By Steven T. Jones
Sup. Chris Daly may have crossed a line by suggesting during a budget hearing that Mayor Gavin Newsom uses cocaine, but the mayor isn't entitled to his overblown righteous indignation. Why? Because he's the one who left open this question earlier this year when he responded to revelations of his sexual improprieties and alcohol abuse with the blanket dismissal "that everything you’ve heard and read is true and I’m deeply sorry about that." Then he refused to answer any questions on either issue, with only a couple exceptions weeks later involving friendly journalists (including CBS's Hank Plante, who asked about cocaine and Newsom didn't directly answer, something Daly rightly called an "artful dodge"). Newsom is now simply reaping what he has sown. He has proven himself to be untrustworthy and willing to say or do anything to get out of a jam -- or to simply avoid answering questions not to his liking -- so it's hard to put too much stock in statements like, "I am associated with something that I don't do, never have, not even in the realm of reason should someone even accuse me of this."
Let's be clear about this drug and this mayor: they do operate in the same realm. I'm not saying that I have direct knowledge of him doing lines, but I know of some people who have made that claim and it wouldn't surprise me if we hear more about this accusation before November. And I know there are people in the mayor's office who are no strangers to blow. Is that scandalous? Not really, not in this town, particularly among the Marina and restaurant owner crowds that Newsom has long associated with. Newsom's Boy Scout schtick wore thin a long time ago.
But why is this a news story? Generally, I think drug use by a politician is only an issue for politicians who promote the war of drugs, which doesn't really apply to Newsom. Hypocrisy is more important than recreational drug use. But there are two reasons why Newsom and drugs might continue to be a news story. One is the very point that Daly made, which is that Newsom's budget cuts the kinds of substance abuse programs that he is availing himself of, but it cuts them for the poor people who can't tap the same services and connections that Newsom used. That's a problem, particularly for a mayor that rode to power on the promise of getting homeless people the support services they need to lift themselves out of poverty, specifically citing drug addiction as a major factor time and again. And the other problem for Newsom now could be his categorical denial of ever using cocaine. If that turns out to be a lie, it'll be one more reason for us not to believe what our mayor says. And that's the real story.