‘It is a monument to stupidity, not just vanity, to stupidity. It’s pure political theater. He creates these sideshows, this political theater, this political grandstanding.’ Guess who said that about building barriers in California?That was Gov. Gavin Newsom, a year ago, speaking about President Trump’s big, strong, permanent border wall. A wall now slowing the influx of illegal immigrants to California. An influx California is, ironically, now seeking to prevent because of the coronavirus.The irony grew last week. It was Newsom who built walls in California: walls of the cheap, orange, plastic-barrier variety. Newsom’s walls stopped healthy American seniors (see above) — and kids, and families — from strolling on their beaches. But, unlike Trump’s walls, Newsom’s were both unnecessary and of questionable constitutionality.While fighting Trump’s wall, Newsom littered Orange County’s beautiful beaches with ‘stupid, vain, monuments to stupidity’ that proved Newsom’s COVID-19 actions are divorced from data-driven reality, and that he is playing to his liberal base, presumably in preparation for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination.Local leaders have made it clear: Newsom never called them or law enforcement before taking his heavy-handed ‘build the walls’ approach.Sure, there were some low-angle photos of the beaches on CNN that made it seem crowded.
But was it?
The Governor wouldn’t make sound, informed policy decisions just based on some CNN photos, would he? Just for good-governance reasons, he’d ask the local leaders — who had first-hand knowledge of the situation some 400 miles away from Sacramento — what was going on, right?
He might even give a call to the police and look at their overhead photos—not only the media’s — to grasp the problem.
He certainly could have had someone on his team ask, ‘how far apart are the jetties and lifeguard towers in these photos?’
Newsom wanted headlines, not the truth. When he got them, he promptly retreated from his foolish policy, after less than a week.
Newsom continually likes to say — when justifying continuing government lockdowns — his decisions will be ‘based on facts not politics’. His lie was exposed in ordering Orange County’s beaches closed.
The ‘facts’ here are simple. Los Angeles County had closed beaches for over a month while Orange County was open. The counties have a contiguous coastline.
If beach-going was the threat the Governor says it is, you’d expect Orange County to have a proportionately worse COVID-19 problem. But at only three-times the population, Los Angeles — with closed beaches — has suffered 22 times the number of COVID-19 deaths, and 10 times the infections as Orange County. Compounding this, Orange County’s population density is nearly double LA County’s. This data argued for Newsom to mandate LA open its beaches, not OC to close.
When the Governor closed its beaches, Orange County had (and still has) ample hospital and ICU beds, and under-utilized ventilator capacity. While it’s the third largest county in the state, it had only the seventh highest COVID-19 deaths (55). Did our data-driven Governor ignore all these facts, or does he just base decisions on media photos?
If Newsom’s beach closure defied the data and the counties’ performances during the crisis to date, why would he do it? Politics.
Orange County is certainly not the liberal San Franciscan Governor’s base. The land of Ronald Reagan has little taste for Newsom’s politics during good times, much less his turn to authoritarianism in the crisis. But Orange County isn’t who he’s playing to. He’s playing to both state — and national — ideologues, looking to the 2024 presidential primary. Hurting Orange County helps him politically. But that’s not so for San Francisco
The same week he built walls in Orange County, San Francisco began allowing ‘non-essential’ businesses to reopen — like car washes and flea markets. This defied the Governor’s Stay Home Order.
Unsurprisingly, Newsom didn’t clamp down on flea markets or the crowded parks in his hometown. He allowed San Francisco, with its higher infections and deaths per capita, to go unchecked while closing healthier Orange County — proving he ignored the facts and banked on the politics.
San Francisco and Los Angeles are not places the Governor wants upset in his quest for national headlines. The liberal bastions are not who a crafty politician should irritate when readying a presidential bid. But in his authoritarian overreach — which might play well with segments of his political base — he launched un-distanced, un-masked thousands into protests around the state. As such, he not only ignored the facts, but potentially harmed his citizens’ health.
This was proven this week, when he allowed the beaches to re-open. Was there really a crisis that four days of closure fixed? No. He got his headlines and then retreated to data and sound policy. There is no conclusion possible other than Newsom’s wall-building in Orange County, barricading his own citizens, was nothing but the very ‘pure political theater’ and the ‘monuments to stupidity’ he just recently condemned.
Keith W. Carlson is a California attorney practicing healthcare and employment law. He is on the board of the Claremont Institute and the former treasurer of the California Republican party.