California Governor Gavin Newsom, appearing on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, defended his largely behind-the-scenes role during the protracted actors and writers strike last year, as well as his decision to take on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Maher, returning for his first show of 2024, started off by asking Newsom why he didn’t do some “jawboning” to try to resolve the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA strikes so they were resolved earlier. Maher asked why Newsom didn’t just go to both sides and tell them, “You knuckleheads are going to find a number that you agree on at some point. It always happens, instead of putting these people out of work for all these months and all this suffering and heartache. Can we just get it done today?”
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Newsom answered, “Well, we did all of that except the knucklehead part was expressed on multiple occasions, down here on many, many occasions.”
He said that entailed “not only meeting with both sides, meeting with individuals, phone calls, text messages, emails, working behind the scenes, national groups, state groups. So it is all part of the art of the possible in the deal, in the context of not showing your cards and showing a bias upfront, so you can be constructive behind the scenes when both parties call you when you are needed.” He added that “sometimes you are more public, sometimes it is behind the scenes.”
Later, Maher talked of Newsom’s battle with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, which played out in November when the two state leaders debated each other on Fox News with Sean Hannity moderating.
During the interview, Maher continued to talk up Newsom as a presidential prospect, but said to him at the outset, “I’m not going to even go there.” Newsom has been asked repeatedly about running for president, and has repeatedly said that he’s working to re-elected Joe Biden. But that hasn’t stopped all sorts of wild speculation that he would step in were Biden to drop out of the race.
Yet Maher said that he “didn’t want to live in a civil war” and told Newsom, “You seem like you purposely want to set up this dichotomy between, ‘Oh, this is a blue state and that is a red state.’ And I don’t want to live in that. I like Florida.”
Newsom said that he agreed with Maher — and likes Florida as well — but said that he was not going to “sit back and watch” people trying “to bring us back to a pre-1960s world. America in reverse. Rolling back voting rights, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights. Not just access to abortion but contraception.”
He added that “you can sit by and say, ‘Well, I really want to get along,’ as these guys are rolling back the clock, or you can stand tall and assert yourself. And the reason I started to go into those red states, the reason I started to take on DeSantis, and the reason I started doing ads in those red states, is I didn’t feel my party was doing enough. I was CRT one year, and then it is ESG, and then it’s DEI. Anything with three letters, and these guys keep coming….I just thought there was a little timidity in our party and I thought we needed to call this stuff out.”
He also talked of the Republican party’s “cancel culture.” “Ask Bud Light. Target. Disney. That’s just the private sector. Banning speech not just in the classroom but in the boardroom as it relates to issues of race. Look what they have done — 3,362 books just last year they are banning. This is a serious and consequential moment, the cultural purge that is going on in this country. So I just felt like we needed to call that out as Democrats and put them on the defensive since we’re consistently on our heels as the Democratic party.”
As Newsom finished up his answer, Maher said, “Can you teach that speech to Biden?”
Maher’s other guests were Ari Melber and Andrew Sullivan. Like Maher, both don’t want to see Donald Trump return to office, but Melber and Sullivan got in a bit of a tiff over what is tearing democracy apart.
Melber pushed back on Sullivan after he blamed Democrats for going even farther to the left under Trump.
Trump “may draw his opponents into messy dumb feuds, but he is the one banking on a cynicism, an attack on democracy and a complete rejection of the policy, democracy that you want, because [Republicans] don’t even have a platform. So he is saying, ‘It is just me. You don’t even know what I am going to do. Just vote for me. No platform, and you have got a whole Republican party that is just codifying that.”
Then Sullivan said, “You know what would be good at MSNBC is if you actually did think about both sides and weighed the arguments, and make constructive arguments against that side while respecting them. You don’t do that. It is propaganda all the time.”
“What you just said described my show,” Melber responded. “I had a Trump lawyer on this week. I had Steve Bannon on my show. I have had Trump White House officials.”
Sullivan answered, “I watch MSNBC, and the both sides…” He shook his head.
“You describe the show that I am achieving. I take that as a compliment,” Melber said.
“In your mind,” Sullivan shot back..
Maher then interjected, “It’s the first show of the year. Let’s not tear each other’s face off.”
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