If politicians can't follow their own coronavirus rules, why should we?


California is under its strictest coronavirus rules in months, with most of the state back in the restrictive purple tier and residents urged not to gather in large groups for Thanksgiving.

But at the same time, Gov. Gavin Newsom had to apologize for a dinner party that violated his own guidelines, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was forced to cancel a lavish dinner in Washington, D.C. and several state lawmakers are in Maui for a conference, despite a state advisory against such travel.

Pelosi also came under fire for a controversial hair appointment that violated San Francisco’s coronavirus-related health orders in late August.

Is this a new degree of tone deafness? Is this arrogance or just innocent mistakes?

"In the case of the governor, he had the good sense to apologize. That helps," said Jack Pitney, Professor of American Politics at Claremont McKenna College. "But if you put them together, you have political leaders who aren’t setting the best example."

Pitney was a guest on Tuesday’s "The State Of California" on KCBS Radio.

"So much of our response to COVID relies not so much on the enforcement of law, but the observance of norms," he added. "The record of the political class is a bit spotty on that."

The governor caught a lot of flak for his mishap, in particular. He apologized and answered several direct questions from the media Monday about his attendance at a birthday party for a longtime colleague at Napa County’s high-class French Laundry restaurant.

"I made a bad mistake," Gov. Newsom admitted Monday.

The dinner violated the state’s guidance on group gatherings.

"These are among the sharpest people in American politics. You’d think they’d understand the importance of appearance," Pitney said. "But you take a situation where it’s an event you’ve done before, Gov. Newsom has been to parties before…There’s a certain inertia that sets in. You just go with what you’ve done before. It may be easy to forget how bad it looks under the current situation."

While the majority of California politicians violating these orders are Democrats, the San Francisco Chronicle on Tuesday identified San Luis Obispo Republican Jordan Cunningham, a member of the state Assembly, as one of several lawmakers in Maui for a policy conference. Legislators from Texas and Washington state were reportedly at the same gathering.

Attendance at the event violates the state’s travel advisory.