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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Newsweek: Gavin 'Has Become a Joke to Democratic Insiders'

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2009 at 10:59 AM


As part of its "Obama's America" package this week, Newsweek included a profile of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and his "crazy" crusade to legalize gay marriage and become governor. Reporter Jonathan Darman portrays Newsom as one of those all-too-rare politicians willing to stand on principle even if it hurts his career ambitions.

Still, there are some unkind passages in the 2,100-word piece, especially when invoking the conventional wisdom of Democratic Party elders. To wit:

  • "In 2003, when he was elected the youngest mayor of San Francisco in a

    century, party leaders embraced him as a rising star, headed for a

    bright national career. But then he seemed to go crazy." By "going crazy," Newsweek means Newsom made gay marriage legal in S.F.

  • "In an era when Democrats have concluded that they lose elections

    talking about God, guns or gays, Newsom has made gay civil rights his

    signature issue, a matter of principle for which he would sacrifice his

    career. Once viewed as a young man in a hurry, Newsom has become a joke

    to Democratic insiders, a man whose bright national future ended before

    it began."

  •  Quoting an anonymous Democratic Party insider on Newsom's chances of becoming guv: "There's a perception that he's a little too dramatic, a little too divisive for us to gamble on this time." 

Usually, stories on local politics done by national media outlets re-hash a bunch of stuff you already know. But while there's plenty of rehashing in this piece, Darman offers a couple of new juicy morsels.

In one delightful scene, the mayor is walking near City Hall having things shouted at him by passersby. "Fuck you," one screams. "Keep getting the pussy, Gavin," another cheers. (Of course, Newsweek censors the profanity. The Snitch, however, assumes its readers can tolerate written expletives.)

But the part of the story most likely to interest political insiders is when Newsom predicts a surprise winner in the battle over who would be the next president of the Board of Supervisors: "It'll be David Chiu; they'll make a deal." It was, as the article noted, "a counterintuitive guess" -- Chiu, a newcomer to the board, was a dark horse in the race -- that demonstrated unexpected savvy about S.F. politics from Newsom. We didn't even know that Gavin, notorious for being an absentee mayor more interested in becoming governor than running the city, could even name one of the newly elected board members. (To read the definitive behind-the-scenes account of the fight to become board president, check out this story in Fog City Journal.)  

One final thought: Even though the Newsom profile was part of the "Obama's America" package,  Newsom endorsed Hillary Clinton in the primary, not Barack Obama. That little detail is never mentioned in the piece -- perhaps because it didn't fit in with the issue's theme. 


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