Touching the Bases: Gavin, Nancy, Harvey & eMeg


016-932Let’s get this straight: What Gavin Newsom is calling “the first spot of the Democratic gubernatorial primary” is being narrowcast via email, Facebook and Twitter, and is not designed to capture a broad audience. It’s worth taking a close look at, however, especially for its not-so-subtle contrast with Attorney General Jerry Brown and the bold sounding proposals which – on closer examination – go “poof.”

“We’re Californians. We’re not a state of memories, we’re a state of dreams,” Newsom says, opening the spot. Message: Jerry’s the old guy from the past, I’m the new guy for the future.

“Will we nominate a candidate who knows Sacramento or leaders who know how to change it?” Gavin asks. OK, as we’ve said before, Newsom is going to try to be the “change” candidate, hoping he can cast Brown as the status quo contender. Good luck with that.

“This is the race that will shake the system,” the ad intones. And the written message later is: “If you want to change the state we need to change the system.” Followed by: “Don’t just change governors. Change California.”

Change, change, change. We get it. With the governor’s approval rating at 27%, Gavin wants to be the candidate of change. But what change is he really proposing?

“Change the state constitution.” To do what? “Lower the 2/3 majority.” To do what? To pass the budget? Or to raise taxes? We’re betting it’s the former, not the latter.

He also wants to: Pass the budget. Fund the schools. Create jobs. Provide health care. Ooooh, risky agenda there. Nice package, Prince. Excellent production values, nice use of music, black and white photography and smart, emotive language.  Content? Weak sauce. Can’t believe our friends over at Calitics were so impressed.


Take that: After weeks in Steve Poizner’s free fire zone, Meg Whitman counter-attacked Wednesday with a pretty slick web video whacking the Commish as “The Perfect Politician,” reprising his contributions to Democratic pols and causes back in the day when he was still a Zauschist moderate, and before he morphed into the Attila the Hun. Very nice production values.

Meanwhile, eMeg has finally settled on a story about why she neglected to vote for most of her adult life and now is strutting around, fatuously trashing the Sacramento Bee piece that disclosed the extent of her lifelong disdain for the democratic process, while making brash pronouncements about her political betters.

Moving to shore up her support in the Fred Barnes Primary, she phoned up Chris Cilliza, the WashPo’s ace political blogger, and unctuously explained how Gov. Arnold badly fumbled his efforts to push political reform in California:

“While she is loath to meg-whitmancriticize the man she is seeking to replace — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) –– it’s apparent Whitman believes that a lack of focus on his major priorities is what has hamstrung him. She cites his decision to push four ballot measures in 2005 — all four of which were defeated by California voters. ‘If he had done one at a time — set ’em up, knock ’em down,’ he would have been more successful, she explained.”

Excuse us while we build a ballpark big enough to hold our laughter.

Yo! Ms. Lemme Show How It’s Done eMegness! If you’re so smart, why didn’t you, uh, you know, VOTE on Schwarzmuscle’s reforms when you had the chance?

Pelo-Nights 035

Driving Ms. Pelosi: A few days after Nancy Pelosi won her first race for Congress in 1987, she was driving to a thank-you luncheon for supporters, accompanied by a future Calbuzzer interviewing her for a post-election column. Passionately making a long-forgotten point with full, wide open eye contact, she accidentally made a wrong turn and was suddenly heading the wrong way on a busy avenue near San Francisco’s Lake Merced.

Realizing her mistake, Pelosi lurched back to the right side of the road in, oh say, a minute or so. By then the reporter lay whimpering, curled in the fetal position on the floor; a few days later, he wrote a throwaway item in a throwaway column recounting how he’d cheated death with Pelosi at the wheel.

The kicker on the column offered tongue-in-cheek advice to the newly-elected House member – that her first official act should be to hire a driver. Whereupon Rep. Pelosi phoned him up and chewed him out for taking a cheap shot.

Fast forward 20 years: Pelosi, now a few months into her historic speakership, gave a speech at a Democratic fundraiser in Santa Barbara, the political epicenter of California.

The aging reporter, who’d grown much wider, if not wiser, hadn’t seen her for several years and greeted her cheerfully  after the speech. Without a second’s hesitation, Pelosi flashed a triumphant grin at him and said, “You know, I have a driver now.”

Madame Speaker’s instant recall of that long-ago perceived slight, coupled with her toldja payback line, offered a glimpse at the old pol side of Pelosi, a street-smart toughness often concealed beneath the well-heeled, deceptively charming Pacific Heights style that made many in her hometown underestimate her back in the day (we name no names).

As she prepares for the looming epic battle over health reform, the Speaker’s keen political instincts and hardball skills were closely examined in “Pelosi reaches her defining moment,” a fine piece of reportage by Carolyn Lochhead, the Chron’s seasoned Washington hand and a veteran Nancy watcher:

“For a politician of her stature she is remarkably authentic, retaining the earnest relentlessness she brought to Washington as a back-bencher two decades ago. A study in contradictions, she combines a street politics forged in Baltimore and tutorials from the late Democratic Rep. Phil Burton, a San Francisco political legend, with the drive of a moral calling informed by a deep Catholicism.

Considered the most powerful Democratic House speaker in memory, Pelosi’s path is littered with those who underestimated the intelligence and toughness beneath the pearls and polite smiles.

Did we mention she’s got a driver, too?

harveymilkStop the presses – Governator does the right thing: Speaking of history making San Francisco politicians, we could almost hear Harvey Milk’s famous cackle at the news that Gov. Arnold pumped up his courage and signed legislation to honor the late gay supervisor every May 22, his birthday, with an official state day of recognition.

The sweeping artistic paens to Milk – in film, biography, documentary and operatic forms – justly celebrate his breakthrough political achievement as the first prominent, out-of-the-closet gay elected official in California.

But what made Harvey Harvey often gets ignored: it wasn’t grandeur, but his ward heeler’s instinctive sensibility for what made a practical difference in the day-to-day lives of his constituents. That’s why improving Muni service  was a centerpiece of his platform, and why he made headlines as the first San Francisco pol to advocate pooper-scooper legislatiCalifornia poppy imageon – “Anybody who solves the dog shit problem can be mayor,” he famously said. And that’s how Calbuzz will remember him every year on Harvey Milk Day.

Not known for his modesty, Harvey would be delighted that his is only the state’s fourth such day of special recognition, and that he’s in the elite company of John Muir, California teachers and, most all, the California poppy.

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There are 5 comments for this post

  1. avatar starstation says:

    Ya know, Gavin Newsom has a pocketful of “game changers”…first Clinton and now this “ad”…yawn.

    If he could stop looking in the mirror long enough to learn about leadership, then he might stumble onto a real agenda for California–not mere platitudes or warmed over cliches.

    Gavin and eMeg deserve each other–cut from the same cloth.

  2. avatar SezMe says:

    “…Santa Barbara, the political epicenter of California.”

    It is? Why?

    • avatar pjhackenflack says:

      I’ll get back to you as soon as I finish surgically removing this Calbuzzards’ tongue from his cheek.

  3. avatar Silent Sleuth says:

    Harvey Milk was a true hero. And an original community organizer. At least we’ll have one good deed to remember this Gov for.

  4. avatar patwater says:

    I think you guys are spot on about the typical Newsom pretense in the ad, but you underestimate the importance of structural reform. According to PPIC, over 50% of Californian’s support the need for structural constitutional reform. And the Field Poll folks tell us we’re at historic lows for faith in the direction of the state.

    Old versus new might not play well (as you guys point out, voters–in particular primary voters–are older voters) but outsider versus insider might. Or at least has a better shot. That’s my guess as to why Newsom’s trying to tie himself to the Constitutional convention bandwagon. The once and future governor doesn’t seem as symbolically powerful to restore sense to California’s governance as the capable outside (which of course, in reality, Newsom is anything but).

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