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Archive for 2010



eMeg Jumps NASCAR, Carly IEd, Meyer’s Latest

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

In the greatest tactical move since Hannibal whup-assed the Romans, Meg Whitman has stolen a march on Steve Poizner, copping an invite to fly the flag a day early at this weekend’s NASCAR racing in Fontana.

With Poizner set to ride in the pace car at the start of tomorrow’s Sprint Cup Auto Club 500, eMeg will wield the green flag for tonight’s NASCAR Nationwide Series Stater Brothers 300, with a field of drivers that includes auto racing buzz queen Danica Patrick.

“Sunday will be the only time Steve Poizner leads a race all year,” snarked Team Whitman spokeshuman, the volcanic Sara Pompei.

Although the Saturday night race is the AAA equivalent to Sunday’s Major League event, eMeg’s late entry into the NASCAR panderstakes came as a surprise that may take some of the steam out of the appearance by The Commish.

Bottom line: When Calbuzz speaks, the campaigns listen.

P.S. eMeg’s sudden agreement Friday to participate in a second debate with Poizner, this one to be broadcast May 2 on the electric television, may also help to blunt Poizner’s effort to foment trouble with a peasants-with-pitchforks petition demanding the two to face off at the March 13 GOP convention.

On the other hand, it kinda undercuts the “Hey, Hey, Steve, Steve, Get Out of My Race” line that the Armies of eMeg have been broadcasting to agree to join him in a debate in May. Talk about your mixed messages.

Negative Exposure for Hurricane Carly: The latest independent expenditure committee to surface in California — in the wake of the two aimed at boosting Jerry Brown for governor –  is “CarlyExposed.com,” an operation by the Lantern Project, a labor-funded political organization that waged a campaign against now-former Republican U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

“The first aim of the Lantern Project’s work in California is to make sure as many voters as possible are exposed to the facts about Carly Fiorina,” says Julie Buckner, a Los Angeles political strategist working with The Lantern Project. “It is absolutely our goal to help Californians understand that Carly is nothing like the innovative, problem-solving high-tech whiz kid she portrays herself to be, and to blunt misleading information conveyed to voters by Carly’s slick and well-financed campaign committee.”

At the moment, Buckner acknowledged, Carlyexposed is just a web site, a media plan and a fund-raising plan. But Buckner, an experienced political operative in Los Angeles (who also runs InYoga Center which fronts for her Laurel Canyon Media Group out back), and partner Celia Fischer expect to have a thriving anti-Carly operation running soon.

A preview: On the site is a video clip from a report by Mark Matthews of KGO-TV showing that Fiorina was for taxing internet sales before she was against it.

Buckner, Fischer and their liberal labor allies are strong supporters of Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer who, according to sources, is more worried about a challenge from Fiorina (because she is a woman with some appeal to independent voters), than she is about Assemblyman Chuck DeVore or former U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell. Thus the focus on Fiorina.

“On the occasion of Barbara Boxer formally getting into this race, it comes as no surprise that her public employee union allies would use a shady 527 organization to falsely attack Carly,” said Fiorina spokeswoman Julie Soderlund. “Carly is clearly the candidate Boxer would least like to face in the general election because she knows Carly can beat her and will hold her accountable for her failed record.”

Whether Fiorina represents the greatest threat to Boxer, however, is arguable. Because he’s pro-choice, pro-gay rights and pro-environment, Campbell might well represent an even greater threat to Boxer in a general election. Helping knock out Fiorina in the primary could backfire on Boxer’s allies in the fall. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Tom Meyer today offers perspective on the, um, PR problem facing the spinners for Blue Cross Anthem, after the company imposed 39 percent health insurance rate increases for California customers.

In a weird week filled with political meltdowns and corporate furors, the Blue Cross controversy  was just one of many challenges facing highly-paid professional liars, who did their collective best to draw happy faces on dreadful situations.

Here’s the Calbuzz Top 10 quotes of the week.

I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated. What I did was not acceptable.
–Tiger Woods, master of understatement and major jackass

It’s not a secret that she has a medical condition for which she’s being treated. That condition does not affect her ability to do her job as a senator. But it can make her irritable, and when she’s irritable, she lets it be known.
–David Miller, press secretary to state Senator Pat Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, challenging Tiger on spin, after his boss went nuclear at a hearing when a staffer forgot to refill a water pitcher.

History shows that great companies learn from their mistakes.
–Toyota USA president and CEO Jim Lentz, getting a little ahead of himself, in a full-page ad seeking to stop the bleeding as consumer confidence in his company plummets.

I was thinking tonight, I was trying to figure out that if I did announce, what the hell would I say?
–Jerry Brown, offering insight into why he’s running for governor, in a widely panned speech in San Francisco.

On a personal level I am glad that (Jerry Brown) has married. As I watched him awkwardly dance in the 1980’s with a songstress late at night at Eilish’s Bar, I gave his social development little chance. The subsequent growth may indicate some Brown progress.
–Former Congressman and current Calbuzz commentator Ernie Konnyu on how well Brown is not only aging, but maturing too.

If a Customer cannot comfortably lower the armrest and infringes on a portion of another seat, a Customer seated adjacent would be very uncomfortable and a timely exit from the aircraft in the event of an emergency might be compromised if we allow a cramped, restricted seating arrangement.
–A spokeswoman for Southwest Airlines, dancing as fast as she can, after the airline was criticized for booting 340-pound director Kevin Smith off a flight for being too fat.

So, what I’m trying to do is run a smart, strategic campaign. We’re trying to get our message out.
–Republican wannabe Governor Meg Whitman moments before fleeing into the night to avoid answering questions from reporters at an appearance in Lafayette.

I was stupid and careless and fucked up and thought [the copy from the Wall Street Journal) was my own stuff, or it somehow slipped in there.
–Fired NYT business reporter Zachary Kouwe, setting a world record for prevarication to avoid taking responsibility for being a plagiarist.

If the Olympic champion doesn’t know how to jump a quad, I don’t know. Now it’s not men’s figure skating. It’s dancing. Maybe figure skating needs a new name.
–Dethroned Olympics skating champion and roundhouse jerk Yevgeny Plushenko trash talking American Evan Lysacek’s victory performance for not including a quadruple jump.

You know, I don’t live here.
–Jacques Barzaghi, international man of mystery and banished and disgraced former Jerry Brown aide caught lurking around Oakland by the Chronicle’s Chip Johnson.

Gavin’$ Problem; M&R and the Politics of Outing

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Calbuzz has assiduously avoided writing about the race for (and machinations around) the office of Lieutenant Governor because we think  a) it’s a stupid statewide post that b) nobody cares about.

But while chatting with consultant Garry South about something else altogether, he mentioned that our old pal (and his former client) Prince Gavin Newsom of San Francisco could have some trouble if he decides to jump into the Gov Lite race.

South, a serious student of fund-raising rules in California, argued that under Fair Political Practices Commission regulations, as amended in 2000 by Prop. 34, Newsom’s major donors from the governor’s race – those who gave him anything more than the $6,500 limit in the LG’s race – cannot be tapped for more cash.

“They can’t give him another dime,” South insisted. “They’re maxed out.”

Of course, South is conflicted on this issue, since he’s now working for Lite Gov candidate Janice Hahn of the L.A. City Council, who, until Newsom started nosing around in the race, appeared to be facing only Kern County state Sen. Dean Florez for the Democratic nomination.

This isn’t about transferring money from one account to another, which Jerry Brown can do – making it possible for him to go back to the same people who gave him $6,500 for Attorney General and ask them for the difference up to $25,900, the maximum for a governor’s race.

We don’t recall a situation in California in which a candidate wipes out a governor’s campaign account and then wants trade down to another statewide office.

But Newsom friend and (for now) unpaid adviser Jason Kinney (South’s old ally and partner at California Strategies), says the Prince’s people have consulted with two different campaign law attorneys and have been told that Newsom can indeed go back to those maxed-out donors and get cash for a lite gov run – if he decides to file.

And Roman Porter, executive director of the FPPC, told Calbuzz he agrees with Kinney Newsom et al. The limits, he said, apply “per candidate, per election – it’s a separate election.” (BTW, Porter was actually at the hospital where his wife was in labor when he came to the phone to offer his perspective – way above and beyond the call of duty.)

Now, we’re not lawyers (we just pay them). But when we read the law (including the definition of a candidate) and when we think about it, South’s got a point. When you strip away all the parenthetical and qualifying clauses and update the dollar amounts the law says: Except a candidate for governor, a candidate for statewide elective office may not accept from a person any contribution totaling more than $6,500 per election.

 

If the law is designed to limit influence by a donor, why would it allow the donor to buy $25,900 in Gavin Newsom for Governor and then, when that collapses, another $6,500 in Gavin Newsom for Lieutenant Governor?

On the other hand, you can see why South would want to wipe out that $3 million funder base that Newsom tapped in his aborted governor’s campaign.

Injunction to follow.

In & out burger: Chroniclers Phil Matier and Andy Ross, the Butch and Sundance of California political reporters, fearlessly jumped off a journalistic cliff Sunday Feb. 7, when they identified as gay the federal judge now presiding over the volatile Prop. 8 case — Vaughn Walker.

A case study pitting an individual’s right to privacy versus the public’s right to know, the uncharacteristically nuanced M&R column stirred upset and concern in several quarters  – including their own newsroom. By outing Walker with their hetero-normative insensitivity, the argument went, the boys not only created an irrelevant distraction in the middle of the trial, but also handed gay marriage foes a handy argument to discount any trial rulings, or eventual decision, that undercut Prop. 8.

“What’s next?” one denizen of Fifth & Mission bitterly complained, “Tailing him to a bar? Peeking at his magazine subscriptions or his Netflix account?”

The thoughtful Brian Leubitz, who blogs about the trial at the Courage Campaign’s excellent Prop 8 Trial Tracker , argued the case against publicly disclosing Walker’s sexual orientation by raising this comparison:

So, did anybody comment about Justice Alito’s gender when he wrote the outrageous opinion in Ledbetter v Goodyear Tire that said that under the Civil Rights Act women could not sue after 180 days from the discriminatory decision, even if they didn’t know about the decision for years? The decision that ultimately spurred the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Act because it was so egregious?

Breaking it down, Calbuzz sees three key questions:

1-Did M&R “out” Walker?

No. Our dictionary defines “outing” as “The exposing of one assumed to be, or wishing to be, considered heterosexual as being gay, lesbian, or bisexual.” Although he hasn’t advertised his sexual orientation, Walker by all accounts has made no secret of it, either.

Matier and Ross went out of their way not to out Walker, and their reporting showed pretty clearly that he didn’t feel outed: First, they called him up to ask him directly about his sexual orientation, to which he gave a “no comment.” Not long after, however, they received a call from another federal judge, described as a “friend (and) confidant” of Walker; this judge told them he had spoken to Walker, who was concerned that “people will come to the conclusion that (Walker) wants to conceal his sexuality.”

“He has a private life and he doesn’t conceal it, but doesn’t think it is relevant to his decisions in any case, and he doesn’t bring it to bear in any decisions,” said the judge, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the Prop. 8 trial.

“Is it newsworthy?” he said of Walker’s orientation, and laughed, “Yes.”

2-Is Walker’s sexual orientation a story? Yes.

The backgrounds of judges matters, and Walker’s is no less a story as Alito holding  membership in the Federalist Society, or Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” speech. Walker clearly doesn’t hide his sexuality and, if he ends up overturning Prop. 8, its backers will use everything they can to challenge the legitimacy of his opinion in the appeal or the media, or both.

At that point, the Chronicle would find itself explaining why they didn’t report the fact in the first place, just as the Portland Oregonian did a disservice to readers in the 1990s by sitting on information about former Senator Bob Packwood sexually harassing a series of staffers, and then was caught out when the facts were disclosed by another news organization. Journalists are in the business of making information public, not withholding it, or calculating in advance the potential political impacts of publishing or not.

3-Does it make a difference to the case? It shouldn’t.

For starters, as state Senator Mark Leno pointed out to M&R, no one made an issue of the sexual orientation of members of the state Supreme Court when they heard the first challenge to Prop. 8. So why should Walker being gay matter any more or less?

Also, there’s plenty of evidence that the judge keeps his personal beliefs separate from his professional actions and values, and holds himself to the ethical standard famously compounded by the late Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter:

As a member of this court, I am not justified in writing my private notions of policy into the Constitution, no matter how deeply I may cherish them or how mischievous I may deem their disregard.

 

Walker was reviled in the gay community for years because he represented, as an attorney, the U.S. Olympic Committee when it won a case disallowing San Francisco’s Gay Olympics from using that name. In fact, as Chron editorial page editor John Diaz pointed out in a strong follow-up edit on Tuesday, there’s great irony in the suggestion that Walker is in the tank for the gay community:

Vaughn Walker almost lost his chance to reach the federal bench because of claims that he was anti-gay and hostile to civil rights. Two dozen House Democrats, led by Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, opposed his nomination because of his alleged “insensitivity” to gays and the poor. His first appointment, from President Ronald Reagan in 1987, stalled out in the Senate Judiciary Committee…Back then, Walker struggled to assure skeptical liberals that, as a judge, he could rule with impartiality…

Bottom line: Chronicle editors made the right call in publishing the M&R column as is, and in doing so followed the most fundamental principle of the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists:

Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.

Press Clips: Nice work by Jackson West at NBC Bay Area in shedding light on eMeg Whitman’s claims about layoffs during her tenure at eBay…High Concept of the Week, from Steven Pearlstein in the Washpost: Obama should show some leadership…High Concept II, from Alan Mutter: journalists should get paid.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: It’s open season on Smokey the Bear.

DiFi Shocker: Whadya Mean She’s Not Running?!?!?

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Feinstein shocker: We were floored – floored! – at Dianne Feinstein’s announcement in Orange County Tuesday that she’s decided not to run for governor.

Not because she turned thumbs down on the campaign, but because as a Convent of the Sacred Heart girl, we expected she would have the grace and courtesy to hold off until the official first anniversary of the piece with which we launched Calbuzz – “Why Dianne Feinstein Won’t Run for Governor” – so we could mark the momentous occasion in a properly flamboyant manner.

Madeline Sophie Barat would be soooo disappointed in you, Dianne.

We did, however, get a kick out of the world-weary tone of Dena Bunis, the Register’s DC chef de bureau, in reporting the news:

I don’t know anyone in political circles who really thought Feinstein was going to give up the chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee – she’s the first woman to hold that post – to try for another run for California’s chief executive.

Ha! Excuse us while we build a stadium big enough to hold our laughter. Yeah right, no brilliant California cognoscenti insiders had that thought for a second – which is why stories speculating about DiFi jumping into the race got recycled through the California press (and blogosphere) with the regularity of the garbage guys picking up the cans on Monday morning. Sheesh.

There we were, out on the limb, as everyone from Costco Carla to the Oracle of Cruickshank seemed hell bent on sawing off our perch just to see if they could send us crashing to the ground. (Memo to Scott Sabatini at examiner.com: We’ll take our Momo’s martinis very dry).

What’s the matter – Larry King wasn’t available? So after months of bashing Meg Whitman for spending all her time talking to national media types instead of the greasy grubs of the California political press corps, Steve Poizner now decides to nominate a couple of Beltway Wise Guys to moderate the one and only debate he knows he’ll get with the elusive eMeg.

In a letter to the New Majority, the band of fat cats who are sponsoring the debate on March 15, Poizner campaign manager Jim Bognet tells the group’s leaders they have “an opportunity to raise the profile of the New Majority and you are in the rare position to garner significant statewide coverage for the event. “

Fortunately, two well-known and respected journalists have already expressed interest in moderating the debate:

–Juan Williams, Fox News and National Public Radio
–Mark Halperin, Time Magazine and Author of “Game Change”

We feel strongly that this debate should be viewed by as many Californians as possible and involving either of these journalists would greatly increase the likelihood of national cable news coverage or statewide coverage from network affiliates. Having this debate widely televised is key to giving Republican voters across the state the opportunity to learn about the candidates.

You gotta be kiddin’, Bognet. Putting aside the most obvious choice for neutral, well-informed, if not well-groomed, moderators (we name no names) there’s a whole batch of distinguished California types who’d not only do a superb job of making the trains run on time for the TV cameras, but actually know something about  state issues. Think John Diaz, Jack Kavanagh and Warren Olney for starters, not to mention the esteemed Dr. P.J. Hackenflack who, we have on strong authority, is free that evening.

At least she’s consistent: Joe Garafoli’s tape of eMeg cutting and running after one question from the reporters who showed up to cover her Baja Commonwealth Club appearance in Lafayette the other night is an instant classic. Although the quality of the video is only slightly worse than a 7-11 security camera might get of the guy cadging cookies over in Aisle 3, the spectacle of Whitman being hustled away, as if being chased by hyenas, while Costco Carla is in mid-follow-up mode, is priceless.

The volcanic Sara Pompei, one of the cutters-and-runners featured in the tape, insists eMeg is getting a bad rap on the whole she’s-afraid-to-talk-to-informed-reporters meme, noting that the candidate doled out a couple minutes each to several Bay Area TV types this week, including our old friend Hank Plante, who managed a couple nuggets out of her, including her claim that she can identify $15 billion in savings in the budget.

(Hey Meg, here’s a thought: If you really know where to trim $15 billion why not send a note to H.D. Palmer over in Finance and tell the poor, ignorant bastard where he’s overlooking the obvious savings that you, in all your wisdom, have divined.)

Even as eMeg starts to ease into talking to reporters who actually live here, however, communications director Tucker Bounds let the cat out of the bag in talking to Steve Harmon of  the CoCo Times:

The simple truth is this: California voters watch their local TV news a lot more than they read their local newspaper, and as a result, Meg Whitman has been interviewing with local newscasts at virtually every stop along the campaign trail.

Wait ’til the by-God L.A. Times reads that!

Foy coy no longer: Few Californians statewide have likely heard of Ventura County Supervisor Peter Foy, but his endorsement of Poizner this week was a nice little pick-up for The Commish. A darling of the Tea Party set, the name of the conservative Foy was widely batted about early this year as a possible movement conservative to challenge the squishes Poizner and Whitman.

The endorsement of the pro-life Foy will capture the attention of right-wing believers among GOP insiders, folks who actually work on political campaigns:

As much as anything else, we need to have confidence in our governor and a belief in the values and principles he or she will bring to the job. But I ask you today to consider something perhaps even more important: We must also evaluate the judgment and instinct of our candidate and give special consideration to how they will approach those challenges and circumstance we do not foresee today. Whatever the issue, I am confident Steve Poizner will not veer off the conservative course.

Unlike a certain Van Jones-loving, Delta Smelt-coddling, Barbara Boxer kissy-pooing, other so-called Republican he could name but chooses not to in the event she wins the nomination.

In other news: Don Ringe today presents an exclusive interview with Sarah Palin, opining why Foy would have been just the ticket for the state GOP.

Never trust Husband #9: The AP finally tumbled to the fact that “Prince” Frederic van Anhalt, ninth spouse of Zsa Zsa Gabor, has decided to throw his crown into the ring as an independent candidate for governor.

Those who think he’s just another amusing goofball candidate, may wish to check out his background, chronicled in graphic detail by TMZ here, here and here.

IE Spanks eMeg’s Money; Commish Goes NASCAR

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Ka-ching, baby: The 30-second radio ad “1-800 Number” from “Level the Playing Field 2010,” the pro-Jerry Brown independent expenditure committee, was just the warm up: today the committee kicks off a $250,000/month radio buy for “Kaaa-ching!” – a 60-second radio spot attacking Meg Whitman for lavish corporate pay and perks when she ran eBay.

The kicker: “There shouldn’t be a Buy It Now button on the California governor’s office.” Ka-ching, ka-boom. Level 2010 plans to unveil the ad at their San Francisco office this morning, followed by a preview for the reporters in Sacramento.

“I don’t think anyone can crown themselves governor. I don’t think you can buy elections,” Whitman told KCBS reporter Doug Sovern. “What I’m trying to do is get my message out to voters. And voters are really smart. They will figure out who they want to lead this state. They will decide who they think is the most capable, given the current set of economic challenges that we face.”

In addition to the 19,00086,000-member California Nurses Association, initial funders for Level 2010 include the 23,000-member California Faculty Association. Strategists include Ace Smith, Chris Lehane, Sean Clegg, Dan Newman and Paul Maslin. Also Jason Kinney, Mike Rice, Doug Linney, Theo Yadinsky and Michelle Maravich.

The ad is an opening attack on the surreal prospect that anyone should be seeking high office using their CEOness as a qualifying characteristic — after  the collapse of Wall Street and America’s banking system at the hands of corporate CEOs. Lehane, Smith, Maslin, Clegg, et al are determined to do what the Obama administration has failed to do: render radioactive any Republican candidate with a corporate background.

They also understand that the ubermission of an independent committee is to put the opponent/s on the defensive. An IE can’t win an election – only the candidate can do that. But an IE committee can weaken the opposition. And that’s Level 2010’s goal.

According to Tucker Bounds, eMeg’s spokesman, there’s little difference between Brown’s campaign and the independent expenditure committees dedicated to attacking Whitman.

The other IE committee – California Working Families 2010 – includes Roger Salazar, Larry Grizalano, Jason Kruger and Frank Quintero, with funding likely to come from Ron Burkle, the carpenters and electrical workers unions and others. They have yet to mount a charge.

“There’s only one viable candidate in this campaign that’s running for election. Jerry Brown has refused to get on the playing field. But he has deployed his attack-style consultants to launch a campaign against Meg Whitman and we’re committeed to fighting back,” he said.

Asked if he was saying there is collusion between Brown and the independent committees – which would be illegal – Bounds demurred: “I’m not making any charge other than to say these are Jerry Brown supporters who are running a campaign to support Jerry Brown – they’re all singing from the same songbook.”

The ads, he said, “are an example of the general election beginning early in part because the Democrats would prefer to run against a weaker, beatable candidate in Steve Poizner.” . . . which leads to . . .

And they’re off: Steve Poizner will hit the track at NASCAR this weekend – even as Whitman accelerates her effort to bump him out of the race for governor. (Okay, that’s it for auto-racing puns for this item. Intentional ones anyway).

Team Poizner confirmed Tuesday that the Commish is slated as an Honorary Visiting Official at Sunday’s NASCAR Auto Club 500 race in Fontana. That means he gets profile in the pre-race ceremonies, possibly a seat in the pace car (careful what you wish for!), plus face time at the driver’s meeting and in the garage, along with primo seats.

We’re sure that it’s the sheerest of coincidences that Poizner is making a NASCAR appearance just a week after Calbuzz recommended he do so. In any case, the Thunder Road optics of the event will contrast nicely with eMeg’s more refined, Ile de France and amusing little Montrachets vibe. Poizner peering under the hood in San Berdoo surely resonates better with blue collar, cultural conservatives than Whitman’s bubble-wrapped cocooning and hobnobbing with political and media elites in Washington and New York.

As John Kerry famously said, “Who among us does not love NASCAR?”

Let’s call off the election: Still, one NASCAR event does not a campaign make, and the Armies of eMeg are keeping the pressure on Poizner to head for the pits even the starters flag comes down (sorry).

Ex-Gov. Pete Wilson, Whitman’s campaign chairman, last week sent out a missive calling for Poizner to withdraw in the interest of Republican “unity” in the face of Crusty’s IE effort; to which Jim Brulte, Stevie Wonder’s chairman, has now nicely riposted that Meg is trying “to win for free what others like Ronald Reagan and George Deukmejian have had to compete hard to earn.”

Undeterred, Her Megness quickly followed up with Wilson’s echo-not-a-choice message with yet another, this from Republican legislative leaders Senator Tony Strickland and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who parroted PiWi’s eblast line.

Our party is only weakened by a Republican candidate who ultimately aids Jerry Brown and his allies’ fight against the conservative leadership we need in Sacramento. It’s time for all Republicans to unite, and we’re hopeful Steve Poizner will do the right thing and step aside in order to nominate Meg, the strongest candidate to take on Jerry Brown in November.

To which Commish mouthpiece Jarrod Agen oh-so-daintily responded:

I’ve read about dictators who try to stop free elections, but I never thought I’d see someone try that strategy in California. Steve Poizner favors freedoms that make America great, like freedom of the press and the right to vote, so we’re going to go ahead and have an election where the voters get to choose their nominee.

Let’s call off the whining, instead: From where we sit, Whitman’s big push to push Poizner over the side, nearly four months before the primary, and at a time when she’s leading by 8,000 points, looks like an extremely weak, fear-based move that makes her sound like a whiner. What’s next, if The Commish doesn’t drop – shaking her fist and stamping her foot? Holding her breath ‘til she turns blue? Or maybe just cut to the chase and try directly begging him to quit. Sheesh.

eMeg’s ongoing insistence that she’s “going to debate” – while she keeps not debating – meanwhile keeps sending the same lame message.

Which reminds us that our pal Jon Fleischman, the esteemed blogger and widely known shit disturber, is having entirely too much fun over at Flashreport, making the GOP natives restless by fomenting a netroots push for a debate at the upcoming Republican convention.

Hiding behind technicalities, Whitman communications chief Bounds told us “no invitation was extended” for a convention debate, adding that, “if there’s an invitation, we’ll give it due consideration.”

And thank you for that.

God, Man & Jerry Brown’s Ignatian Indifference

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Our friend Dan Balz did a nice job after he scored a sit-down interview with Jerry Brown, in advance of Crusty’s formal annunciation that he’s running for governor. We were especially intrigued when we read this:

If she wins the GOP nomination, Whitman will have a sizable financial advantage over Brown. She has already put $39 million of her money into the race and could spend $150 million or more by the election in November. Brown can’t compete with that kind of money, but he said of Whitman, “Her money is not kryptonite.”

Asked how he will prepare for that, he offered a lesson from St. Ignatius. He would summon all the “Ignatian indifference” that he could. That is, he added, the idea of eschewing attachments to wealth or glory and preparing “to do the will of God, however it manifests.”

“Here we have the will of the people,” Brown said, “and how it turns out will be fine for me.”

Huh? Wussup with that ?

Was Jerry really saying he’s preparing “to do the will of God?” And if so, how come Balz didn’t make that the lede of his piece? Because if that’s what Jerry is saying – that he is bracing for Meg’s onslaught by preparing “to do the will of God” — then by golly, he’s right in there with Pat Robertson and Rick Warren, isn’t he?

So we called Jerry’s office for some clarification. Brown wouldn’t come to the phone for a quick theological discussion, but spokesman, Sterling Clifford (who sat in on the Balz interview but who was raised Mormon, not Catholic and certainly not Jesuit) said Jerry was trying to explain “Ignatian indifference” as an acceptance of God’s will, which he distinguished from the election, which is a matter of the peoples’ will.

We weren’t convinced.

Wasn’t Jerry saying that in preparing to accept eMeg’s multi-million-dollar attacks, he would be doing God’s will? “Jerry was not saying that,” Clifford said. “He was saying he’s making an effort not to take the personal attacks too seriously.”

When we checked with Balz, he agreed that Brown wasn’t saying he’s preparing to do the will of God but, “That the will of the people is in this case like the will of God — that is, whatever the voters decide he will accept.”

OK, but flashback to 1998. We were there when former Attorney General Dan Lungren got in some trouble talking about the role of God in public life as he launched his campaign for governor.

Is Brown on the verge of doing the same thing? It’s a fair question because Brown’s theology is deeply embedded. He took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience at the Sacred Heart Novitiate in Los Gatos in 1958 where, according to biographer Roger Rapoport, “It seemed to Jerry there was no limit to what you might accomplish if you let go of your personal ambitions and committed your life to the greater glory of God, as his instrument.”

Of course, Brown was released from those vows two years later, when he left the seminary. By then, however, he was ingrained with the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, which were designed by the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) to help “conquer oneself and regulate one’s life and avoid coming to a determination through any inordinate affection.”

Though not a Jesuit priest, as he might have become, Brown has never cast off the doctrine of contemplatio ad amorem – with its belief that the spirit of God can be found everywhere – in chaos and order, intelligence and ignorance, fame and obscurity — and that contemplation and action go hand in hand because being is active.

The same clash of concepts, unity of opposites, battling dualities (think: against Prop 13 and for it, for example) has been a hallmark of Brown’s theology, ontology – not to mention politics — throughout his life, as suggested in his comment to Balz that he would do the will of God and the will of the people at the same time.

It was no accident that the young Jerry was fascinated by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit paleontologist and phenomenologist. About the time Brown was in the seminary, Teilhard was silenced by the Jesuit hierarchy for his attempts to synthesize theology and evolutionary biology. As Brown biographer Richard Rappoport described Teilhard’s theories, he sought “to reconcile humanism and grace, nature and the Cross, prudence and heroism, freedom and obedience.”

It’s not hard to understand why Brown would – then and now — be attracted to a priest who wrote: “Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation.”

In Jerry time, it was a mere nanosecond from the study of Teilhard to the Tassajara Hot Springs, the Carmel Valley Zen retreat that Brown and his one-time aide de camp Jacques Barzaghi used to visit; to E.F. Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful” and onward to C.K. Chesterton, who was labeled “The Apostle of Common Sense,” in a book by Dale Ahlquist, published by (drum roll here) Ignatius Press.

It wasn’t coincidence that in his first interview heading toward this election – with Calbuzz back in April of last year — Brown said he is planning to be an “apostle of common sense.” We saw then, an echo of his 1992 Winter Soldier presidential campaign in which he autographed copies of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.”

But the phrase – actually the title of Ahlquist’s 2003 book — pays homage to Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936), the 300-pound, cigar-smoking English writer, journalist and Catholic convert who labeled common sense “that extinct branch of psychology” and who wrote: “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors and also to love our enemies, probably because they are generally the same people.”

Chesterton, who attacked both socialism and capitalism, who defended the Catholic faith and the common man is just another in the line of thinkers whose ideas seem woven into Brown’s  rhetoric.

His thinking seems little changed from the window into his psyche he offered in the 1975 commencement at the University of Santa Clara – the Jesuit school he had attended for a year before joining the seminary. In part of that speech, Brown reached back to the Father Teilhard de Chardin who, he said:

“…saw that there was an evolution of the mind as well as the body. The evolution of the spirit was bringing the divergence of this planet together, not only the nuclear problems, the problem of learning to live with people who are very different, the problem of one generation accepting the different lifestyle, of accepting one another. I think we can very well think of the philosophy that all diversity is being converged toward a greater unit. That’s the way I see things and it won’t be done unless each one of us can do this for ourselves so that together we can do what none of us can do separately.”

His spokespeople can deny it, but Jerry Brown has always seemed to see himself as an instrument of God’s will and an instrument of the people’s will, simultaneously. He has never had any interest in imposing his religious beliefs on others but to assert that he is not shaped and driven by his Jesuitical ontology is to deny the obvious.

Brown’s first guru was not Baba Ram Dass, who published “Be Here Now” in 1971, but his forerunner — Ignatius — who told Jerry and all the other would-be keepers of the flame and sword from the 16th Century onward: “Age quod agis” – “Do what you are doing.”