Is Gavin Newsom Leaving Politics?

The short answer, according to his spokesman, is no. But you could be forgiven for getting a very different impression from Maureen Dowd's latest column in The New York Times, in which the Times' sorta-funny, sorta-edgy political scribe wonders aloud why San Francisco's mayor is "leaving politics just when he feels as though he's getting better at it."

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Do you see the tongue in the cheek?
Dowd offers us this seemingly straightforward statement by the former Democratic Party boy wonder: "'This is it. God Bless. It was fun while it lasted,' he said of his career, with a rueful smile. 'Guys like me don't necessarily progress very far, which is fine.'" So is Newsom retreating from public life when his current mayoral term ends in 2012?

Not at all, according to Newsom spokesman Tony Winnicker. "He was speaking tongue-in-cheek," Winnicker said of the mayor's remarks to Dowd. "He intends to have a very active career in public service after he completes his second term as mayor. ... His point when he says things like that is that he isn't dependent on politics in the next election, that he can stand on principle and doesn't feel a need to compromise his beliefs."
It's true that Newsom's remarks came in the context of a discussion with Dowd about the ramifications of his early support for same-sex marriage. (And shortly before he savaged Barack Obama for not taking a strong stand on the issue; the Times article, oddly enough, ran the very day Newsom had a Washington, D.C. meeting with Michelle Obama. That must have been pleasant.)

So can the Gav's statement, "This is it," really be translated for the uninitiated, non-Dowd public as, "This is not it -- and, by the way, I am a hero"?

Sounds reasonable enough.

That, by the way, is what an actual tongue-in-cheek comment sounds like.

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