Garcia: Drinking in The City? Say it ain’t so, Mayor 

As if the initial news weren’t bad enough, now we have to listen to the mayor of San Francisco say he was a louse because he can’t handle his liquor. Well, not really, but kind of.

Will someone please get me a drink?

This sort-of excuse for sordid behavior is getting as tired as the politicians themselves. It may not fly in this ACLU-loving stronghold that the "devil made me do it," but I’m not sure anyone is going to buy that Gavin Newsom’s indiscretions were the work of Jack Daniels.

Newsom and his team of talented spinners sure aren’t. While suggesting that the mayor is taking full responsibility for his considerable lapses in judgment, they’re saying that alcohol consumption is not related to the revelations that he had an affair with a former staffer who just happened to be married to his campaign manager.

And there’s probably some truth in that because there’s probably not enough booze in this tipsy town to make someone so unconscious to reasonably accepted behavior.

It’s hardly a secret that that other mainstream newspaper has been trying for months to tell a tale about Newsom and his off-duty drinking, but it doesn’t make it any more acceptable when the mayor acknowledges his "other’’ problem after he gets nailed for his buddy-burning digression. At the rate he’s going, he’ll be telling us of the spiritual vacuum in his life and that’s he’s decided to become a more regular churchgoer.

Violating the unwritten man code — wives and girlfriends of your pals fall into the no-touch zone — doesn’t happen because of a run-in with Mr. Smirnoff. It happens because of an overdose of bad judgment and denial. The words "you can look but you better not touch’’ are melted into America’s musical culture, yet somehow the tune seems to have escaped our once-thought-to-be-hip mayor.

But for the mayor to announce that he’s better off without alcohol in his life on the heels of the affair bombshell is almost Clintonian in its parsing. We are now to believe that drinking played no part in the poor decision, but now that it’s all come out and after further review, that Newsom will be a better mayor once he stops partying.

As if anybody could run San Francisco and remain sober. Are you kidding? Every time Newsom reads the latest blind-side comment from Supervisors Chris Daly, Aaron Peskin and company, he wants to dash to the liquor cabinet.

And now they’ll have enough fodder for a lifetime, or at least the remainder of this election cycle.

Last year was remembered as the pinnacle of the celebrity meltdown, with actor Mel Gibson walking off with a top honors award (they love to give trophies in Hollywood) for his tequila-induced tirade about Jews, and then his public recantation that was harder to watch than the torture scenes in "The Passion of the Christ.’’ Almost every actor/politician/public figure that gets busted for acts of stupidly human behavior now immediately turns to rehab or counseling as a way to explain away their sins.

But I had higher hopes for Newsom, who has been a good mayor for San Francisco and was clearly one of the rising stars in the Democratic Party. The announcement that he had an affair with his loyal aide’s wife was a shocking disappointment to his friends and supporters, but his latest mea culpa is like gulping the bitter at the bottom of a beer. Even at a time when people pretty much think they’ve seen it all, we still want the Kennedy-like idealism without the scent of sleaze. For three years Newsom offered it — until it became engulfed in self-ignited flames.

A lot of people in town seemed willing to forgive Newsom for his lingering brain cramp in judgment regarding the affair, but the rehab cries for help may be too much for a lot of San Franciscans who don’t like their politicians to behave like most other politicians. Willie Brown would have sooner said he was sorryhe was from Texas than he would have for ignoring the homeless problem in Golden Gate Park — and come to think of it, he never did.

At this point all we can hope is that Newsom will do something truly unexpected — like the right thing. Somehow conjuring up the ghosts of martinis past seems like a tactic, not an explanation, and no amount of rhetorical fuel will provide satisfaction.

Given his stunning level of popularity before last week, Newsom could still win re-election. But at this point only one thing is for sure — if he does, the inaugural party is going to be one heck of a snooze.

For the latest news on the Mayor, go to the Gavin Newsom page. 

Ken Garcia’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends in The Examiner. E-mail him at kgarcia@examiner.com or call him at (415) 359-2663.

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