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Canned Ham

Nov
3
2005

It’s a lot of work being a national political figure. Just ask Gavin Newsom.
The mayor rocketed to star status within the Democratic Party – justifiably – when he allowed San Francisco to start issuing licenses for same-sex marriages just under two years ago. And he’s enjoyed headline-grabbing status ever since.
That’s helped him pay off his campaign debt. And it’s helped re-energize the Democratic Party. But Newsom, for all the attention he’s getting, is showing signs of slipping as he tries to negotiate the tricky path ahead, being mayor of a city that has the same problems of every other city, with his national celeb status.
At a New York fundraiser recently, Newsom got poor marks. Talked too long and rambled said one person at the party. Oh, yeah, and only seemed interested in chatting up the ladies in the room and ignored the men – who write the checks. Of course, that’s a little bit of macho jealousy shining through but, still, this potential donor and experienced fund-raiser wasn’t impressed. Here in San Francisco, talk that the mayor is getting sloppy in how he appears to strangers and those not in touch with the “Gavin The Good” party line has picked up of late, as well.
Locally, the SFWeekly’s Matt Smith has done a great job outlining Newsom’s faltering steps, on city policy. Smith writes with a little more contempt for Newsom than is perhaps justified; he sets a high standard and is disappointed when Gavin The Good doesn’t reach the bar. Then again, Newsom, with his anxious altar-boy rhetoric, invites that sort of treatment.


The coverage that Gavin The Good is getting from the local paper – The San Francisco Chronicle – isn’t helping matters. It’s almost egging guys like Smith on. “Mayor Sees Camelot by the Bay” read part of the headline over the run-of-the mill wrap-up of Newsom’s “State of the City” speech last week. More annoying, it was accompanied by a lovely and loving shot of our young, handsome mayor, four columns wide.
Camelot? CAMELOT? Okay, so Gavin The Good is Lancelot, the pure man who nevertheless steals the king’s young wife. Not exactly the sort of behavior that makes for long political careers, but hey, times are changing. I’ve got some other questions though. Who’s Merlin? Newsom’s PR guy Pete Rangone? And would Kimberly Guilfoyle – who still isn’t the former Mrs. Newsom – be Morgan Le Fay, the temptress or Guenivere, the queen? You see where these over-hyped romantic images can take you.
I would have preferred a less romantic “state of the city” address that talked a little bit more about the city’s troubled transit system. Or one that was as modest and down-to-earth as Newsom can – or used to – be without the fancy teleprompters and the hoo-ha. But I am not running a Kennedy Family Revival Tent Meeting for Democrats in Need of A Little Romantic Nostalgia. Nor am I eyeing national political office – as staff or an elected official. Former Clinton spokeswoman Dede Myers might have made the jump from San Francisco to the White House but she had the sense to go to work for Bill Clinton.
So it’s worth wondering – half way through his first term – if Gavin Newsom isn’t, in fact, John Lindsey. Lindsey was a popular mayor of New York, a Republican who was often talked about as a national candidate. But Lindsay, a wealthy man with a patrician background, wasn’t viable politically outside New York. What handicapped Lindsey? In part, it was the times. But his inability to manage the city – to negotiate with the transit workers union and plow snow from the streets – was obvious to anyone looking at New York and its myriad problems.
San Francisco isn’t New York. Of course. And the racial and other tensions that added to Lindsey’s political woes are muted here. But the show-boating and celeb-shoulder rubbing are the same. It was Camelot in the 1960s. Today, however, it’s Spamalot that’s the big hit.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 10:56 AM | Permalink

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