WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump, meet California Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Democratic rising star who tracks mud across the legal system the same way you do, but his dirty footprints win accolades from the mainstream media.
Wednesday, Newsom signed an executive order granting execution reprieves for all 737 inmates on California's death row. The night before the signing, a New York Times headline announced, "After Soul Searching, Gov. Gavin Newsom Will Halt Executions in California."
Soul searching. Those are two words one rarely sees pinned on the Trump brand.
Soul searching is a grand term for a politician who said one thing when it served him, and then the opposite when it did not.
Newsom ran for office on the assertion that while he personally opposed the death penalty, he would carry out the ultimate sentence upheld by California voters at the ballot box. In 2016, California voters rejected a ballot proposition to end the death penalty, but passed another one to speed up the process.
During the 2018 campaign, his spokesman Dan Newman told the San Francisco Chronicle that Newsom "recognizes that California voters have spoken on the issue and, if elected governor, he'd respect the will of the electorate by following and implementing the law."
Wednesday, surrounded by Democratic lawmakers the way Trump frequently has GOP lawmakers surround him, Newsom actually told reporters, "I don't think this comes as a huge surprise to anybody." He always had made it clear that he personally opposed the death penalty.
Newsom also claimed he was being "forthright and honest" in announcing his actions Wednesday.
The Sacramento Bee duly editorialized that "Newsom's unprecedented move also distinguishes him as a leader willing to be honest and forthright about one of society's most challenging moral issues."
In an editorial, The New York Times supported Newsom's flip-flop. Critics "argue that the governor is subverting the will of voters, but electing a governor who has a consistent record on society's harshest penalty is also an expression of voters' wishes."
The same editorial page slammed Trump for "taking executive overreach to dizzying heights" in pushing his national emergency at the border.
More from the Grey Lady's editorial: "The poison cherry atop this sundae is that Mr. Trump is subverting American democracy for a cause opposed by a majority of the public." Note: When polls suggest a voter opposition to border security, that clearly carries more weight at the Times than when California voters repeatedly and consistently pass pro-death penalty measures on the ballot.
Trump declared a national emergency to carve out $5.7 billion to fund another 100 miles of wall along the Southwest border. While Democrats scoff at the notion that the border is at a crisis point, The New York Times has reported on a border at the "breaking point" with 76,000 unauthorized migrants passing in a month.
Personally, I think Trump should have worked with Congress early on to pass a measure with more funding for border security. While Democrats want to deny him funding for his signature wall, he has found ways to use past allocations to strengthen structures along the border.
To me, this is a fight that could have been avoided.
But I don't understand how so many journalists can bash Trump as a tin-pot dictator for not respecting the process, as they cravenly praise a politician who misled his way into the governor's office so that he could trample on the will of California voters.
In Sacramento Wednesday, Newsom proclaimed, "The people of California have entrusted me by their will and constitutional right to do exactly what I'm doing."
Trump can say the same thing, but with more authority, because he actually campaigned for a border wall.
Contact Debra J. Saunders at [email protected] or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.