, I kind of admired about the Republican party. They weren’t all acting like victims. They took some personal responsibility. We’ll take personal responsibility. We’re not victims of fate. And so we’re committed to doing more and doing better. And we’ll own up to reality. And I have owned up to reality. I’ve been governor for 20 months. And we’re doing more vegetation of forest management than ever. We’re fast tracking and prioritizing these fuel break programs and prescribed burns in historic ways. We did a declaration of emergency to fast track the environmental process in order to get these things done. And we worked our tails off to get a partnership with the US Forest Service and the Trump administration. Despite all the rhetoric, we still worked to advance a reality to double the amount of acres that we are managing. And we got to do more still.

kara swisher

All right, so you’ve talked about California as a resistant state. So let’s talk about your relationship with the federal government and the president. You were very positive toward him. You told Anderson Cooper in April, every single direct Covid request that Trump was capable of meeting, he has met. You were very complimentary. And you said otherwise, I would be lying to you. And then they made it into a campaign ad, which you saw. And not only you —

gavin newsom

That’s politics.

kara swisher

Yeah. Yeah.

gavin newsom

That’s politics.

kara swisher

So what was your thinking when you were doing this? It’s just — you were just —

gavin newsom

I mean, it’s an old-fashioned — I guess what I was thinking about is the way I was raised. I guess I was thinking about what my mother told me. Just be honest with people. Don’t lie to people. Don’t mislead them. Call balls and strikes. So I answered a question forthrightly. And I was honest. And the fact is the requests we have made and the requests I personally made have been met. And so I could make that up. But that would impugn my character. And good people can disagree with our public policy. But I’m trying to be honest and forthright about things.

kara swisher

And when Bob Woodward’s reporting on Trump knowingly downplaying Covid came out, were you surprised then?

gavin newsom

No. I wasn’t surprised at all. I mean, no one was surprised. If anyone was surprised, I’m surprised by that. I mean, it’s pretty self-evident by his actions. We’re just trying to work our way through this. And we have a great relationship with FEMA, not just on this pandemic, but also wildfires. And I’ve tried to develop a working relationship with the president.

kara swisher

So talk about that. Because you know, it’s hard. You have to play nice to the president. You need disaster declarations. You need FEMA money. How is it playing nice like that? Because at the same time, you’ve talked about California’s a resistance state. Talk a little bit about how you balance that.

gavin newsom

Look, I don’t wake up every morning trying to figure that question out. I wake up every morning trying to address the challenges that the state faces and trying to navigate those things in a forthright way. I think we completely have lost our capacity to even reconcile how consumed we’ve become as a nation with politics and how disinterested we are in governing and policy. It’s really taken a backseat. It’s secondary or tertiary. We’re consumed by the moment situationally, who’s up, who’s down, and a political frame. And I wish we would start focusing a little more on the realities of governing, the challenges of governing. We’re consumed, and it’s really polarizing. So I guess it’s a way — I express that not as a frame of frustration, but as a frame of reference.

kara swisher

You sound frustrated.

gavin newsom

No, but I say it in the frame of reference to your question, that I’m not as interested, perhaps, as others about what Trump — what does it mean politically? If you say something good, what does it mean? Or how do you nav — that’s not what motivates me. What motivates me is moving this agenda for the state forward.

kara swisher

I get that. But what’s the actual technique here? I mean, California’s in all these lawsuits against the Trump administration. And you’re very critical of them. And yet you also need to cooperate.

gavin newsom

There’s no technique. Donald Trump’s called me a clown. I pushed back when he was putting kids in cages and refer to him as pennywise. I mean, we’ll push back. If you attack the values of the state and vulnerable communities, clean air, clean water, our kids, grandkids, our diverse communities, I’ll push back. At the same time, I’m not spending the rest of my day going on TV trying to take shots.

kara swisher

But when you’re there with the president, when the president is there talking to your science advisors, and he’s denying climate change, which is what he did, I want to know what goes through your head that you don’t say something.

gavin newsom

I don’t know many governors that have been at a table with Donald Trump, a few feet away, challenging him on climate change. So I don’t know. Maybe people, you know, expect a WWE fight or something. I don’t know what people want. They want theatrics. And governor of California has a responsibility to be civil, I think. The president should be civil. And I’m very proud of my resource director for saying what he said and very proud that our team said what we said.

kara swisher

He did. That’s great.

gavin newsom

And I think that’s a good thing.

kara swisher

Is that the solution around the idea of removing polarization? Right now, we have a Supreme Court fight now, very polarized. Election, obviously, you’re going to get polarization around an election. What are your solutions to doing that?

gavin newsom

I think all of us have to just soften our edges a little bit. You know, I married into a big Republican family. And my purpose is not to demean and destroy people I love. But I don’t know what the hell’s happened in this country where I feel like how dare you even associate with people you disagree with on political terms. Because it gets exhausting, I’ll tell you. In my first 20 months, 2/3 of the inquiries I get are in political inquiries and not policy. And I appreciate the 1/3 that is policy.

kara swisher

Well, I want you to press it because you sound frustrated. You sound not angry, but —

gavin newsom

No. I don’t — that’s the way I talk. I’m not frustrated. I’m passionate.

kara swisher

OK. How do you get to that place? Like, you’re talking about something that everyone talks about, but nobody has an answer.

gavin newsom

Yeah, but you’ve got to practice it.

kara swisher

Mhm.

gavin newsom

Everybody has to practice it. All of us have a responsibility. All of us need to be held to account. I don’t know I just — hell, I think we’ve got real problems in this country. And I think politics, we’ve got to sober up a little bit here and stop being so damn political.

kara swisher

OK. I agree. But politics ends up influencing policy. And some people would say it’s not just the fires that are threatening California’s business model. How do you look at companies looking to move away from California now? Because you have these high housing prices, regulation, corporate taxes, and you have progressive legislation, which you know I’m a fan of. But let’s talk about how you keep the idea of innovation within California.

gavin newsom

I think we’ve been doing that. I mean, up until six months ago, we had averaged 3.8% GDP growth. We had almost 120 consecutive months of net job creation. I announced another $7 billion dollar budget surplus. We have more venture capitalists, more engineers, more scientists, more patents. We have the finest system of higher education anywhere in the world. We have innovation running through our veins. So you maintain that. You invest in that. You invest in the entrepreneur. But you also invest in sense of place.

kara swisher

I mean, come on, Governor. You’ve heard these stories about tech people moving out. And you have this new work from home trend that I think is going to stick and maybe accelerate, even post-COVID. How do you create that innovation cycle without falling prey to the idea that it’s just a hellish place to work, and I’d like to live somewhere else.

gavin newsom

Again, I mean, the data bears out a completely different reality up until seven or eight months ago, pre-pandemic.

kara swisher

Right.

gavin newsom

We were outperforming on almost every category, from an entrepreneur and innovative space. But at the end of the day, it’s not very complicated. There’s a formula for success. You invest in education, research, and development, open immigration. You know, we’re encouraging risk taking, not recklessness. And so you focus on that formula and you reinvest in it. Do I think it’s the end of office space as we know it? No. Do I think everybody is going to go mobile somewhere in the mountains and telework? I don’t know that that’s a long term strategy. But I do recognize we need to step up our game. We need to be more competitive. People are casing our joint 24/7, trying to take entrepreneurs and trying to create conditions that are more favorable than California. And so I recognize all that.

kara swisher

Like, TikTok, may be headed for Texas, for example.

gavin newsom

If it’s about the cheapest place to do business, California has never been able to compete in that. But the best place to do it? Because we have mindshare, we have the venture capital, that didn’t just all evaporate in March. I was reading — there’s a great Time magazine about California, it’s the end of the world. It’s an entire special edition —

kara swisher

Yeah.

gavin newsom

— where every single one of these arguments about the end of California is being made. Wildfires are running rampant, big part of it. That it’s too expensive. Silicon Valley, it’s over. I’ve experienced this. I have experienced this stress and consternation. And I think Governor Brown, former Governor Brown said it best, “Where the hell are you going to go?” And you know, I love Texas. Don’t get me wrong.

kara swisher

Is that the new California motto, “Where the hell are you going to go?”

gavin newsom

I don’t know. But he said it. But it was an interesting point. Because where are you going to get so many of the other things in the balance sheet?

kara swisher

But you are aware that I’ve lived there for two decades, essentially. And this is the first time I’ve had people really talking about not being there and not that they could figure it out somewhere else. I don’t think that’s true. I think they can figure out where they’re going to go.

gavin newsom

But it’s not a zero sum game.

kara swisher

Right.

gavin newsom

OK. I have a friend who just went to Utah, beautiful. It may be the right thing for him. They’ve made a ton of money. They have the ability to take their kids out of public school into private school. And they’re doing that. And you know, I imagine they’re not going to turn their back forever on California. We’re off the charts in terms of our advantages. What you’re suggesting is there are disadvantage of high cost states. And there are new pressures. And those are absolutely unquestionably true. So we have to step up our efforts and game. But there’s a fatalist that’s coming, it’s over or something. I mean, no. I just completely, wholeheartedly reject that as a fifth-generation Californian where my great-great-grandfather probably heard the same damn thing. And I’m along the same —

kara swisher

OK. But you understand tech. And there are tech trends of being able to work remotely. How do you envision pitching not just the idea of working in California, but living in California?

gavin newsom

I mean, for me, it’s about growth and inclusion. At the end of the day, businesses can’t thrive in a world that’s failing. And we have to deal with disparities in a way that doesn’t begrudge other people’s success, doesn’t tear other people down, but creates an environment where businesses can thrive because a middle class is thriving. And so that’s the construct. And while some people are feeling the pressure some people who have choice, we’re going to give voice to those things that are abundant in California and build off those and take responsibility for fixing things in terms of cost of living and transportation constraints, congestion, and issues of homelessness, which obviously are quality of life issues that, pre-pandemic were part of the stress too.

kara swisher

Well, no, this has just accelerated already trends that were happening. I want to finish up talking about innovation itself. You know, you’ve been around the tech industry. You know lots of tech people. You’ve managed to keep Tesla in California, at least so far. So congratulations. When you think about where tech is going, because that’s sort of been the biggest industry, the most important, and they have all this power, how do you now look at them? You know, you have grown up with the tech industry in the same way. What do you think is the good part of it, because it’s California’s most important industry, I guess, besides agriculture and Hollywood. But it’s one of the most profound ones.

gavin newsom

I mean, I think there’s a growing recognition of these disparities that is expressed by actions that were taken specifically late last year by many leaders of some of the largest companies in the world, like Apple and Google, even some companies you wouldn’t expect like Genentech and others, that are recognizing their responsibility on housing, on homelessness. So I think there’s something taking shape here that wasn’t prevalent a few years ago that is, I think, very promising to promote an equity agenda in this space that could create a more hospitable environment as we try to rage against our differences on privacy and data and the like.

kara swisher

OK. So on technology, I think the world’s first trillionaire is going to be a climate tech innovator, whether there are tunnels, or years ago, the Google founders wanted to put chair lifts in San Francisco to go up, remember that?

gavin newsom

Trust me.

kara swisher

Yeah. I don’t know how you —

gavin newsom

A lot of conversations with those guys.

kara swisher

I don’t know how you sat there and didn’t just —

gavin newsom

It’s all good.

kara swisher

It’s all good. OK. All right, whatever. You must have been having a lot of your fine wine of California. But if you had to, like, say this is something that’s the leading edge of technology for California to focus on, what would it be?

gavin newsom

Transportation, I don’t think there’s anything more potent and profound in that space. And transportation is about mobility, broadly defined, not traditional vehicles with a car with a driver in a single occupancy car. I think reimagining transportation. So we can jest about tunnels and we can jest about high speed this or driverless. But mobility radically changing is a great opportunity also to reform our energy grid and reform our competitiveness in terms of our resiliency.

kara swisher

All right, talk to me about this idea of blue cities versus red cities, protesters versus looting. You know, again, another point of contention of what you were talking about.

gavin newsom

I think they’re ginning up something that does exist and making it bigger. I mean, there’s an old saw that says you’re nothing but a mirror of your consistent thoughts. And so if you watch one network, you’re consistently thinking that the entire country is five square blocks in Portland, Oregon. And so there’s a manifestation of anxiety that’s very intentional and very purposeful and very potent, from again, an electoral perspective. But there’s also some facts underlying it. And one has to be honest about that. There’s no room for people smashing the windows of someone that puts their entire dream and life and family on the line to open a small business and just destroy that as some act of courage or exercise that as a freedom. You got to call that out. And I think we were a little slow, respectfully, Democrats, I thought, personally, to call some of that out when it was occurring. At the same time, we need to protect and preserve and embrace the great traditions of this country. And that’s peaceful protest. But more importantly, not just watch those protests passively, but to exercise the voice of those that are calling for something foundational to change and take heed and take leadership and responsibility to make change. So it is what it is for the moment. Our lens of, again, polarization is exacerbated by the nature of the construct of the media that we tend to gravitate towards at the moment.

kara swisher

Are you blaming the media, Governor?

gavin newsom

No. I’m not.

kara swisher

I’m teasing. [LAUGHTER] Facebook, just blame Facebook and everyone is on your side.

gavin newsom

When in doubt, that’s like a 90, 10 issue, right?

kara swisher

That we all agree on, that somehow or another. All right, let me ask that last question once again. You got this governorship. You had Covid. You had wildfires. Your budget surplus turned into a deficit. How are you feeling?

gavin newsom

Proud. I mean, I’m honored. What a gift. I mean, it’s the fifth largest economy on planet Earth. I have a very enlightened legislature. I have an incredible opportunity to impact the lives of not just 40 million people, but people across this country. And for those that believe in the power of emulation around the rest of the world, it’s a gift beyond imagination. And I can regale you — I won’t — with 30 or 40 things we’ve done to really make meaningful change that I think will have a profound impact on millions and millions of people’s lives to address the issues of poverty and address the issue of ignorance. And I’m really proud of that.

kara swisher

So you said, when marriage equality passed in, I think it was 2008 — by the way, thank you for doing that, from a personal point of view — but you said as California goes, so goes the nation. So looking at those pictures, devastating, watching those scenes of skies, it feels doomed in a lot of ways. But so as California goes, so goes the nation. How is California going to go?

gavin newsom

Well, we are America’s fast forward. The future happens here first, from an innovative perspective and from, obviously, the dynamic of our influence across sectors. But as it relates to climate change. It’s real. It’s raw. As a coastal state, a state steeped with some of the oldest living beings on planet Earth, those extraordinary 2,000 year old trees along our coast and these magnificent majestic redwoods that have been impacted by climate change and the ravages of these heat waves and droughts. And so we have a responsibility not just to identify these areas of vulnerability, but to identify the solutions and be the leader to solve for these things. We have agency. We can shape the future. None of us are bystanders. We know what to do. The question is, do we have the courage to do it and do we have enough partners to advance that cause. But we have a lot more work to do. And I think, when we do that, yes, so goes not just the nation, but we can impact the rest of the globe.

kara swisher

All right, Governor Newsom. I think we’re a little doomed. But I’m glad you have hope.

gavin newsom

No. No. We are not doomed.

kara swisher

That’s why you’re governor. And I’m just an irritating journalist. [LAUGHTER] Anyway, I really appreciate it. Thank you so much. Now get back to fighting those fires. And good luck with that. That’s just a really — it’s so much tragedy for people. Stay safe.

gavin newsom

Thank you.

kara swisher

Thank you so much. [MUSIC PLAYING] “Sway” is a production of New York Times Opinion. It’s produced by Nayeema Raza, Heba Elorbany, Matt Kwong, and Vishakha Darbha. Edited by Adam Teicholz and Paula Szuchman. With music and sound design by Isaac Jones. Fact checking by Kate Sinclair. Special thanks to Liriel Higa and Kathy Tu. You know the drill. Hit subscribe if you’re in a podcast app already. If you’re listening on the Times website and want to get a new episode of “Sway” delivered to you hot and fresh, along with a dozen bagels, download the podcast app like Stitcher or Google podcast, search for “Sway” and hit subscribe. You are not getting bagels. We release every Monday and Thursday.



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