Meet Gavin Newsom: whine clerk

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Text by Sarah Phelan

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Sorry, Maureen, but you omitted more than a few details of the real trials of Mayor Gavin Newsom...

I'm usually a fan of Maureen Dowd's finely pointed writing, but her interview with Mayor Gavin Newsom in today's New York Times left me with the sinking feeling that she was writing with an uncharacteristically unsharpened pencil.

Yes, it was funny when Dowd wrote, "It's easy to picture the lithe and charming Newsom--with the well-cut suits, the electric Telsa, the beautiful blonde wife and baby--advising a Pacific Heights couple on a cabernet with aromas of eucalyptus and mint."

But beyond that delightful dig, Dowd kept her pencil on an unusually tight leash.

Maybe that's because Dowd doesn't know the ins and outs of San Francisco politics and was fooled into misrepresenting Newsom's whining as the rueful ruminations of a man so very far ahead of his time.

But it's hard to believe that the indomitable Dowd doesn't know that Newsom's political career has been short circuited for a million reasons above and beyond gay marriage.

Maybe the fact that Newsom slept with his campaign manager's wife isn't perceived as a deal breaker in circles where everyone always seems to be betraying every one else.

But how about Newsom's failure to show backbone when then Sup. (and now State Assemblymember) Tom Ammiano was trying to launch San Francisco's trailblazing health care program--yes, the same one that President Obama has recently and widely praised, and for which Newsom has been happy to take all the credit?

Instead of showing leadership on Healthy San Francisco, Newsom stood back and let Ammiano do the heavy lifting, in face of the threat of legal opposition from the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. Newsom's cowardice on that issue seems entirely understandable, given that, as Dowd points out, "Before he got into politics, after all, he started a boutique wine shop in Napa Valley that blossomed into a multimillion-dollar business." (Heaven forbid that the former owner of a wine boutique would be seen leading the charge to ensure that the restaurant industry helps employees go see a doctor instead of sneezing into the endive soup and eucalyptus-scented cabernet that the Pacific Heights mafia has come to enjoy.)

But Dowd doesn't make that, or any other, connection.

Instead, she lets Newsom stick his not-so-subtle knives into Obama's back on same-sex marriage, without pointing out that after Newsom rushed into gay marriage, he failed to launch a much needed statewide campaign to reach out, across the aisle of intolerance, and help defeat the Prop. 8 party poopers.

The final insult in Dowd's puff piece is when she lets the current mayor of San Francisco get away unchallenged with his bogus claim that, "we've always fought for the rights of minorities and against the whims of majorities." Try telling that to the immigrants whose families have been ripped apart because gubernatorial candidate Newsom failed to support giving undocumented kids their day in court, before reporting them to the feds for deportation.

But Dowd does at least gives us a preview of what to expect when we stumble unwittingly into a wine store, somewhere in the backwaters of Napa, and overhear the clerk complaining that no one really understood him, back when he was mayor of San Francisco. Meet Gavin Newsom: whine clerk.