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San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced late Monday that he would be entering an outpatient rehab program at Delancey Street, and we wish him the best in overcoming his alcohol problem. But it was only last week that the mayor’s communications director Peter Ragone denied that Newsom had a drinking problem, and those raising this concern were quickly labeled “anti-Newsom” and political opponents of the mayor. Those in the “Newsom is always right” mindset likely contributed to the mayor’s sense of denial, and did their champion’s political career no favor.

Gavin Newsom Alcoholic

Anyone who cares about Gavin Newsom has to be pleased that he is finally acknowledging his drinking problem. Supervisor Bevan Dufty, a close Newsom ally, put it best, saying “For a long time it’s felt like the mayor hasn’t been happy with his job or his life.”

The Mayor should appreciate Dufty’s honesty. Unlike those who have hitched their own careers and ambitions to Newsom’s political rise, Dufty cares enough about the Mayor to speak the truth.

In The Activist’s Handbook, I discuss how activists hurt their favored politicians when they tell them what they want to hear, rather than the truth. I specifically focus on the example of former Mayor Art Agnos, whose allies were so unwilling to tell him the truth that the reckoning did not come until he was defeated for re-election.

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Those in the “Newsom can do no wrong” camp are particularly guilty of this. Since the city’s major media have been far less critical (and honest) about the Mayor than any of his past several predecessors, the self-identified Newsom fans have come to treat any questioning of his policies as a political attack.

randy shaw

Randy Shaw

The Mayor has consistently been more receptive to Beyond Chron’s policy criticisms than has his backers, and he also acknowledged his drinking problem while these backers remained in denial.

While Newsom undergoes treatment for the root cause of his alcohol problem (a not surprising malady given his father is said to have had drinking problems), we urge those claiming to be his biggest backers to learn some lessons about dealing with their politician/allies.

Randy Shaw
Beyond Chron