Newsom: Pale and Chastened, but Mayoral?
Confesses to affair and confirms all rumors
Mayor Gavin Newsom emerges at today's press conference to confess.
February 1, 2007 1:44 p.m.
Kirshenbaum and Luke
During a two-minute press conference, a grave Mayor
Gavin Newsom said this morning that he admits it all. "Everything
you've heard and read is true," he confessed, in a six-sentence
statement. He also apologized to his family and his administration.
But he didn't respond to a question about whether he would be
resigning. And then, the conference was over.
The city supervisors were being as circumspect as
possible. Others, who attended the conference, expressed as much
concern about the state of a marriage as the state of the mayoralty
and the viability of Newsom's reelection. Peter Ragone, press
secretary, seemed humble and, we thought, almost grateful by the
distraction from his own recent, and public, misdeeds.
Let's get this straight: a mayor is allowed to have
sex, as long as it's consensual. The City Attorney's office didn't
seem to have the heart to address the legality of it all, so they
referred questions to Art Hartinger, a private attorney who specializes
in labor employment issues. He volunteered a reassurance that
if both parties are willing, there's nothing illegal about sleeping
with a subordinate. Only with legal action that alleges coercion
or an exchange of work and sex favors would legality become an
issue. Ruby Tourk hasn't filed that sexual harassment lawsuit,
and our sources say she's been convinced not to.
Another thing: we don't really mind if the mayor
commits indiscretions, so long as it doesn't affect his leadership.
The problem is that his behavior isn't jibing with his image,
that of being a do-righter. How do you reconcile the persona of
Gavin as a great big altar boy when he is having illicit sex with
employees, and not admitting to it until he absolutely must?
It calls into question his very sincerity, something
that Newsom has always held up as his foremost quality. San Franciscans
are having some trouble buying into the sincere thing right now.
"It's a lot like when Gavin surprised the gay community right
after he was elected by suddenly announcing he was moving on the
Gay Marriage issue," noted Jim Meko, a local activist.
"As happy as we were, we hadn't seen him out
front on gay marriage before. We wondered if this was more of
a publicity stunt than a real long-standing issue for him,"
So who is the real Newsom? And how could former
mayor Willie Brown get away with his sexual escapades? Willie
was very open about his freewheeling lifestyle. He claimed no
sincerity and had nothing to apologize for, though he was married.
Gavin admits to very little but his own saintliness, uncomfortable
with even the suggestion that he isn't squeaky clean. He and his
circle are easily irritated by the usual give-and-take in politics,
isolating anyone who dares to confront them. If it all sounds
a bit childish, well, we may have an answer to the question of
what happens when you elect such a youthful mayor.
We asked his campaign strategist last week what,
precisely, the mayor was doing in Davos. We were treated to a
carefully enunciated explanation that there was a "world
economic forum going on there." Hey, no kidding. Also, "other
mayors were there." Cool! But it is completely legitimate
to ask the question, and so very telling that there was little
enthusiasm in answering it adequately.
Just yesterday the mayor Seattle held a press conference,
and proudly announced what he, the mayor of New York, and 50 other
mayors had accomplished at the Conference of Mayors (while Newsom
was in Davos). Mainly they worked on climate protection and on
gun control. What San Franciscan doesn't think these issues are
important, and kind of wishes Newsom had been there? Is that why
we're wondering if the Davos trip was an escape from something?
Right now, the pundits surmise that with less than
24 hours since the story broke, it's too soon to gauge the extent
of the damage to Newsom's future. If the issue calms down, he
can run for reelection and life goes on as usual. If the public
continues to follow this and express disgust, he may either pull
out of the race for mayor or even resign altogether. This last
option could help the Democratic Party ditch a blemished and visible
member. But it would mean Board President Aaron Peskin, viewed
by the mayor as an adversary, would become mayor, and be perfectly
positioned for a reelection himself in November.
Clearly, best friend or no best friend, this is
something the mayor and his backers would like to avoid: getting
him elected last time cost millions of dollars, and they all hope
the investment lasts.
Next: Ruby Tourk's December Trip
to Morocco: was that another convenient escape?