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Gavin Newsom’s trip to Israel and China was tinged with hypocrisy

This story appeared on Calmatters

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, right, meets with Zheng Shanjie, head of China's National Development and Reform Commission, unseen, in Beijing, Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023. Newsom also met with China's senior most diplomat Wang Yi on Wednesday and displayed a brief moment of friendliness that stands in sharp contrast to the dialogue between the U.S. and China in recent years. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

In summary

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s quest to become an important national political figure took him to Israel and China last week, but it was a trip tinged with hypocrisy.

So what should Californians glean from their governor’s global gallivanting last week?

We learned that Gavin Newsom won’t let tinges of hypocrisy impede his obsession with becoming a national, or even international, political figure.

Newsom’s hastily arranged first stop was in Israel, where he spent a day commiserating about the bloody assault by Hamas terrorists. His visit included a chat with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, some conversation with victims’ families about living with the constant threat of violence, and watching a video that depicted the carnage.

“The worst part about it – the actual video, I saw heads, beheaded people, their bodies, lay there, dead. To see someone’s eyes and mouth being poked to see if they were alive, to find out they were alive after being shot on the ground,” he said later. “It connects to an understanding of the emotion of the Israelis about the atrocities that occurred, and about the 1,400 lives lost. It’s not intellectual any longer.”

It should be noted, however, that Newsom’s show of solidarity with Israelis occurred just days after he signed legislation that, among other things, makes it illegal for Californians with concealed weapons permits to carry guns in their own synagogues, for example, to defend themselves against terrorists’ attacks.

That’s not an imaginary threat. Just four years ago on the last day of Passover, a man armed with a rifle burst into a synagogue in Poway, near San Diego, fatally shot one woman and injured three other congregants, including the synagogue’s rabbi.

A year before, an even more horrific attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue left 11 dead.

In the aftermath of the attack on Israel, many American Jews are arming themselves. But in California, not only will Jews and worshippers in other faiths be banned from protecting themselves in their houses of worship, but would-be killers will know that potential victims in “sensitive” areas will be unarmed.

After his quick trip to Israel, Newsom continued to China for events that were supposed to highlight common interests in battling climate change.

Newsom said he wanted to sidestep the growing frictions between the U.S. and China over the latter’s imperialistic ambitions, its harsh repression of political dissenters in Hong Kong, its ethnic cleansing of Uyghurs in Xinjiang and other economic issues.

However, he had a private conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping and the two emerged for a handshaking picture. Later, Newsom said he brought up some of the hot-button issues between the U.S. and China but added that his visit “is suggestive that we’re entering, I hope, a new phase (and) the fact that he’s meeting with a governor of California at the subnational level … is indicative of a thawing.”

“Divorce is not an option,” Newsom also said. “The only way we can solve the climate crisis is to continue our long-standing cooperation with China.”

That said, China’s autocratic regime is not fundamentally different from Vladimir Putin in Russia or Hamas in Palestine. All want more power, all trample on human rights – often with indiscriminate violence – and all see the United States as the major impediment.

Moreover, as Newsom was extolling Xi and other Chinese leaders for their commitment to climate change, he was ignoring the fact that they are building coal-burning power plants as fast they can.

Finally, his soft-pedaling approach to China stands in stark contrast to his drumbeat of harsh rhetoric – which continued during his travels – directed at Republican politicians in America.

China got what it wanted: a stamp of approval from an ambitious American political figure. And Newsom got what he wanted, which was more image-enhancing media attention.

What’s a little hypocrisy between friends?

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