The San Francisco Chronicle is busy hyperventilating about Gavin Newsom’s tacky pecadillos and forlorn apology. Frankly, I think the doom and gloom prognostications about the political fall-out from Newsom’s behavior are over-the-top. The Chronicle goes on and on about the fact that Newsom has destroyed his political future and will never be governor. While it’s true that he may never be governor, I doubt that an affair is going to be the make-or-break moment. First, Americans are remarkably forgiving of sexual failures, especially if the one caught in the act is contrite. Bill Clinton, Hugh Grant and Gov. Ah-nold are perfect examples. Grant and Ah-nold wisely groveled immediately and were forgiven as quickly — with Ah-nold comfortably ensconced in the Governor’s mansion. Clinton, having blustered appalling, eventually backed down and continues to be one of America’s most popular political figures.
Second, when Newsom blithely violated the law to allow same-sex marriage, he already staked out his position on sexuality — one that will always play well in San Francisco, and will probably play less well (for at least a decade) outside of the City. In the same way, committing adultery with a friend’s wife will be shrugged off in San Francisco, and will take longer to be forgiven outside of the same City. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that, while it may leave a bad taste with some voters, the political fallout will vanish in a few years. And considering that Newsom is only 39, a few years is not a long time to wait. Indeed, consider his background in the wine industry, he can build a whole political metaphor about time maturing him like a fine wine.
Some Democratic operatives are worried that this whole thing will reflect badly on Pelosi, who’s been trying to distance herself from her San Francisco roots. However, when one considers that politicians all over America, of all political stripes, are routinely caught with their fingers in the nookie jar, I don’t see how one more adulterous moment, this one from a San Francisco Democrat, is going to slow the Pelosi juggernaut. She’s in Washington now, and she’s going to stand or fall on her ability to manage things out there.