There’s an old adage in politics that one should never get in the way of opponents when they’re making fools of themselves.
And certainly no one has ever stirred that sentiment more than San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly, who makes all of his many opponents look better just by the sheer measure of his existence.
But despite our many differences, I cannot and could not ever be Daly’s enemy for the simple reason that he has provided me so much amusement and column fodder over the years. It’s the journalistic equivalent of the gift that keeps on giving.
So let me be the first to publicly thank him for his latest eruptions, first in his efforts to divert money needed for basic city services such as street repairs and extra police officers to his own social programs, and most especially for his stated desire to ground the wildly popular Blue Angels Fleet Week show.
Talk about crashing and burning.
The latest histrionics are the culmination of a rollicking month for Daly, in which he called for a summit of the town’s lefty “progressives’’ to try and find someone to run against Mayor Gavin Newsom, only to discover that his followers would rather don chicken suits than actually enter the campaign fray. And despite loud public assertions that he would run if no one else did, Daly backed down rather than face the prospect of the worst political beating in modern city history.
But rather than just lick his wounds, Daly decided to give in to his scorched-earth tendencies and hold The City’s budget hostage by transferring up to $37 million for good government measures such as street cleaning and a community justice center to his nonprofit housing colleagues. And if he can convince his colleagues on the board that they should vote against public safety, he’ll have shown just how far some supervisors will go in trying to play political games with Newsom.
Yet, as is often the case with Daly, he’s miscalculated, managing to send moderate business owners and labor groups who have not always been enamored of Newsom solidly behind the mayor in the budget battle. And then he capped off his very wacky week by boldly going where no supervisor has gone before — by proposing a resolution on behalf of some little-known advocacy groups to kill an annual aerial exhibition show that brings in millions of tourist dollars to San Francisco.
The reaction to Daly’s statement, first reported in The Examiner, was so swift it was as if it arrived on board a fighter jet. Scores of readers immediately pounced on Daly for threatening to kill the Blue Angels show. Media outlets immediately started calling and television crews camped outside of his office. His stunt got so much attention that he fumed at an Examiner reporter for causing him so much public grief — as if anyone were to blame other than Daly himself.
Now, over the years, I have heard people complain about the noisy presence of the Blue Angels when they practice right before Fleet Week, because you can’t fly supersonic jets right above office buildings without causing a bit of a stir. But the incredible flight maneuvers of the jet pilots are so thrilling there’s a reason millions of people turned out to see them last year and why their presence is one of the highlights of Fleet Week in San Francisco.
And while the Navy may use the Blue Angels as a recruiting tool, even the most ardent Bush bashers and war critics don’t see the flight team as anything but soaring entertainment, which is why families gather in throngs to see them all over the country. Only Daly could try and politicize the Blue Angels and take a stand so incredibly unpopular that it would send other elected officials scurrying to distance themselves from him and all the accompanying negative press.
Yet rather than throw barbs at Daly for his grandiose gestures and get taxpayers upset because he’s trying to steer their money toward his pet programs, we need to thank him for reminding us that rationality in government is a much-admired trait and something that should be heeded when voters head to the polls.
And of course, no one should be more grateful than the mayor himself, who gains support each time Daly acts before he thinks, which is rather often these days.
I have tried my best over the years to try and get Daly to jump up on a bigger pulpit and run for mayor so more of my fellow citizens can see what makes him tick. But no matter how ticked off he gets, he just can’t seem to pull the trigger.
Maybe someday he will — when the Blue Angels stop flying.
Ken Garcia’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdaysand weekends in The Examiner. E-mail him at email@example.com or call him at (415) 359-2663.