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Carly: Pass Reforms, Dump ‘Bitter Partisan’ Babs

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

SAN DIEGO – With a slashing attack on Sen. Barbara Boxer, Carly Fiorina called Saturday for sweeping reforms to shake up Washington, a bid to steer the race away from issues where she is to the right of mainstream voters and to frame her Republican candidacy as a strike against the status quo.

Portraying Boxer as a left-wing ideologue and prime example of a failed liberal Democratic establishment, Fiorina cast herself as an agent of change who would fight for Congressional term limits and rules changes to make Senate legislation more transparent to citizens.

It’s doubtful that Boxer will rise to the bait by engaging Fiorina on issues like term limits and open government, however. Her campaign would rather keep voters focused on matters where her rival has taken positions more conservative than the more moderate, independent voters who will decide the election — immigration, climate change and abortion , for example  — as well as the Republican’s record as the fired CEO of Hewlett Packard.

In her crisply delivered mid-day speech to state Republican convention delegates, Fiorina repeatedly criticized Boxer as a career politician who long ago overstayed her welcome in Washington.

“They say Washington is a place where people go to do good and stay to do well,” she said, in launching her verbal assault.

“To be blunt, for four decades, (Boxer) has earned her keep not by the sweat of her brow, but by the toil and struggle of hard-working Americans in the private sector. And her left-wing ideology allows her to avoid agonizing over tough decisions,” she said.

Fiorina called for an end to “a system where politicians make backroom deals to ensure their eternal re-election and the re-election of their buddies in Congress.” To that end, she pledged to serve only two terms in the Senate and called for limiting House and Senate terms to 12 years each.

“Ours was intended to be a citizen government and 12 years in each chamber of Congress is enough time to get something done without losing touch with the real world,” she said.

Fiorina also endorsed Proposition 20, an initiative that calls for a citizens commission to draw Congressional district boundaries, instead of leaving the job to the state Legislature. She also called for the defeat of Prop. 27, a measure sponsored by legislative leaders to reverse earlier, voter-approved state redistricting reforms, and for posting federal legislation online for public comment for at least two weeks before voting begins, including complete cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.

Fiorina repeated the charge that the Obama administration’s economic stimulus bill– which Boxer supported — has been an utter failure, noting that California’s unemployment rate , now 12.3%, was 10.2% when the stimulus was passed.

She cast Boxer as a “bitter partisan” who has achieved little in her 34 years in public office, 28 as a U.S. Senator and House member.  “Barbara Boxer,” she said, “the only job you are fighting for is your own.”

Carly and the little people: Hurricane Carly blew past a crowd of about 100 cheering volunteers her campaign had assembled to greet her at the entrance of the Manchester Grand Hyatt, barely pausing to acknowledge them, let alone offer personal thank yous,  handshakes or hugs.

Fiorina was nearly 45 minutes late when she swept in at 11:25 a.m., stopping for just a few seconds to wave at her supporters, who had assembled early and lined up to practice chanting her name (weirdest sign: “Carly – Rep Our Hood,” held by a woman with a baseball cap on sideways). Then the candidate quickly made a sharp right turn, briskly walking through the crowd, up the escalator and out of sight.

A trio of elderly folks from central California, all clad in bright red “Carly” caps and t-shirts, told  Calbuzz as they walked away through the hotel lobby that they’d waited an hour to see their party’s nominee and were disappointed that she hadn’t spent some time meeting and greeting her grassroots backers.

Another reason why we call her Hurricane Carly.

Dems come to town: While Fiorina was inside getting ready for her big speech, we found our old friend Kam Kuwata outside the Hyatt, overseeing a rag-tag picket line of Boxer supporters who carried handwritten signs (“Fiorina = Massive Job Losses”) and chanted (“Bad for California – Bad for H-P”) as they marched on the sidewalk to protest the Republicans’ position on tax cuts for the rich and her record as CEO of Hewlett-Packard.

Kuwata is coordinating a new truth squad operation called “CEO Watch,” financed by the L.A. County Democratic Party, to “educate the voters about the Republican candidates for office.” He had a pink flyer, headlined “Carly Fiorina’s ‘Pink Slip’ for California,” affixed to his lapel with the biggest safety pin in California.

There were no injuries.

LATE BREAKING UPDATE: For those of you who were dying to know what happened to the California Republican Assembly’s resolution putting the state GOP on record supporting Arizona’s “papers please you immigrant suspect” law, here’s the poop: It died in the Resolutions Committee for a lack of a second (and opposition from Meg Whitman’s loyalists). Bee Person, Torey “Don’t Call Me Dutch” Van Oot (who,btw, is NOT Dutch, thereby embarrassing Calbuzz who called her “The Tulip”) has all the intel here.

Whitman’s Speech: Your Eyes Are Getting Heavy…

Friday, August 20th, 2010

SAN DIEGO – Bottom line on Meg Whitman’s 22-minute dinner address tonight to the California Republican Party state convention: as red meat speeches go, it was pretty much boiled beef.

Jerry Brown is “bought and paid for by the unions and the entrenched interests.” That was her best line because at least it had some bite, appealed to the public passion of the moment and contained enough truth to make it believable. It’s a plan fact that without union support this summer, Brown would now be stuck in the wake of S.S. eMeg.

But a few good lines does not a great convention speech make. With all the passion of a principal explaining attendance rules to the sixth grade assembly on the first day of school, Meg otherwise unleashed a flaccid set of platitudes and snoozer talking points worthy of Jack Kemp.

Some of the, um, highlights:

“Enough is enough.”
Enough Jerry Brown, enough unions, enough bad schools, enough fiscal debt, yada yada yada.

“This race is about the future versus the past.”
Oh, gee, what time is it?

“This is a battle for the soul of California .
So says the Long Island horsewoman with the merest passing relationship with the voting booths of the Golden State.

“We’re going to have to stand up and be counted and take our state back.”
eMeg: she avoids clichés like the plague.

“There is tremendous room for improvement.”
Mrs. Harsh, can I please have a hall pass?

“I refuse to sit by and watch our state fail.”
Nice of you to notice.

“I don’t owe anyone anything, except the voters of California .”
What about Goldman Sachs?

“I want to cut taxes. I want to make California competitive again.”
Zzzzzz…

Post mortem: Two words that were notable for their absence in eMeg’s analysis of the gloomy state of affairs in Sacramento: Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Also unmentioned: Pete Wilson, another past Republican governor and current Whitman chairman.

Oh, did I forget to mention: Climate change and immigration.

And to all a good night.

GOP Liveblog: Right-Wing Whacks eMeg Early

Friday, August 20th, 2010

SAN DIEGO — Even before Meg Whitman stepped up to address the Republican state convention here, leaders of the party’s grassroots right wing sharply criticized her stands on immigration and the environment, warning that many conservative voters might sit out the election if she takes their support for granted.

Top officials of the California Republican Assembly and Young Republican Federation of California told reporters covering the convention at San Diego’s Manchester Grand Hyatt that the GOP nominee for governor is making both an ideological error and a serious strategic mistake by moderating her earlier positions on illegal immigration, California’s climate change law and taxes, among other issues.

“There’s almost nothing left of the primary Meg,” said former CRA and GOP chairman Mike Schroeder.  “It’s time for the Republican Party to be officially concerned about whether or not Republicans are going to turn out for this ticket . . . if there’s no enthusiasm a lot of people don’t turn out at all.”

“Republicans are unified in their support for Meg Whitman both here at the convention and across the state,” replied Brian Seitchik, spokeman for the GOP.  Immigration and other issues will not fragment the party, he said. “The party is unified behind Meg because she has a plan to create jobs and that’s going to be the central issue in November.”

Despite assurances from Whitman loyalists in the party apparatus, the tone and substance of the comments by the conservative leaders showed that her brazen shift to the political center after portraying herself as a movement conservative in the primary is deeply upsetting some of the most loyal Republican voters.

Calbuzz asked this question: Do you think she is taking the conservative wing of the Republican Party for granted?

“Yes,” said Schroeder. “I think she assumes that people will look and say, ‘Well, the alternative is Jerry Brown.’ But that’s not true. The alternative to Jerry Brown is not voting at all, or voting for the Libertarian or somebody else. And that’s what a lot of the conversation is becoming.”

Because a state party convention is a kind of ideological hothouse, it is not clear whether the comments from the right-wing leaders represent an actual threat to Whitman’s chances in the general election against Democrat Jerry Brown, or more a intramural scuffle for the hearts and minds of the activists who populate these conventions. The CRA endorsed Steve Poizner, eMeg’s rival, as the preferred conservative in the GOP primary.

It didn’t help relations between the two sides, however, that the CRA was denied access to the official GOP press room and was forced to hold forth in a lobby.

The CRA is sponsoring a resolution, which they are trying to bring before the convention, that would put the party squarely on record in favor of both California’s Proposition 187 and the controversial Arizona law aimed at illegal immigrants. Whitman has said she would have opposed 187, if she was living in the state in 1994. And she has said that while the Arizona law is OK for Arizona, it’s impractical in California.

“That’s nonsense,” said Celeste Greig, president of the CRA. Greig said she is not  concerned that pushing Whitman to the right on the issue could backfire on her in the general election. “We are trying to help her. We want her to win. We want her to be successful. But we also want her to come aboard with the issues that we care about. We want her to stand strong on what she campaigned for in the primary election.”

As a political matter, however, the flap between Whitman and the right-wing overshadowed what Team Whitman had hoped would be the message of the day. Earlier in the day, her campaign produced an elaborately staged media event at a solar company in San Diego that was intended to showcase her alleged plan for dealing with California’s 12.5% unemployment; it was no accident that her convention speech was scheduled for late Friday evening, when it might be too late to get on TV news, and would get relatively short shrift in the poorly-read Saturday papers.

Even before the CRA news conference, eMeg managed to step on her own story in advance, when she told reporters at a press gaggle that, if elected governor, she would support a legal appeal by supporters of the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8, a position Gov. Schwarzenegger has refused to take.

But it’s Whitman’s waffling stance on illegal immigration (along with her refusal to endorse Prop. 23, overturning California’s climate-change law) that has her party’s right wing worried.

Adam Abrahms, president of the GOP youth federation said he’ll vote for Whitman but she’s not sure he can bring masses of cohorts along. “It’s a matter of enthusiasm. And I want all of our candidates to go out there and say the things and do the things that are going to help energize our base . . .  In 2008 I had a very difficult time motivating people to do something with  Mr. McCain. There was a big problem. They didn’t trust him,” he said.

Of course, McCain was Whitman’s candidate. After her first choice — Mitt Romney — fell by the wayside.

Road Trip! National Affairs Desk Heads to San Diego

Friday, August 20th, 2010

The center of the political universe will shift to San Diego this weekend, as eMeg, iCarly and scintillating Board of Equalization candidates from throughout the state meet in solemn conclave in a city that actually selected the phrase “Happy HAPPENS!” as its official slogan.

Our National Affairs Desk, joined by the staff and Secretary of the Department of Social Anxiety, Recreational Usage and Hollow Leg Dinner Affairs will collaborate, coordinate and cooperate to provide Calbuzz readers 24/7, real time, deadline-every-minute-coverage of the Republican State Convention all weekend.

Unless there’s nothing worth writing, in which case you’re on your own.

On me!

(Inside tip for conventioneers: We hear Jon Fleischman is buying drinks for anyone who sees him at the Manchester Grand Hyatt convention hotel and says: “You really should plug Calbuzz more on Flashreport.”)

The weekend’s highlight is expected Friday night, when Meg Whitman,  widely known horsewoman and GOP nominee for governor, is to deliver a stemwinder called “Political Management by Corporate Objective: Using Corporal Punishment for Pushing State Employees to Work More for Less.”

She’ll be joined on the dais by fellow statewide candidates, “Taliban Tony” Strickland and Damon “Don’t Call Me Dominick” Dunn, who will attempt to explain to the assembled octogenarians and by-then-sleepy delegates exactly what it is that the Controller and Secretary of State actually do.

Attending?

No word yet on whether birther whack job Orly Taitz, defeated by Dunn in the primary, will be on hand for the celebration. Hope springs eternal.

Keeping with the party’s “No Such Thing as a Free Lunch” theme, delegates and guests will be required to listen to Senate candidate “Hurricane” Carly Fiorina, AG hopeful Steve “Go Lakers” Cooley and Republican wannabe Insurance Commissioner “Landslide Mike” Villines, in order to have their mid-day meal tickets punched on Saturday.

That night’s headliner will be right-wing favorite and Lite Gov. Abel “Tax Man” Maldonado. Which is too bad for him, since most of the press corps will be chopping it up at the Dr. Hackenflack Dinner, except for the unfortunate Joe “Paisan” Garafoli and Torey “The Tulip” Van Oot, who somehow got stuck doing the pool report.

Watch this space all weekend for on-the-scene reporting of all the Republican hijinks and general hilarity. Plenty of free parking.

Out Foxed: There was lots of fierce competition for this week’s Little Pulitzer False Equivalence Award, what with Newt Gingrich equating construction of a Muslim community center two blocks from Ground Zero to Nazis putting up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington  (he was kicked out of the competition because of the automatic disqualification rule for anyone using a Nazi comparison to describe American politics).

The runner-up was Team Whitman, for its ongoing, flog-a-dead-horse attempt to equate eMeg’s $100+ million champagne taste campaign spending with the beer budget, Bad News Bears efforts of the California Working Families for Jerry Brown independent expenditure committee, which is kind of like comparing a Bugatti Veyron to a Nissan Versa. (Memo to eMeg Communications Shop: This whole “Jerry Brown Inc.” thing is hella’ lame, and the real problem is that it just doesn’t make any sense. Think about it for one minute: your whole line of attack on Krusty is that he’s bought and paid for by unions; so your tag line therefore portrays him as an evil corporation? C’mon. But we digress).

The week’s hands-down winner, however, was Calbuzz friend Joel Fox, usually one of our favorite conservative bloggers.

The weak gruel defense Fox offered up for refusing to make public the names of the contributors footing the bill for his operation to air a straight-on, anti-Brown attack spot in the guise of an alleged “issues ad” not only compared his donors to Revolutionary War patriots (sheesh) but also  evoked the First Amendment as the basis for his stonewalling.

Reporters said that donors to the ad should be disclosed even though that is not required, and these same reporters defend not disclosing their sources at times and often for the same reason…

Reporters defend a similar course of keeping sources protected from retribution by not disclosing them. Speaking the truth about an issue can displease politicians who have the power to punish through regulations, lawsuits, and other means..

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

Comparing reporters protecting whistleblower sources from punishment and retribution for calling attention to public and private wrongdoing is only exactly 180 degrees different from letting a squadron of stuffed-wallet suits and corporate sultans slither away from the spirit of the law by sucker punching a political candidate under cover of secrecy.

Alas, we fear that Joel has conflated the First Amendment freedom of the press with the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

We got nothin’ against anybody spending their however-gotten gains any way they like, including pitching in to help a poor rich gal who’s down to her last 12 or 13 zillion dollars win an election. But at least man up and take some personal responsibility for the decision to do it. We’re just sayin’.

Final word: Calbuzz mourned on Monday, when baseball immortal Bobby Thomson passed away at the age of 86. The great New York Giants second baseman was the author of the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” the most magical moment in baseball history.

On Oct. 3, 1951, Thomson lined a three-run, walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth off Ralph Branca, completing one of the greatest pennant stretch runs in baseball history, as the G-men bested the dog-ass determined Dodgers in a three-game playoff to win the National League championship and advance to the World Series.

Here’s the famous Russ Hodges call of the play, one more time for the Flying Scotsman. 

-30-

Meg’s Goal at GOP Convo: Don’t Get Burned in Effigy

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Here’s what won’t happen this weekend at the California Republican Party State Convention in San Diego:

Meg Whitman won’t speak Saturday morning when the Resolutions Committee takes up the proposal from Celeste Grieg, president of the knuckle-dragging California Republican Assembly, backing Arizona’s law empowering police to ask suspected illegal immigrants for their papers.

And since the GOP already endorsed Prop. 23 – the measure to suppress California’s pioneering climate-change law – and since eMeg says she’ll probably vote against it, she’s not likely to speak much about that Friday night when she tosses red meat to the delegates at dinner.

These are a couple of the not-bloody-likely situations Whitman will be at pains to avoid when she breezes in and out of San Diego, spending just enough time to toss off her talking points and rip into Jerry Brown (Will she meet with reporters? We don’t know yet) before booking town.

Usually, when a candidate for statewide office prepares to speak to a Republican convention, political writers and pundits blather on about how the candidate’s challenge is to “energize the base, drum up enthusiasm and rally the troops.” Your faithful Calbuzzers once dished just this kind of  hackneyed drivel.

Not this time. Looking at eMeg’s challenge facing the GOP conventioneers in San Diego this weekend we see just one basic goal: get in and out of town without getting tarred and feathered, burned in effigy or booed or heckled, although the latter might be tactically clever (see below).

Of course, she could probably make all her troubles go away by just doling out another $255,860 to various Republican organizations, including the CRP itself ($239,750). Amazing what a little walking around money will do to buy some love. And it’s not as if she needs the GOP for much: she’s paying for everything herself and running a media carpet-bombing campaign, not a grassroots insurgency.

But in the absence of buying off noisy critics, it’s hard to see what Whitman can get out of the convention. As one savvy Republican told us, “There’s nothing she can do this weekend to motivate the base that doesn’t give her a problem with swing voters.”

Although getting booed by telling right-wingers what was wrong with Prop. 187 or why she won’t vote for Prop. 23 or can’t support Arizona’s SB 1070 would be a nice touch, reminiscent of Dianne Feinstein in 1990 when she got booed by the Democratic Party convention for supporting the death penalty.

“I suspect her campaign wants to create the appearance of GOP unity. But with her missteps on illegal immigration and with (Steve) Poizner and (Tom) McClintock still holdouts, the story is likely to be the opposite, with emphasis on discord between her and GOP base on the immigration issue,” said one Republican strategist. “She would’ve been better off citing another scheduling conflict and avoid it and send a surrogate.”

Except for delivering a screed against Brown, repeating her three-part mantra (jobs, education, budget cuts) and issuing a stirring call for Republican unity, anything Whitman can get from a gathering of hard-right GOP activists will hurt her among independents and Latinos in the general electorate.

But as one Meg insider put it, “We’re not looking to be the belle of the GOP ball.”

 

Of course, if she has decided to forget about the Latino vote, she could endorse the CRA resolution on Arizona’s “papers please” law. As Greig said in her letter to fellow Republicans:

Is the Republican Party for the Rule of Law?  Pass my resolution and it will show it does.  Kill it in committee or on the floor and the Republican Party will look no different that the Democrat (sic) Party.  That will harm all of our candidates, the media will say if it fails, that the CRP can not be counted on by those that want to stop the illegal alien population growth in California, that we are in fact, siding with the illegal aliens.

Or she can come out for Prop. 23 (which Senate candidate Carly Fiorina declined to do on Tuesday) and dig herself into a bigger hole with independent voters than she’s already in. Or she can switch her support for abortion rights to align herself with her party’s anti-choice position. Or come out for more offshore oil drilling.

Don’t hold your breath. Meg’s people figure it this way: Republicans will vote for Whitman because she’s not Jerry Brown and if the convention cave people pelt her with pebbles, that’ll make her look more reasonable to independents and moderates.

The most curious intrigue seems to be around internal Republican Party politics.

According to Mike Spence, former president of the arch-conservative CRA, Meg’s people have been organizing proxies for the convention, but to what end is anyone’s guess. Maybe she plans to quash anything controversial in committee or on the floor. Spence asks:

Does the Whitman campaign want headlines from political reporters about how her proxies were used to beat up conservatives? Or headlines favoring conservatives over moderates?  . . . Would reporters and maybe John and Ken wonder if Whitman’s proxies were used to kill the [CRA Arizona law] resolution? Or did she use them to let it pass?

Or could it be that Meg’s not crazy about seeing the GOP move toward a caucus system for picking presidential candidates, or whatever rules are being cooked up for party caucuses to pick an official GOP candidate in advance of open primaries, or some wing nut becoming chairman of the state party if she gets to be governor. Who knows?  Who cares?

We know one thing: Meg and her staffers are bolting town before the most important event of the weekend – the invitation-only Calbuzz Dr. Hackenflack Dinner.