None of us has any idea what kind of governor Gavin Newsom is going to be. But we do know this: He’s a patient and affectionate father.
When his 2-year-old son Dutch eclipsed Newsom’s inaugural address by bounding up and down the stage where his dad addressed the state in a televised speech Monday, the initial chatter around the Capitol was that the kid stole the show.
It’s true, but that instant analysis misses a larger point.
What the child did was adorable, but what the father did was significant. The kid was being a kid. And many of us who have raised children have had moments in public, at important events, where our kids went rogue. And we struggled to contain that humbling mixture of terror and joy in knowing that they were going to do what they were going to do no matter what we did.
The governor handled it as all of us hoped we would. He first saw Dutch climbing up the stage out of the corner of his eye and he kept speaking, while pivoting to meet his boy and give him what the children need: a hug and a snuggle. Newsom barely broke stride, his face never betrayed annoyance or aggravation. And Dutch? He nestled his little head in the loving space between dad’s shoulder and cheek.
And then the child did something that brought tears to my eyes and destroyed even the most aggressive, hard-bitten colleagues I have. He rubbed his dad’s back as babies do when they pay you – the parent or guardian – the ultimate compliment.
That tiny gesture spoke volumes about how 2-year-old Dutch feels about the governor of California. You can’t rehearse that expression of love or fake or stage it. That bond between father and child is either there or it’s not.
Dutch’s gesture of love told me more about our new governor than anything I’ve heard him say for the past decade. And my friends, I have not been a Gavin Newsom fan. Last year, during the Democratic primary, I wrote a withering commentary about Newsom entitled: The Privileged Candidate. It started off like this: “The 50-year-old lieutenant governor and former mayor of San Francisco is the living embodiment of privilege, and people seem to be OK with that. He has white male privilege. Class privilege. Wealth privilege. The privilege of good looks.”
It went on like this: “All (this) creates a Teflon exterior, protecting Newsom’s horrendous lapses of judgment and character, excusing his questionable background. It is simply accepted without eliciting the negative scrutiny that would dog or even derail lesser mortals.”
And it included this: “In 2007 Newsom had an affair with his appointments secretary. And she wasn’t just his secretary. She was married to one of his top political aides and best friend. After the affair became public, Newsom’s lover somehow landed a $10,000 payout in public money from a fund intended for city employees with catastrophic and life-threatening illnesses.
How can sleeping with Gavin Newsom be considered a catastrophic or life-theatening illness?”