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Archive for 2010



Stewart’s Apt Critique; Jerry, Meg Final Barnstorms

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Comic Jon Stewart provided some of the clearest thinking of this bizarre election season about the militant ignorism abroad in the land, speaking near the end of the fervently non-partisan Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington on Saturday.

“We live in hard times not end times,” he said, as Calbuzz couch potatoes (waiting for the first pitch in game three of the World Series) bestirred ourselves to take copious notes on Stewart’s implicit critique of the apocalypse-now voices of religious evangelism who argue that God’s wrath is the cause of AIDS, hurricanes and earthquakes.

“If we amplify everything we hear nothing . . . The press is our immune system: if it overreacts to everything we get sicker — and perhaps eczema,” he said, a knock at the 24/7 news cycle fear mongers whose quest for ratings renders them unable to modulate how seriously to treat any story, whether it’s a missing co-ed in Aruba, trapped miners in Chile or the war in Afghanistan.

“Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives,” Stewart said, arguing for civility in our political discourse. “Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do. Often something they do not want to do. But they do it.”

And he warned those who expect too much too soon that real change takes time: “Sometimes, the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes, it’s just New Jersey .”

Here’s an on-the-scene report from Calbuzz Washington Correspondent Mackenzie Weinger:

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear brought thousands of people to Washington, D.C.’s Mall – but did it bring the funny?

With just days before the election, the comedians’ three-hour rally aimed to infuse a bit of “reasonableness” back into political discourse, without ever mentioning the midterms or encouraging people to go out and vote. Rally attendee estimates ranged from Comedy Central’s 250,000 to Stewart’s reasonable guess of 10 million, and the event featured a variety of musical acts and comedic bits. But it also featured poorly placed jumbo screens, an ineffective sound system and some seriously dull moments from the stage.

The biggest entertainment of the day came from the crowd, many of whom dressed up and hoisted signs declaring themselves for “Team Fear” or calling for politicians to “Man-ner Up.”

Following a far-too long opening set featuring The Roots and John Legend, Mythbusters stars Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage took the stage. The bit was a total dud, with the crowd lackadaisically participating in their “experiments,” including jumping and laughing on cue.

Things picked up once Stewart rolled onto the stage and introduced one of the more impressive moments of the afternoon, a group of four U.S. troops singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Colbert arrived in typically ridiculous fashion, emulating the Chilean miners as he was pulled up from his “fear bunker.”

The rest of the rally featured a mishmash of comedy and music, as Ozzy Osbbourne and Yusuf Islam played their competing songs, “Crazy Train” and “Peace Train” before The O’Jays brought the two together with their classic, “Love Train.”

The rally’s mishmash wasn’t always successful, however, and the poor sound system didn’t help matters. Rally-goers frequently broke up the event by yelling “Louder! Louder!” to no avail. Stewart and Colbert’s mock-debate went on too long, but a delightful moment came when Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar waltzed on the stage while the two were talking about fearing Muslims. Stewart: “There are a lot of Muslim people you might like.”

After handing out Medals for Reasonableness and Fear and hearing from a smattering of musical acts, including Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow, Stewart wrapped up the event by turning serious. “The truth is, we work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don’t is here, or on cable TV — but Americans don’t live here or on cable TV.”

Stewart and Colbert also used the event to critique the media and played multiple clips of pundits sniping at each other. “The country’s 24-hour politico-pundit-perpetual-panic conflictinator did not cause our problems,” Stewart said. “but its existence makes solving them that much harder.”

The rally ended right on cue, and people trailed off the Mall at 3 p.m. to crowd the streets, bars and metro stops of D.C. -30-

Meanwhile, out on the campaign trail, Jerry Brown kicked off a three-day flyaround at his headquarters in Oakland where SacBMinus reporter David Siders reported that Brown lost his train of thought while talking about jobs and the economy.

“I don’t like to say the same old, same old,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m always getting off script. Some candidates feel very secure with messaged discipline. I get very bored with that, because to me life is a continuing discovery.”

Later, he said, “OK, I think I’ll stop there because I might say something I might regret.”

The Armies of eMeg quickly jumped on the item and sent it out to reporters with delight, suggesting that Old Man Brown had lost his marbles even before his campaign drive had even begun.

Meg Whitman Herself started off her own barnstorm in Costa Mesa asking Orange County supporters, “We’ve got the chance to make some history here don’t we?”  after driving up the the event in her green “Take Back Sacramento Express” bus.

“We have the chance to put a proven job creator in office for the first time in many, many years. We have the chance to create real change in Sacramento,” Seema Mehta of the ByGodLATimes reported. “We’re going to take back California for our children and our grandchildren. You know what else we have a chance to do? Put the first woman governor in California in office.”

Unless the polls that say she’s way behind Brown among women, Latinos and independents turn out to be correct. In which case, the only history she’ll make is having run the most expensive losing campaign for governor of all time.

After Oakland, Brown was scheduled to rally the troops in Stockton, Merced, Fresno and Bakersfield; on Sunday he planned stops in Eureka, Chico, Sacramento and Riverside; and on Monday rallies in San Diego, Los Angeles, Salinas and Oakland.

Whitman’s Saturday schedule took in Costa Mesa, Vista, Sacramento and Cupertino; on Sunday she was scheduled for Burbank and Santa Barbara, and on Monday she’s due to visit Woodland Hills, Santa Ana, San Diego and Temecula.

Meyer on Meg’s Money; Bonus: Her Personality

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

Whether Meg Whitman tastes personal triumph or bitter defeat on Tuesday, her do-it-my-way campaign for governor will end with a bunch of winners: the scores of media, polling, online, policy and strategic consultants who backed up the truck and hauled off many, many millions of dollars of her money.

In a year when the Supreme Court threw off all restrictions on corporate and labor campaign spending, Karl Rove pioneered new methods for funneling secret funds into races across the country and more than half of the members of the U.S. Senate were millionaires, eMeg secured her own special place in political history by tossing at least $140 million of her own fortune into the pot – making her bid for governor a more expensive proposition than Al Gore’s effort to become president in 2000. As of this week, her burn rate was up to $1.4 million a day.

As sartorially splendiferous editorial cartoonist Tom Meyer bids farewell to the nouveaux riches Legions of eMeg today, it’s worth poring through the dusty volumes of ancient Calbuzz writings to excavate a piece from the earliest days of the site, when we examined the checkered history of self-funding candidates for top offices in California:

Pity the poor billionaire seeking high office in California : Not once in modern political history has a self-financed candidate captured a top-of-ticket party nomination and gone on to be elected governor or U.S. senator in the state.

This historic trend again marks California as a great exception, in contrast to states like New Jersey and Texas , where multimillionaires routinely prevail.

Good luck and Godspeed on Tuesday, Meg. Sorry we never got to have that dinner.


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eMeg — The Person: Despite considerable sideline agitation by the esteemed Dr. P.J. Hackenflack, our staff psychiatrist, Calbuzz has refrained by and large from trying to explain Meg Whitman’s personality, or to examine her skills at mothering, or to look too deeply into her intellectual, emotional or spiritual motivations. Frankly, we don’t really know the woman. Our attempts to get up close and personal have been rebuffed, so we have — for the most part — not gone all psychological on eMeg (as we have on Jerry Brown, aka Krusty the General, aka Gandalf).

But while writers at Gawker have not been so restrained, neither are the folks over at the Bay Citizen, which posted a story on Friday titled, “At eBay, Whitman Was Known for Fierce Temper.” The story had the following subhead: “Former employees say her angry outbursts and imperious management style raise questions about how she’d govern.”

“She was very angry, irrational when under stress, very difficult to be around,” said a former eBay technology executive who was present at a meeting to discuss a June 1999 crisis in which the eBay computer system crashed and could not be reliably restored. This executive said that Whitman threw a phone or pager at a marketing representative from Veritas Software who had brought the unwelcome news that a Veritas engineer could not attend the meeting. One other employee present corroborated this employee’s account, and a third employee present corroborated that Whitman was irate and used profanity but was unable to see whether or not she threw something at the marketing representative.

About 20 people, including eBay staff and personnel from Oracle, Veritas and Sun Microsystems, were present. Whitman “just went ballistic,” the technology executive said. “She was in a rage, swearing. Really hard-core swearing. I don’t know how many times she said ‘fuck.’ Over and over and over. She laid into this poor woman. She just went on, wouldn’t let go. Everybody was in shock and astonished at what Meg was doing. You just don’t see this kind of thing in business meetings.”

So, maybe Nicky Diaz — the housekeeper she fired abruptly after nine years, after finding our she was an illegal immigrant — got off easy.

She actually said the words: After eMeg got some rough treatment at a stop at a Cuban bakery in Glendale Friday, she was asked about the recent spate of polls showing her significantly behind Jerry Brown. Whereupon she responded with the hoariest cliche in politics, always a clear signal that it’s wayyyy past time for the campaign to be over:

“Polls schmolls,” Whitman said. “The only poll that really matters is the poll on Election Day.

This just in: Joe (Ballgame) Garofoli reports that Barbara Boxer is — oddly — saying the magic words as well.
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Field Poll numbers: Latest survey has Gavin Newsom leading Abel Maldonado in the Lieutenant Governor’s race 42-37% and Steve Cooley and Kamala Harris at 39-38% in the race for Attorney General. Jump ball.
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Meg’s Latest Jerry vs Jerry ad: Nice clip from 1995 of CNN’s Frank Sesno asking Brown “What did you lie about as governor?” Says Jerry: “It’s all a lie!” And Team Whitman wants you to remember that’s what he said. Jerry’s Kids will probably say, “Hey, that’s back when he was a radio host, trying to be provocative. Old news.” If they bother to respond at all.

Babs’ Big Lead in Field Poll; Meg to Nicky: ‘Go Home’

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Despite much huffing and puffing from the beltway media and an $8 million injection into Carly Fiorina’s campaign by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Barbara Boxer has expanded her lead in the U.S, Senate race to 49-41%, according to the latest Field Poll.

Boxer owes her lead to her standing among independent voters, women and Latinos, and also to the fact that non-partisan voters have a very low opinion of Fiorina – 30% favorable versus 51% unfavorable – compared to their view of Boxer, 50-36% favorable.

With her background of having exported 30,000 jobs when she was CEO of Hewlett Packard, and with her stands against choice, for offshore oil drilling and against California’s climate change law, Fiorina has positioned herself squarely to the right of the California mainstream.

The only broad demographic groups where she is ahead more than the survey’s 3.2% margin of error are with Republicans (79-10%) and with voters in Southern California outside of Los Angeles (53-39%) and in the Central Valley (50-38%).

While Boxer’s favorable-to-unfavorable rating is just 48-47%, she is drawing more than eight in 10 Democrats, about half the independents and men and a majority of women. She has nearly two-thirds of the Latinos, plus six in 10 voters in Los Angeles and more than six in 10 voters in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Among those who have already voted by mail – 21% of the survey sample – Boxer leads 48-42%. And because the Field Poll’s sample contained 44% Democrats and 39% Republians – a five-point differential, compared to 13 points in official registration – the so-called “enthusiasm gap” is accounted for.

Moreover, Field’s likely voter sample contains just 51% women, while many pollsters, including last week’s Los Angeles Times/USC Survey, anticipate that women will comprise 53% of the total electorate. If that is accurate, then the Field Poll could actually be understating the vote for Boxer. In addition, Field’s likely voter sample contains 16% Latinos – a proportion that is three percentage points below registration.

The Field Poll interviewed a random sample of 1,501 registered voters, listed in the Secretary of State’s voter file by landline or cell phone, depending on their listing in the official file. From them, Field culled 1,092 likely voters who said they had already voted or who said they were “absolutely certain” to vote and whose voting history – if they were not newly registered – suggested they were likely to vote. Likely voters in Field’s survey constitute 73% of the registered voters who completed interviews.

Interviewing was conducted in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese in two waves: Oct 14-19 and Oct 20-26. The margin of error for the overall likely voter sample is +/- 3.2%.

Calbuzz obtained the Field Poll from sources because we have been denied our offer to become paid subscribers.

Are you kidding me? What to make ot Meg Whitman’s statement to Greta Van Susteren of Fox News:  “It breaks my heart, but she should be deported because she forged documents and she lied about her immigration status . . . The law’s the law and we live in a rule of law, it’s important.”

We hate sounding cynical, but the Armies of eMeg have given us good reason to suspect the worst, as in: Could it be that Whitman’s people have concluded they have completely lost the Latino vote (since polls show Whitman drawing well below 30%)?

And so they opted to pander to the right-wing of the Republican Party, which is eager to see Nicky Diaz deported and which was disappointed, not that eMeg sent Nicky packing, but that she didn’t turn her into immigration authorities.

By far the most offensive aspect of Whitman’s performance in the matter, however, is her disgraceful public posture of shedding crocodile tears while blithely throwing Diaz under the bus, all the while whining and wallowing in self-pity about how this is breaking HER heart. Simply shameful.

Field Poll: Why Brown is Ahead, Willing to Go Positive

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Gaining hugely among women, independents, and Latinos in the past month, Democrat Jerry Brown now leads Republican Meg Whitman 49-39% among likely voters in the governor’s race, according to the authoritative Field Poll – widely regarded as the most accurate political survey in California.

Despite spending $38 million from Sept. 1 to the middle of October – and many millions since – Whitman has only made herself more unpopular, while Brown, who spent about $24 million in the same period, saw his popularity improve slightly. Whitman’s favorable-to-unfavorable rating is now 42-51%, slightly worse than her 40-45% standing in September. Meanwhile, Brown’s favorable-to-unfavorable rating now is 47-47% compared to 44-47% in September.

Team Krusty, it seems, has made the election a referendum on Whitman’s character while the Armies of eMeg have been unable to force voters to focus on their narrative about Brown’s record on the issues, which they calculated would frame the race.

Essentially, Whitman’s extravagant TV campaign, overseen by veteran GOP strategist Mike Murphy, has failed either to make his candidate popular or to knock Brown off his stride. But Brown’s guerilla advertising, made by longtime associate Joe Trippi and his shop, have driven up Whitman’s negatives while making Brown seem more authentic and knowledgeable.

The Brown campaign unveiled a killer ad on Wednesday, this one simply clips from the Women’s Conference interaction on Tuesday among NBC’s Matt Lauer, Brown and Whitman in which Brown agrees to take any negative ads off the air if Whitman will do the same. But she refused.

On Wednesday, the Brown campaign gave Whitman 24 hours to decide if she would accept the no-negative-ad challenge before putting the ad on the air (although it’s not really a negative) and said he’d call on all those groups supporting him to take down their negative ads if she would agree to do the same.

“Jerry Brown’s phony pledge is just what you would expect from a cynical career politician,” replied Whitman spokeswoman Andrea Rivera. “Jerry Brown is hypocritically pledging to take down negative ads, while his allies are launching new negative spots at the very same time.”

Brown’s comfort with taking down all negative ads reflects his lead in public and private surveys. In today’s Field Poll, Brown is pulling about eight in 10 Democrats while Whitman has about three-fourths of the Republicans. But among independents – the crucial, cross-over voters who determine statewide elections in California  – Brown has taken a commanding 49-33% lead, up from a 38-38% tie in September.

Brown also has captured a big-time lead among women – 51-35%.  Asked Wednesday on a conference call with reporters, why Whitman is doing so poorly among women, Steve Glazer, Brown’s campaign manager replied: “Through words and deeds she’s been unable to connect and create any credibility and trust.”

Likewise, among Latinos, who had flirted with Whitman until learning that she had unceremoniously fired her housekeeper of nine years and would deny a path to citizenship even for undocumented college graduates, the Attorney General has soared to 57-27%, driving Whitman’s margin below the campaign’s target of one-third of Latino voters.

The only broad categories in which Whitman now leads outside of the poll’s 3.2% margin of error are Republicans, Southern California outside of Los Angeles (50-37%)  and inland counties (47-38%). But those inland counties only account for 29% of the vote and in coastal counties, which make up 71% of the vote, Brown leads 53-25%. Much of that comes from Brown’s huge 58-30% lead in Los Angeles County and massive 61-28% margin in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Because voting-by-mail has already begun in California, the Field Poll was able to break voters into three categories: 1) permanent absentee voters (known in the trade as PAVs)  who have already voted (21%); 2) those PAVs who will vote (34%); and 3) those who plan to vote Nov. 2 at their precinct (45%).

Among all PAVs, Brown leads 48-40%, including by 48-41% among those who have already voted. He also leads 49-38% among those who plan to vote Nov. 2. The element of certainty among those who have already voted, coupled with the very tight ratio of Democrats-to-Republicans in the likely voter sample – 44% D and 39% R (compared to a 13% spread in official registration) – already incorporates effects of the so-called enthusiasm gap that is said to favor Republicans this election cycle.

Moreover, Field’s likely voter sample contains just 51% women, while many pollsters, including last week’s Los Angeles Times/USC Survey, anticipate that women will comprise 53% of the total electorate. If that is accurate, then the Field Poll could actually be understating the vote for Brown. In addition, Field’s likely voter sample contains 16% Latinos – a proportion that is three percentage points below registration.

The Field Poll interviewed a random sample of 1,501 registered voters, listed in the Secretary of State’s voter file by landline or cell phone, depending on their listing in the official file. From them, Field culled 1,092 likely voters who said they had already voted or who said they were “absolutely certain” to vote and whose voting history – if they were not newly registered – suggested they were likely to vote. Likely voters in Field’s survey constitute 73% of the registered voters who completed interviews.

Interviewing was conducted in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese in two waves: Oct 14-19 and Oct 20-26. The margin of error for the overall likely voter sample is +/- 3.2%.

Calbuzz obtained the Field Poll from sources because our offer to become paid subscribers has been refused.

Can’t anybody here play this game? The Giants won ugly to open the Blue State-Red State World Series on Wednesday, drubbing the Texas Rangers 11-7, but the Calbuzz MVP of Game One was Joe Garofoli of the hometown S.F. daily.

While many others fell for eMeg’s tired stunt of placing a joke wager with a politician from the rival state in the Series,  Joe Ballgame alone called out the candidate for shameless band wagon pandering by trying to associate herself with the sensational story of the Giants’ unlikely run into the Fall Classic.

Among his other well-placed criticisms, he noted that she phoned Texas Governor Rick Perry to make the phony bet from a surf shop in San Diego, a town represented baseball-wise by the Padres, the club San Francisco beat to get into the playoffs.

Now we strongly suspect that, if Her Megness actually ever did show up for a ballgame, she’d a) be wearing a cashmere sweater tied loosely around her shoulders; b) order a glass of chablis from the beer guy; and c) ask at the concession stand if she could get a tofu dog on a whole wheat bun. All that aside, however, we can only shake our heads at the breathtaking presumption of a rookie pol, who’s never been elected to anything, not only poaching on the perquisites of California’s actual governor but also anointing herself head cheerleader for a ball club, let alone an entire state.

Instead of just accepting the brushback pitch that she clearly deserved, and that Garofoli quite properly delivered, however, Team Whitman thought it a good idea to pick a fight over Joe’s original item.

Insisting eMeg’s status as a Giants fan was long-standing, they sent him a clip of an interview with a San Diego TV station in which she said she was rooting for the G-men in the playoffs, apparently to demonstrate her willingness to take a tough stance even if it meant offending viewers in Padre-town.

Only problem was, the interview happened on Oct. 18, 15 days after the Giants beat the Padres on the last day of the regular season to win the National League West division crown and knock the San Diegans out of the post-season.  Sheesh.

As such an avid fan, Meg, here’s some Giants slang you’ll no doubt appreciate: Grab some pine, meat.

eMeg’s Historic Meltdown: Woman Booed by Women

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

LONG BEACH  — Handed a splendid opportunity to portray her campaign as an historic event for women in politics, Meg Whitman made a different kind of history on Tuesday.

Campaigning to become California’s first female governor, Republican Whitman accomplished the seemingly impossible feat of getting roundly booed by a non-partisan audience of 14,000 women gathered to, um, celebrate the accomplishments of women.

In a remarkable few moments of unscripted political theater, eMeg turned cheers to jeers at the California Women’s Conference in Long Beach, as she fumbled and stumbled through an excruciatingly awkward exchange about TV attack ads with Democratic rival Jerry Brown and NBC’s Matt Lauer, who moderated the unusual session, which also included outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

As on two previous occasions when she was forced to react in real time outside the accustomed comfort of her campaign cocoon – her famously awful 2009 press conference when she tried to defend her decades-long failure to vote and the presser she convened a few weeks ago to answer questions about employing an undocumented housekeeper for nine years –  eMeg on Tuesday displayed a rare combination of political tone deafness and an utter inability to think on her feet.

By the time the fireworks ended, Whitman had not only failed to take advantage of a chance to boost her sagging standing among women voters, a week before the Nov. 2 election, but also succeeded in making her male opponent look good.

In the process, she managed to embarrass herself with a thoroughly dopey performance before the state’s political press corps and most of the TV cameras south of the Tehachapis, making major campaign news out of what should have been a feel-good appearance at a touchy-feely event.

How it started: The drama began near the end of the live session with the governor and the two candidates who want to succeed him, as Lauer — who demonstrated he knows absolutely NOTHING about politics — shamelessly sought to play to the kumbaya crowd with a horseshit, goody-goody question.

First decrying the negative ads that both sides have run – which, Lauer emoted, have created a “bloodbath” (puh-leeze) – he asked:

“Would either of you, or both of you, be willing to make a pledge that you would end the negativity? [Big cheer] Would you pull your negative ads and replace them with positive ads and talk to the surrogate groups as well [which would be ILLEGAL, you jackass, which is why they're called independent expenditures] and express that to them, that you want only positive message out there to give the people of California a break and let them decide what really matters. Would either of you accept that?”

It was a totally inappropriate question and actually unfair to Whitman, who is behind in all the public polls and has no choice in a tough campaign in which she’s invested $140 million of her own money, but to try to pull voters away from Brown. In any event, that’s her decision. And Lauer had no business sticking his scrawny ass into the campaign and trying to broker some deal because he thinks that’s how the game should be played. If he knew anything about politics in general and California politics in particular he would not have asked such a dimwit question.

But the women in the audience, who spent the day applauding the inspirational good works of poets, playwrights, Supreme Court justices — not to mention Oprah Winfrey and conference convener and California First Lady Maria Shriver — thundered their approval.

Round One: Brown answered first, venturing forth with a Buddhist-tinged meditation on the subjective nature of reality — “First of all you have to remember, negativity is in the eye of the beholder . . .” –drawing scattered boos and hoots. But Brown’s political antennae suddenly tuned in — “Oh yeah,” he must have thought, “I’m AHEAD, I can afford to go all positive if she does” — and with head-snapping alacrity, he switched direction:  “. . . but if Meg wants to do that, I’ll be glad to do that.”

Cheers.

Then eMeg started digging herself in, trying to draw a bright line distinction between her negative ads – true, honorable and all about the issues – and Brown’s negative ads – false, unfair personal assaults on her sterling character. Sez her.

“The character attacks, the attacks of personal destruction, the attacks on one’s character I think are very different than a debate on the issues. It’s OK that Jerry Brown and I disagree, for example, about the capital gains tax – something I think should be eliminated and he doesn’t. It’s OK to have a discussion around the issues,” Whitman argued. “What I have found very challenging, and I’ll be honest about it, is the personal attacks. The things that I have been called in this campaign – it’s not fair to the voters of California, it isn’t the right thing to do…”

Lauer broke in and got up on his New York know-nothing high horse: “There’s been enough slurs and housekeepers. We know you are both flawed people. Everybody in this room is flawed…But what is going to accomplish what Gov. Schwarzenegger is talking about – taking California to the next step, financially in particular, is going to be your strengths not your weaknesses. And I’m asking again, will you both pledge? I’ll give you 24 hours because I know the wheels of a campaign don’t stop overnight,” he said, as if he actually knew anything about how campaigns operate.

Round Two: Brown, quick as ever, joined Lauer’s game: “Let’s be clear about it: if she takes her negative ads, reasonably defined, I’ll take mine off. No question. We do it together. No problem. . . . I pledge that right now.” Krusty was in for a dime, in for a dollar, eliciting big cheers from the ladies at lunch.

But Meg kept digging, trying to parse and finesse the question before an audience that was in full bay for promises of sweetness and light.

“So here’s what I will do,” she said. “I’ll take down any ad that could even be remotely construed as a personal attack. But I don’t think we can take down the ads that talk about where Gov. Brown stands on the issues. I just think it’s not the right thing to do.”

Booooo, hisssss, hoooot….

Lauer said people seem to be asking for more.  And Brown smelled blood in the water.

“I’ve got one nice ad where I look into the camera and I just say what I’m for,” he said, ever so reasonably to Whitman. “You have a very nice ad where you look into the camera – it’s a pretty good ad by the way. We’ll leave up one and let all the other ones go off. I’ll agree to that right now.”

Lauer tried to seal the deal but Whitman froze. “Let me try a different approach…” he said, when Brown jumped in, offering Whitman a lifeline: “You know, I don’t think it’s quite fair, to [have to] make a decision in the face of all this,” he said, sounding ever so gentle.

Round three: Lauer said he’d studied the polls [right] before he came to California and “some could say what you’ve tried to this point isn’t completely working, why not try a different course,” he lectured Whitman. “And Gov. Brown, some could say if you do believe the polls and you’re leading, I would imagine you wouldn’t only want to think it’s because you diminished your opponent, correct, so get rid of all those things” — which was doubly stupid because 1) Brown is happy to diminish his opponent and 2) he’d already agreed to Lauer’s dumbass proposal.

But Whitman kept digging:

“I think it’s important because I’m new to politics. People need to know where I stand and also they need to know Jerry Brown has been in politics for 40 years and there’s a long track record there and I want to make sure people really understand what’s going on.

“And I’m not doing it in a mean-spirited way. [Guffaws in the press tent] I just think it’s important for people to really understand what the track record was in Oakland, what the track record was as governor,” she said, while audience members started searching for overripe vegetables to throw.

His lifeline rejected, Brown decided to go in for the kill: “I’ve got a great ad. It starts off with Meg Whitman saying I moved to California 30 years ago because it was such a great place with all this opportunity. And then the ad says, and who was governor?”

Huge uproarious laughter and whooping in the press tent.

Did Meg stop digging? No way. “What you need to know is that in many ways, Jerry Brown left the state in worse shape than he did (sic) when he inherited it,” she said.

Booooooo…

[Capsule clip here]

End Game: Lauer was worried he was going too long until Schwarzenegger told him the conference was his and Maria’s and he shouldn’t schvitz (sweat) the extra minutes. And then he said nice things about Meg, nice things about Jerry and also rapped Meg with the back of his hand,  implicitly defending his record against her constant refrain that she as governor would make California “golden again.”

“I happen to disagree with Meg a little bit,” the governor said. “California is going to be a golden state once again? California is a golden state!”

Bottom line: eMeg should have listened to Calbuzz and played the gender card. Everything leading up to that moment was all about how it’s time for a woman. Instead, she spun gold into straw.

The mistress of swag: Before the fun started, the Calbuzz Department of Consumer Affairs and Worthless Tchotchke Collections was privileged to receive an extraordinary guided tour of the exhibit hall where conference sponsors and vendors were hawking their wares.

Our guide, a prominent MSM reporter whose name is withheld to avoid embarrassing her family, led us on an expedition that netted products ranging from hand sanitizers, body lotions and KY “intensity cream” samples to miniature flashlights from SoCal Edison, cardio stent stress squeeze balls and countless varieties of health bars from a host of fruit and nut manufacturers.

Best score: A package of postcards trumpeting all 125 careers that Barbie has engaged in over the years of her existence, including TV newswoman Barbie.