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Archive for 2010



Jerry Brown: Grasshopper or Lotus Flower?

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

Today, Calbuzzard cartoonist Tom Meyer provides a rare, behind-the-scenes peek inside the inner sanctum of the state Attorney General’s campaign headquarters, and finds the Democratic nominee for governor… sitting on his ass. With anxious Democrats from one end of the state to the other wetting the bed over Krusty the General’s Sun Tzu fight-by-indirection approach to the battle for governor (“He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious” ) to be disquieting, if not downright scary. Meyer reports that Brown is nothing if not focused. What exactly it is he’s focused on is another issue.

Just in time for Christmas! Calbuzzers interested in owning a full color print of a Meyer cartoon (suitable for framing) should email Tom at tom@meyertoons.com .

As the world of eMeg turns: It’s a close call whether Meg Whitman’s performance on the campaign trail this week bore more resemblance to a) one of those old Saturday Night Live skits where Chevy Chase falls down a flight of stairs, trips, knocks over a full banquet table and lands flat on his ass or b) Professor Irwin Corey explaining the meaning of life:

One of the things that you’ve got to understand is that we’ve got to develop a continuity in order to relate to exacerbate those whose curiosity has not been defended, yet the information given can no longer be used as allegoric because the defendant does not use the evidence which can be substantiated by…What was the question?

While endlessly entertaining for the California press corps, eMeg’s inability to keep straight what she said a day or two before, let alone the primary, about immigration or immigration or immigration or state worker furloughs put her at times in Sarah Palin territory, if not quite at the level of Michelle Bachmann.

Given eMeg’s proven inability to speak consistently, if not coherently, about major issues that you’d like to think she was catching on about by now, it’s no surprise that Calbuzz hears on the street that she’s doubling down on her current L.A. TV buys – putting her in the neighborhood of $1.2 million a week – a quick and nifty way to make sure voters hear what her handlers want her message to be, even if she’s not quite capable of saying it herself.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

P.S. We also hear that the next round of eMeg ads will include a batch of new positives. Concerned about the unfavorable image voters have of her, look for her well-paid and well-fed Svengalis to roll out the Meg Whitman Charm Offensive before long.

Anonymous sources always welcome here: A mere 28 months before the presidential election, coat holders for eMeg mentor Mitt Romney and potential rival Palin are already trading cheap insults under cover of anonymity granted them by national political reporters who just can’t wait to get things going.

It started when Time’s Mark Halperin quoted a couple of Romney advisers: “If she’s standing up there in a debate and the answers are more than 15 seconds long, she’s in trouble,” said one. “She’s not a serious human being,” chipped in another.

Then Politico joined the fray, quoting an unnamed Palin partisan returning fire. And Huffpost media writer Jason Linkins is the only reporter to date to notice the circle-within-circles absurdity of Politico’s sourcing of this blind quote:

“For Washington consultants to sit around and personally disparage the governor anonymously to reporters is unfortunate and counterproductive and frankly immature,” said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

As Linkins noted: “It’s as if words have no meaning at all.”

How many times do we have to tell you guys to hire a copy editor: Speaking of linguistic nullity, the Empire of eMeg struck again after the big California Nurses Association protest outside her Atherton spread, when a newly-anointed member of the Meg Whitman Nurses Advisory Committee snarled that “this partisan union is going to obscene lengths to win Jerry Brown’s third term,” and then concluded with this clunker, captured forever by the Coco Times:

“The CNA is shamelessly misrepresenting a respected profession for partisan political gain and it’s a shame.”

Shamefully, their shamelessness apparently still has a shame. For shame.

Press Clips: Lights! Action! Camera! Bribery! News?

Friday, July 16th, 2010

We don’t know if Michael Luo of the New York Times was just idly rooting around in Meg Whitman’s 19-page FPPC Form 700 financial disclosure when he just happened to stumble across an investment of more than $1 million in “Tools Down! Productions” and knew “ah ha!”  – that’s political consultant Mike Murphy’s Hollywood production company.

Or maybe somebody who doesn’t like Whitman and/or Murphy decided to point Luo in the right direction or slipped him the paperwork. Either way, it’s a good story and since we have a pdf of the actual document in hand (you can’t get it online), we know it’s true:

Right there on page 9, “Tools Down! Productions, Inc c/o Aaron Zimmer, Singer Burke & Co., 6345 Balboa Blvd, Building 4, Suite 375, Encino, CA 91316” a ”Partnership Stock” investment in “Entertainment Production” valued “Over $1,000,000.”

That’s MORE than $1 million, Calbuzzers. Sandwiched between investments in  Magellan Midstream Holdings LP and Abaca Technology Corp. just where you’d expect to find it.

Although some in the news media have been quick to kiss this deal off as totally legal and out of reach of scandal, there remains one question that we probably will never get a real answer to: Was this, on Whitman’s part, a political expenditure disguised as a business investment?

Sure it looks like Whitman, um, bribed Murphy to either stay away from Steve Poizner’s campaign or sign on to hers. But Murphy’s a private citizen. He can – and does – sell his services to the highest bidder. More power to him.

Whitman, on the other hand, has to follow certain rules. She can’t (ethically or legally) pay a retainer or a fee to a political consultant out of her private funds and not count that as a political expenditure made in pursuit of the office she’s seeking.

We don’t know what you might call the actual facts that could shine a light on that issue. We don’t even know how much the total “investment” was. Was it more or less, for example than the “More than $1,000,000” eMeg listed in two different Goldman Sachs Distressed Opportunities Funds?

Of course, not knowing all the facts has little effect on handlers for Whitman’s opponent, Jerry Brown. “By all accounts it was a political payoff masquerading as a so-called legitimate business investment,” said Brown campaign manager Steve Glazer after we goaded him.

“Murphy should disclose his other investors and whether the payment was reported on his income taxes . . .  It’s possible she paid it from one of her Cayman Island accounts,” Glazer added.

Murph’s only on-the-record comment to us was, “I’m absolutely not commenting on this.”

Oil spill, what oil spill? It was Hall of Fame blogger and erstwhile Senate candidate Mickey Kaus who coined the term “Feiler Faster Thesis” to describe the way that online age politics is changing as people learn to process information ever-faster, to keep up with the speed at which information now moves. Kaus in 2000 propounded the thesis based on an idea from writer Bruce Feiler to argue that the whole notion of “momentum” in campaigns is woefully out of date.

The news cycle is much faster these days, thanks to 24-hour cable, the Web, a metastasized pundit caste constantly searching for new angles, etc. As a result, politics is able to move much faster, too, as our democracy learns to process more information in a shorter period and to process it comfortably at this faster pace. Charges and countercharges fly faster, candidates’ fortunes rise and fall faster, etc.

A few years later, he boiled it down further:

The FFT, remember, doesn’t say that information moves with breathtaking speed these days. (Everyone knows that!) The FFT says that people are comfortable processing that information with what seems like breathtaking speed. [emphasis in the original]

The FFT came to mind Friday, when we read a report from the Washpost’s hypercaffeineated Chris Cillizza noting that the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, which preoccupied TV and cable news for weeks, is quickly fading as an issue, even as the company and government continue frantic efforts to contain and cleanup the millions of gallons of oil erupting from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

Asked to name the most important problem facing the country, just seven percent of respondents in the July Gallup poll said “natural disaster response/relief” — a major drop off from the 18 percent who said the same in June. (In Gallup’s May poll, just one percent named “natural disaster response” as the most important problem in the country.)

“Americans’ reduced likelihood to see the spill as the top problem could reflect the reality that the spill is no longer ‘new’ news or perhaps that Americans are becoming more confident that they spill will be fixed,” wrote Gallup poll director Frank Newport in a memo detailing the results.

Given their current sorry state, any Democrats desperate for any shred of good news may look to the FFT for hope that fast-moving, and so far unforeseen, events might yet alter the political landscape before they have to face cranky voters.

As dismal as things look for the Dems, amid the current conventional wisdom forecasting a wipe-out and possible loss of the House, cooler head prognosticators and pundits, like NBC political director Chuck Todd, don’t see how the numbers work for the Republicans to take over control.

P.S. After leaving Slate for his quixotic challenge to Barbara Boxer, Kaus has been writing on his campaign site, but says he’s mulling several, no doubt lucrative, alternatives (better get in line!) for where his blog lands next.

But what about the little guy: As eMeg dithers about which of the countless proposals she should accept to debate Jerry Brown, both of them  should summon the courage to show up at a big August event in Ventura County where they can talk to hundreds of real people from around California who are living and working on the front lines of the recession. Timm Herdt of the VenCo Star reports that:

Organizers intend to call it a “shared prosperity forum,” but the precise name they have in mind is a little longer: The 2010 California Shared Prosperity Gubernatorial Candidates Forum.

Whether they can actually call it all that, of course, depends on the two major party candidates for governor, Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman. If one or both accepts, the governor’s forum is on. If not, well, there’s a Plan B….

Executive director Marcos Vargas tells me that a broad range of groups from the San Francisco Bay Area to San Diego, groups representing low-wage workers, immigrants and seniors, have agreed to attend. A number of those groups, such as the Korean Resource Center in Los Angeles, are part of a statewide coalition called Mobilize the Immigrant Vote.

It is Vargas’ vision that the event could be a refreshing change from the sort of staged town-hall meetings that pass for dialogue between candidates and voters these days.

Refreshing indeed.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Roaring Virile Fire Disturbs Social Order.

Why Did Obama Ignore Omar? Krusty to Cable Talk?

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

ABC – Always Believe Calbuzz: Now that even Harry Reid publicly complains that Barack Obama fears confrontation and is too willing to play kissy-poo with Republicans, we regretfully recall that the president blundered badly last year, by ignoring four prescient words of advice we humbly offered: Channel your inner Omar.

With Democratic prospects for the mid-term election swirling down the drain, and the Administration engaged in an embarrassing public fight with Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the party’s chances of keeping control of the Congress, Senate Majority Leader Reid recently pointed his finger squarely at the White House to explain the dreadful dire straits in which his party finds itself:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid critiqued President Obama’s “peacemaker” approach to policy-making and suggested he embrace a tougher posture toward Republicans in an exclusive interview with Nevada political reporter Jon Ralston during the congressional recess.

“On a few occasions, I think he should have been more firm with those on the other side of the aisle,” Reid explained. “He is a person who doesn’t like confrontation. He’s a peacemaker. And sometimes I think you have to be a little more forceful. And sometimes I don’t think he is enough with the Republicans.”

Ya’ think?

Yet, a full nine months ago this space, upon observing troubling signs of presidential faintheartedness, threw a flag at his craven performance in the heat of the health care battle, and urgently recommended he review the collected wisdom of one Omar Little, the extraordinary character whom Obama had repeatedly identified as his favorite cast member in “The Wire,” the greatest television series ever made.

From liberal West Coast precincts to the op-ed pages of the New York Times, Obama’s base is pointedly questioning the stiffness of his political spine and the strength of his personal convictions:

Those Obama fans who are disappointed keep looking for explanations. Is he too impressed by the elite he met in Cambridge, too eager to split the difference between left and right, too willing to compromise? As he pursues legislation, why does he keep deferring to others — whether to his party’s Congressional leaders or the Congressional Budget Office or to this month’s acting president, Olympia Snowe? Why doesn’t he ever draw a line in the sand? What’s with all this squishy need for a “bipartisan solution?”

This state of affairs poses a serious risk to Democrats in the 2010 mid-term elections and to Obama’s second term prospects as well.

Ahem.

While it may already be too late, if you buy John Dickerson’s persuasive argument that Americans have already stopped listening to the president, it’s worth reprising at least one of the nine profound Omarisms we suggested Obama take to heart:

“The game’s out there and it’s play or get played.”

Omar’s definition of how things work on the streets is useful advice for the president: From his first day in office, Obama extended his hand in the name of bipartisanship, only to be bitch-slapped by Republicans for his trouble.

It’s way past time for him to start channeling his inner Harry Truman and expose the just-say-no GOP crowd as the know-nothing obstructionists they are. His mealy-mouthed appeasement of a tyrannical minority, who get up every morning thinking about how to destroy and delegitimize him is not  “change we can believe in” but a simple case of political weakness.

The trouble with Jerry: With 1,126 paid staff members, Meg Whitman’s communications shop has a lot of time to sit around and do silly busywork, like its regular series of eblasts called “Yup, Jerry Brown said it,” which mock whatever Krusty’s latest foot-in-mouth comment may be, picked up by Team eMeg’s statewide network of Big Brother electronic listening devices.

On Tuesday, they snarked at something Attorney General Gandolf said about Whitman on radio in San Diego: “She in many ways is more the incumbent than I am.”

It’s an offbeat comment, to be sure, but not for the reason that the Empire of eMeg thinks.

As a political matter, viewing Whitman as the incumbent in the governor’s race is actually an interesting take: her over-the-top spending, the ubiquity of her ads, her multi-channel, overbearing non-stop marketing blitz all have positioned her so Brown might frame the election as a referendum about her, casting himself as the foil to all-Meg-all-the-time.

Interesting thought, interesting point. The problem for Brown, however, is that he’s talking like he’s a political analyst, not a candidate; since the day after the primary, most of what he’s said has been focused on the process of the campaign – Meg’s money, Meg’s ads, his cheapskate approach to the race – not on anything that voters might actually care about, or what affects their lives.

There are few people more interesting to talk or listen to about the business of politics than Jerry Brown, but this ain’t a rolling seminar in campaign methodology.

What’s he most sorely lacking in his campaign is any sign of a narrative, a political meme about, oh say, the state of the state, why he wants to be governor, why voting for him will help the middle class, why and how we must fix the schools, things like that.

Until he starts discussing bread and butter issues like building the economy, helping people who are in foreclosure, growing jobs, re-prioritizing the state budget or reclaiming the UC system, everything else he’s talking about is just a tryout for Hardball or the John King show.

On the other hand, Calbuzz recognizes that the Brown campaign makes a point when they note that in the 35 days since the start of the general election:

While Attorney General Jerry Brown has done 26 public appearances or media interviews [mostly as Attorney General], Meg Whitman has done nine. While Brown has taken the tough questions about the race and the future of California, Whitman refuses to talk. While Brown has accepted 10 debate invitations from nonpartisan groups around the state,Whitman will agree to only one in October.

In case you missed it: Why Sarah Palin is a complete ditz, Chapter 686: She can’t even make it through an interview with Bill O’Reilly without making a fool of herself. Sheesh.

3-Dot Cheap Shots: DiFi, eMeg, iCarly and Krusty

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Buzz kill: Calbuzz is scratching our collective head at the sight of the MSM prominently displaying stories about Senator Dianne Feinstein’s declaration of opposition to Proposition 19, the November ballot measure to legalize pot: Why exactly is this news?

From her earliest days in politics, DiFi’s political antennae have always been hyper-attuned to the slightest possibility that somewhere, someone might be having fun.

Her nickname around City Hall was “Goody Two Shoes,” and one citizen of San Francisco’s gay community famously summed up her well-earned school marm reputation:  “Dianne Feinstein doesn’t care who you sleep with, as long as you’re in bed by eleven o’clock.”

The Senior Senator from California, in fact, first made a name for herself in the ‘60s by carrying on a one-woman crusade against the production and presentation of X-rated movies in S.F., where entrepreneurs such as the infamous Mitchell Brothers were then pioneering the genre with aesthetic and commercial successes like “Behind the Green Door.”

The controversy Feinstein generated greatly raised her profile, at a time she was preparing to launch her first bid for office, a fabulously successful effort that made her the first woman elected president of the Board of Supervisors.

But her anti-smut campaign did not earn unanimous acclaim in Baghdad by the Bay: the late Charles de Young Thieriot, then publisher of the Chronicle, threw her out of his office when she came in to demand he stop running ads for adult theaters in the paper, while Charles McCabe,  a cranky and literate libertarian scribbler for the Chron, bashed her as a prudish busybody in a series of columns headlined, “Dianne Faces Life.”

What really moved Mrs. Feinstein to her little adventure, and her later demand that right-mindedness be enacted on all of us is something you don’t have to be a big brain to figure out. The real reason lies in the hearts and minds of a segment of elderly Irish biddies and Jewish mothers and Italian mama mias and German hausfraus. These ladies, most of whom are mothers, are threatened by porno and take an awfully strong line on the same subject. This they communicate one way or another, and often through priests and rabbis who have a vested interest in sin, to their duly elected representatives of whom Mrs. Feinstein is one. And conscientious.

The way to prevent the men from indulging their brutish natures is to pass laws, and more laws, and still more laws, to keep their pants firmly zipped at all times, except when the population explosion is to be assisted.

Roll ‘em and smoke ‘em Dianne.

eMeg to the ER stat: Here’s another thing we don’t understand: Why Meg Whitman keeps picking fights with the California Nurses’ Association.

Having already erected a new web site exclusively dedicated to brawling with the nurses’ union, and sent a personal letter to every member of the CNA, Her Megness announced yesterday that she is “forming an advisory board of nurses to advise her on issues during the campaign.”

The “Meg Whitman Nurses’ Advisory Board.” Got a real ring to it, no?

For their part, the nurses have announced a big demonstration and town meeting in Whitman’s home town of Atherton Thursday night, which is scheduled to include a stop at eMeg’s estate. So it looks like the baffling battle will only escalate.

Yeah, we get that Team eMeg has so much money they can afford a whole separate campaign against the nurses, while simultaneously running against Jerry Brown. But what’s the political play here exactly?

We consulted with Dr. P.J. Hackenflack, our staff psychiatrist and chief of medicine at Calbuzz Memorial Hospital and Outpatient Veterinary Clinic, who offered five possible reasons:

a–She’s still bitter that she didn’t get into medical school because organic chemistry kicked her butt.

b-If you’re going to start busting unions why not begin with one of the most popular in the state?

c-Murphy’s still pissed the nurses rolled him in his failed initiatives campaign for Arnold.

d-eMeg feels a special connection to the helping profession because her husband is a famous neurosurgeon (memo to Meg: don’t count on nurses being overly enamored of a guy named Dr. Harsh).

e- She really doesn’t like that whole “Queen Meg” thing.

Calbuzz sez: b) and e).

Grisly grizzlies: Setting the bar higher than ever for Republican whack job women, Nevada Tea Partier Sharron Angle has announced that God is behind her challenge to Senator Harry Reid,  a development that caused Calbuzz considerable concern that our own Hurricane Carly Fiorina may be falling way behind in the female division of the knuckledragger sweepstakes.

So we were delighted to learn from the Orange County Register that iCarly was recently blessed with a campaign contribution from Sarah Palin,  the Queen High Wingnut of Amazon Republicanism herself, who’s traveling the country on a mission to elect battalions of what she calls “Mama Grizzlies.”

As she trumpets Palin’s personal endorsement, Carly appears to believe that Screwball Sarah’s seal of approval will win hearts and minds throughout the state, which is only one of many big differences she has with her rival, incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer, whose campaign is working to drive traffic to a web video examining the Republican sisterhood of the traveling pants suits.

While Whitman has so far cautiously kept her distance from the tenets of Palinism, Neanderthal Carly has bought the whole package, eagerly embracing the right-wing’s positions  on abortion rights, climate change, gun control, immigration and offshore oil drilling, among others.

So completely has Fiorina festooned herself as a “pro-life feminist,” that one prominent anti-choice leader recently told our pal Carla Marinucci, that Carly “now stands tall alongside Palin and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, in a pantheon of new female political leaders.”

Michele Bachmann. Wow. Makes you proud to be a Californian, doesn’t it?

Historical Footfault: “If there is another $100 million spent on the Republican side, we will have our message,” Jerry Brown told KGO the other day. “Everyone in this state who votes will have more information than they want.”

So when will Krusty and His Band of Merry Guerillas unload their muskets? 

“So we’re holding our fire,” Brown said, although not apparently remembering first-hand. ” If you remember the Battle of Lexington, the American revolutionaries said wait until you see the whites of their eyes before you start firing.”

Except — as most school children know –  if it was said at all, it was said by one of the colonial commanders — Israel Putnam, John Stark, William Prescott or Richard Gridley — at the Battle of Bunker Hill, not the Battle of Lexington.

eMeg Grills the Earth & Gandolf Gets the Lead Out

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Tom Meyer, the Cartooning Calbuzzer and Sharpest Pen in the West, casts his gimlet-eyed gaze today on the Meg Whitman-Carly Fiorina Grilled Earth Society, dedicated to boosting carbon fuels and laughing off climate change.

Unfortunately for them, the eMeg-iCarly burn-baby-burn approach to global warming is a minority opinion in California, as we’ve noted. For our latest take on the issue, check out our piece on the Bee’s op-ed page today.

Calbuzz gets results: Since we dropped the hammer on Krusty’s woefully understaffed communications shop a couple weeks ago for its oh-so-20th-century not-very-rapid response to some of eMeg’s unstinting attacks, it’s only fair to note – and we’re nothing if not fair – that his campaign’s performance has improved.

On Monday, Team Whitman dropped its daily ad on Brown’s head, a response to last week’s spot from the pro-Brown California Working Families independent expenditure committee, in which she punches back by presenting a few more cadaverous images of Attorney General Gandolf over the announcer’s voice saying, “the special interests have chosen their governor – how about you?” Here’s how the deal went down:

2:28 p.m. – The volcanic Sarah Pompei alerts reporters about the new ad.
3:41 p.m. – Brown flack Sterling Clifford weighs in one hour and 13 minutes later with response – “Whitman repeats old lies with new pictures” – and once again cites Fact Check.org’s dis of similar eMeg allegations.
3:43 p.m. – California Working Families checks in with its own response, in which I.E. honcho Roger Salazar charges that Our Meg “wants to once again buy her way out of trouble.”

Not bad speed for Team Krusty except for one thing: Even before they got their stuff out, the ubiquitous Ms. Pompei had fired off a second eblast, calling attention to a new Survey USA poll purporting to show Whitman leading Brown. The Brownies took slightly longer to respond to this one, but when they did, they came back strong:

3:14 p.m. – Email announcing poll, which shows eMeg up 47-39%, arrives.
4:31 p.m. – Clifford’s blast hits our mailbox one hour and 17 minutes later – but it comes with an attachment from Jim Moore. He’s our favorite California pollster, not least because his universe of likely voters is actually derived from the voter file, not based on a sloppy sample of robocalled self-identified likelys.

I’m pleased to report that our survey of 600 likely November voters has been completed and it shows Democrat Jerry Brown with a 3 point lead over Republican Meg Whitman. The survey was conducted between July 7th and July 10th among 600 likely November 2010 registered voters from the Secretary of State’s voter file and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2%.

The overall results are similar to the recent Field Poll, although we are seeing different internal distribution. Of particular note, our survey shows a much greater ratio of support for Jerry from Latinos.

Daily score: Whitman 1, Brown 1. Doesn’t anybody take vacation anymore?

Tinkers to Evers to Chance Redux: Kudos to our old friend E.J. Dionne, the erudite political columnist for the WashPost, who was the only scribe in America to report the historical significance of President Obama’s personalized attack on Republican congressional leaders last week.

Taking note of the president’s speech in Kansas City, in which he pushed back hard against the looming spectre of the GOP taking control of the House in the November mid-terms, E.J. wrote:

Turning all this around is a White House mission, and the president’s campaign stops last week in Missouri and Nevada previewed his effort to paint Republicans as both extreme and recalcitrant. His speech in Kansas City included one major innovation, an echo of a legendary 1940 assault by Franklin D. Roosevelt against his political opponents in Congress — “Martin, Barton and Fish.”

Obama went after the alliterative trio of “Barton and Boehner and Blunt,” references to Reps. Joe Barton of Texas, John Boehner of Ohio and Roy Blunt of Missouri. Challenging them for their resolute opposition to every Democratic approach, Obama asked “if that ‘no’ button is just stuck.”

As the late William Safire explained in his “Political Dictionary,” the “Martin, Barton and Fish” line was written for FDR by Judge Samuel I. Rosenman and dramatist Robert E. Sherwood, and was “made effective by the use of rhyme and rhythm in encapsulating the names of opponents” of the Democratic president.

Those opponents were GOP congressmen Bruce Barton and Hamilton Fish of New York and Joseph Martin of Massachusetts; in Rosenman’s autobiography, he reported that the speechwriters in their first draft attacked the GOP trio in that order – Barton, Fish and Martin – but made an important revision in the second:

We sat around – I remember we were writing in my apartment in New York City – working on that paragraph. Then as we read those names, we almost simultaneously hit on the more euphonious and rhythmic sequence of Martin, Barton and Fish. We said nothing about it when we handed the draft to the President, wondering whether he would catch it as he read the sentence aloud. He did. The very first time he read it, his eyes twinkled, and he grinned from ear to ear…He repeated it several times and indicated by swinging his finger in cadence how effective it would be with audiences.

The sequence, Safire noted, works in part because it’s an echo of “Wynken, Blynken and Nod,” the 1889 children’s poem by journalist Eugene Field.

It’s not clear whether it was Obama’s speechwriter or the man himself who added an extra “and” after Barton in the 2010 sequel, throwing in an extra beat to no apparent purpose.