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Gavin Newsom reflects on the recall, discusses upcoming challenges

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Gavin Newsom
NBC News' Chuck Todd interviews Gov. Gavin Newsom at the Milken Institute Global Conference on Oct. 22, 2021.NBC News

WASHINGTON — A month after he defeated the recall election against him, Gov. Gavin Newsom, D-Calif., sat down to discuss that race, President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda and Newsom’s own upcoming challenges as governor.

Here are highlights from that interview, which took place Wednesday during the Milken Institute Global Conference.

On the personal impact of the recall: “It's hard. I mean, it's hard to wake up to bullhorns and it's hard to have the ubiquity and the surround sound of protestors. It's hard when your kids — I have a five-year-old, a seven, nine, and 12-year-old. And have billboards everywhere with your face as Hitler and, you know, have friends mocking you because, ‘Daddy hates your daddy,’ and having billboards and signs. And, you know, it's hard… It's been a hard year on everybody. Last 18 months has been hard, and it's been a hell of a lot harder on women and mothers, parents generally. And so the recall was hard for me as a parent.”

On what triggered the recall: NBC News' Chuck Todd: "There's a lot of weird things that triggered this recall. One could just say timing, right? You had that timing, the pandemic."

Newsom: "Personal stupidity."

Todd: "Well, I was just going to say. The fact that Mick Jagger brought up French Laundry."

More Newsom: "It took a life of its own. It was weaponized. I mean, we colored it in. I took responsibility."

On what unites Democrats: “What unites the Democratic Party across the Sinema and Manchin — I would argue even AOC — differences is health and safety. Covid. What unites us is our approach to science and to masking, vaccines and testing. So we focused on what we were for and we defined those terms and we got the Democratic Party united. Now, that's just one part of the equation. Second part is to define those that want to unwind that. And we were able to do that very, very aggressively in this race. And Democrats are going to need to do this in 2022.”

On the infrastructure-budget negotiations on Congress: “This political death march of who's up, who's down, Manchin this, Sinema. I can't take it anymore. No one can take it anymore. And just, enough. Like, stop. Just get something done. And it looks like they're finally going to get something done.”

On homelessness in California: “So NIMBYism is perennial. And that's the problem with housing affordability in this state. It's Econ 101. It's a supply-demand issue. We're just dumb as we want to be. We're not building enough damn housing. And that’s driven off — I mean, at the end of the day, on all of these issues, and this is hard. You opened up with an interesting point about scale and scope, a state that's larger than 160 countries. I'm not the mayor of California. And that's not to suggest I'm not accountable. Trust me, I understand accountability. You can't be governor in 2020, 2021 without feeling the weight of accountability. But localism's determinative.”

On whether he would grant parole to RFK assassin Sirhan Sirhan: “This is hard because I believe in redemption. I believe in second chances. At the same time, man, he took away dreams. He took away a lot of hope. And this country, this world is radically changed as a consequence. And I have to factor that in.”

Tweet of the day

Biden’s still bullish on getting a deal

“President Joe Biden spoke confidently Thursday night about reaching a deal soon with lawmakers to enact his massive social safety net agenda,” per NBC News.

“‘I do think I'll get a deal,’ Biden told CNN's Anderson Cooper during a town hall in Baltimore.”

Biden on Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.: “‘First of all, she's smart as the devil, Number One. Number Two, she's very supportive of the environmental agenda in my legislation,’ he said. 'Where she's not supportive is, she will not raise a single penny in taxes on the corporate side, and on wealthy people, period. So, that's where it sort of breaks down.’”

And/but: “A White House official clarified the president's remarks regarding Sinema's position after the town hall. ‘The President was referring to the challenge of having the votes to move forward on raising the corporate rate, not to the ability to raise revenue through a range of other tax fairness proposals which Senator Sinema supports,’ the official told NBC News in a statement.”

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

30 percent: The increase in single-family homes built for rentals (instead of for purchase) between 2019 and 2020, as Covid scrambled the home market.

1,807: The number of sexual assaults that occurred during Lyft rides in 2019, according to a safety study by the company, with the rate of reported assaults similar to that of Uber, per the New York Times.

45,346,087: The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 78,278 more since yesterday morning.)

736,888: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 1,836 more since yesterday morning.)

411,010,650: The number of total vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 820,913 more since yesterday morning.)

11,607,334: The number of booster vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 360,666 more since yesterday morning.)

57.2 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

68.7 percent: The share of all Americans 18-years and older who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

Talking policy with Benjy: Manchin vs. CEPP

The federal government took a look at how climate change will impact national security this week, and it’s not pretty.

According to a first-of-its-kind series of reports from the Pentagon, intelligence agencies, and the Department of Homeland Security, the warming planet will ”increasingly exacerbate risks to U.S. national security interests” and "could stress economic and social conditions that contribute to mass migration events or political crises, civil unrest, shifts in the regional balance of power, or even state failure."

The grim report comes as Democrats are expected to drop one of the centerpieces of their climate plan, a clean energy standard, thanks to opposition from coal-state Sen. (and coal investor) Joe Manchin, D-W.V.

Making matters worse, Biden is set to travel to Glasgow for a climate summit at the end of the month and the U.S. could have a weaker hand in negotiations as a result.

The Clean Energy Performance Program (CEPP) that Manchin helped kill was considered especially crucial because it required utilities to hit very specific targets, 4 percentage points more low-emission energy per year, or pay a penalty.

The White House’s goal is to get to 80 percent clean electricity by 2030, about double where it is now. Manchin has argued that since renewable energy is on the rise already, the program isn’t needed. But the pace is still short and coal use is expected to go up this year for the first time since 2014 before dipping later. Aging nuclear plants also may struggle to stay online, a critical source of zero-emission energy that could be replaced by coal and gas in places.

“Nobody can argue whether we’re moving in the right direction, but fast enough to cut pollution and limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius?” Leah Stokes, an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told First Read. “That’s the whole ballgame and the answer is we’re not moving fast enough.”

One analysis by Energy Innovation, a nonpartisan research group, estimated CEPP accounted for one-third of the BBB and infrastructure bills’ total emissions cuts and that the power sector would only get to 60-70 percent clean electricity even with aggressive state and federal climate policies elsewhere.

The reconciliation bill is still expected to include tax credits to encourage quicker adoption of clean power, electric vehicles, and energy-efficient homes, all of which are expected to have a significant impact. But there’s not an obvious replacement for the CEPP’s blunter tools. The closest equivalent policy, a tax on carbon emissions, already appears dead.

The next best option is likely the executive branch and the Biden administration is already looking at new rules in response to CEPP’s collapse. But it’s a tough road: President Obama’s ambitious Clean Power Plan, which gave states emissions targets they could reach however they saw fit, ended up stymied by courts and watered down by the next administration. A 6-3 conservative Supreme Court might present even more roadblocks.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The CDC blessed booster shots for both the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines, as well as a “mix-and-match” approach for boosters.

The House voted to hold Steve Bannon in contempt, and the Justice Department will weigh whether to prosecute him.

Some Republicans are putting pressure on political consultants to drop Wyoming GOP Rep. Liz Cheney as a client amid her battle with leadership over former President Trump.

The Charlottesville 'Unite the Right' trial is set to begin four years after rally, with some of those injured there suing organizers for damages.

New documents detail more than a dozen conflicts of interest Postmaster General Louis DeJoy faced because of his and his family’s investments in a number of companies closely tied to the U.S. Postal Service.

The new Texas secretary of state briefly backed Trump’s legal attempts to overturn the 2020 election results.