Jerry Brown’s Big Fail; Dem Winners and Losers

Feb13

Governor Jerry Brown’s failure to explain to 3,000 activists at the weekend California Democratic Party convention why they should support his tax-hike initiative instead of two others that threaten to swamp his measure left us pondering the possible reasons for his wimp-out.

1. Maybe Brown truly has no clue, yet, how to explain why his measure is better than Molly Munger’s or the California Federation of Teachers’ “millionaires tax.”

2. Maybe he’s in secret talks with the CFT (or even Munger, although that seems far less likely) to get them to back out and he didn’t want to blow the deal amid delicate negotiations.

3. Maybe he secretly wants the millionaires tax to pass but doesn’t want his fingerprints on it.

With delegates looking for leadership on the matter, all Gandalf could bother himself to say on the issue was, “Look, we’ve got some issues. We’ve got a tax measure, we have a little, few issues there, and we’ll be talking about that from time to time. You’ll get your marching orders soon enough.”

Cryptic and high-handed – kinda like Jerry himself when he really has no idea what he’s doing, which argues for #1 above.

He did, however, find time to remind delegates of how clever he was to hold his fire during the summer of 2010 so that he had the resources to counter attack against eMeg Whitman in the fall, which maybe was his way of saying “Trust me on this.”

This is the beauty of using Sun Tzu as a guide to politics: you can do whatever you want and, if you win, claim it was the result of brilliant strategy, as in this advice from the Art of War:

All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, seem as if unable to attack; when using forces actively, seem inactive; when nearby, make the enemy believe you are far away; when far away, make the enemy believe you are nearby. Hold out baits to entice the enemy to act. Feign disorder, and strike him when he seeks to take advantage.

Maybe that explains why Brown could complain, via email from his sidekick Steve Glazer, that reporters who rushed backstage to get a comment from him following his vacant speech were invading his “private space.” Private space? Seriously? This from a guy who’s spent decades stealing french fries off people’s plates. Puhleeeeeese.

A final look at the weekend’s winners and losers:

Cuckoo Caucuses

Winner: Howard Berman. In a confab low on excitement and drama, Berman’s hard-won battle to deny Demo congressional rival Brad Sherman the party’s formal endorsement was the most entertaining spectacle of the weekend, complete with stolen ballots, forgery charges and two of the most bitter political speeches in memory, as John Myers splendidly recounts with full audio included. Berman is a serious DC player more used to talking to Benjamin Netahanyu than to Bolsheviks in the Demo’s Left-Handed Estonian Mime caucus, but when the deal went down, the Berman-Waxman Westside operation proved it still has the chops and moves to win an old-school street brawl.

Loser: Brad Sherman. As a practical matter, Sherman’s failure to win the endorsement matters most because he can’t now sell himself as the approved Democratic candidate in the 30th CD on slate mailers and elsewhere. As a political matter, it’s a full-on personal embarrassment because these were his people – Democratic club activists and Roberts Rules of Order propeller heads he spent years cultivating while Berman was busy working to shape American foreign policy in the Mideast.

Media Matters

Winner: Fox News. We didn’t actually spot any undercover Fair and Balanced video spies lurking around the convention but don’t be surprised if highlights show up on Hannity or O’Reilly closer to the election. Between Van Jones calling for the “restoration” of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, Gavin Newsom paying public homage to the Occupy movement and DNC honcho Alice Germond praising California as the home of “liberal politics,” the weekend was chock full of moments to satisfy the socialist conspiracy theories of the most avid Tea Partier.

Loser: LA Times. Maybe it’s just the lousy search function on the By-God LAT web site, but we could find no sign of a day-after story about the Berman-Sherman set-to. Although the nationally watched, intraparty fight in its home turf is the hottest political race in California, the paper appears to be concentrating resources on coverage of the secessionist movement in Scotland.

2018 Sweepstakes

Winner (tie): Kamala Harris and Gavin Newsom. The Empress of River City raised the roof with the best speech of the weekend and Prince Gavin ubiquitously worked every room and got the rock star treatment from Dems who rushed to have their camera phone photo taken with him. While newly minted conventional wisdom says one or the other will wait for a U.S. Senate seat to open up to avoid a face-to-face over replacing Gandalf, the A.G. and Lite Gov were equally impressive in flying the flag for party activists, regardless of what either decides to do next.

Loser: Antonio Villaraigosa. L.A.’s mayor couldn’t be bothered to head down the 405 to even put in an appearance at the convention, missing an easy chance to raise his visibility for a future statewide race. Tony V’s on-again off-again efforts to look like a major player in California apparently are off again, and erstwhile allies could only roll their eyes when asked what they think he’s up to.

The (F—in’) Chair Recognizes

Winner: John Burton. Even though Calbuzz scored the rare double F-bomb from Mr. Chairman for asking questions about the head table seating arrangements at Saturday’s big lunch, we have to admit Burton actually ran a pretty tight ship. He seemed more cheerful and focused than usual, despite his constant cranky ranting from the podium, as he enforced discipline on the parade of long-winded speakers and brought the long general session to a close right on time.

Loser: John Burton. While not the legislative giant late brother Phil was, Burton has a long and solid record as a state and national lawmaker, particularly on behalf of the poor, old and ailing, but it consistently gets lost amid his foul-mouth wild man act. It’s notable that not too many officeholders  missed a chance to tweak Burton from the podium about his infamous performance on the Daily Show, and though it was meant in fun, it’ll be a shame if his substantive accomplishments are forgotten behind his self-parody performance as Crazy Uncle John.

The Social Whirl

Winner: California Correctional Peace Officers Association. The CCPOA once again hosted the best reception of the Democratic convention. Between the savory paella, prime rib carving station, free booze and smooth jazz trio, the high-powered union showed every other interest group how it’s done as demonstrated by the pols that showed up, led by Newsom, the honoree of the evening. Bravo Michael Flores.

Loser: Burnside & Associates. The LA consulting firm rolled out one of the more unusual marketing maneuvers we’ve seen, dispatching an associate to stand in a hallway and hand out box loads of logo-stamped plastic water bottles filled with vodka and diet Mountain Dew, which for mysterious reasons is the firm’s signature drink. Oh sure, Calbuzz sampled the product, purely for professional purposes, but we had to wonder about the wisdom of pushing free booze on all comers including a bunch of, um, Young Democrats who couldn’t get enough of the swill.

Congressional Countdown

Winner: Tony Strickland. The Republican state senator, who chickened out of running for re-election in his reapportioned Central Coast district to launch a campaign to replace retiring GOP congressman Elton Gallegly, got a major boost when his leading Democratic rival, Ventura County supervisor Steve Bennett, showed up with a blindside announcement that he’s decided not to seek the new 26th CD seat after all. As throughout his political career, Taliban Tony again seems more lucky than good.

Loser: Steve Bennett. Bennett’s unexpected announcement surprised and angered even some of his own supporters and left the Dems without their strongest candidate in the field at a time when California pick-ups are central to Pelosi’s long shot bid to win back the speakership. Moorpark councilman David Pollock now becomes the Democratic front-runner, but under jungle primary rules could fall short of making the run-off with both Strickland and fellow Republican Linda Parks, another Ventura supe, looking formidable.

Linguistic Laurels

Winner: Carla Marinucci. “Political porn” is what the Hearst Chronicle’s ace news hen called the crazy scene at the Berman-Sherman caucus, where several hundred full-grown adults spent their Saturday night obsessing over voice votes, parliamentary procedure rulings and arcane matters of political process that any normal person would find utterly baffling and bizarre.

Loser: Jerry Brown. “The most forgotten soul in purgatory” seemed a most unlikely political phrase, even for the Jesuit-trained governor. His intent to call attention to the conditions of state prisons may have been commendable, but on a day when party loyalists were looking to him for guidance on the looming tax initiative war, it came across simply as one more oh-that’s-just-Jerry irrelevant distraction.


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There are 16 comments for this post

  1. avatar Ernie Konnyu says:

    I continue to be disappointed that Governor Jerry Brown does not get the praise he earned from his fellow Democrats for controlling as best he could the technically illegal California fiscal deficit problem during last two years.

    As I suggested before, Brown should have been hailed by the Cal Demos into running against Obama whose loser policies helped give California the Union’s largest state unemployment…as much as 12%+ plus trillion dollar federal deficits each year Hussein has ruled.

    This Brown oversite must be principally my former collegue, Demo chair John Burton’s fault. I guess John still sees the world through rose colored glasses. Or, it could be that John did not want to ruin his perfect political winning streak by backing Brown for Pres.

    • avatar chrisfinnie says:

      “Hussein has ruled?” Really? That’s a pretty pathetic attempt at being insulting. At least you could be original.

      Plus, Mr. Obama is the president of the United States, not California. His policy proposals are geared to creating jobs nationwide. As for your contention about the president’s contribution to the debt, you could at least do a minimal amount of research before making such laughable statements:

      The Pew Center reported in April 2011 the cause of a $12.7 trillion shift in the debt situation, from a 2001 CBO forecast of a cumulative $2.3 trillion surplus by 2011 versus the estimated $10.4 trillion public debt we actually face in 2011. The major drivers were:

      Revenue declines due to the recession, separate from the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003: 28%
      Defense spending increases: 15%
      Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003: 13%
      Increases in net interest: 11%
      Other non-defense spending: 10%
      Other tax cuts: 8%
      Obama Stimulus: 6%
      Medicare Part D: 2% (also enacted under the Bush administration)
      Other reasons: 7%[33]

      Finally, the fact that governor Brown is not running for president is no oversight on the part of chairman Burton. We have an incumbent Democratic president that the chair would naturally support. And governor Brown made it crystal clear when he ran for governor that he considered himself to be too old to run for president again. Chairman Burton also made it clear when he ran in 2009 that his priority was to get Barbara Boxer re-elected to the Senate and Jerry Brown as governor. Those were both successful campaigns. And just when was the last time you checked the color of John’s lenses? He strikes me as pretty realistic.

    • avatar Ernie Konnyu says:

      Once again ChrisFinnie you just don’t want to take responsibility for the $5 trillion National debt Obama will have incurred during HIS four year watch. You absolutely lack credibility by your failure to admit to obvious Obama “sins”.

      As to the use of Hussein, Obama’s real middle name, it was done to irritate the Libs on one of their obvious weak points.

    • avatar chrisfinnie says:

      And once again Ernie, YOU don’t want to take responsibility for the debt incurred by George W. Bush during HIS eight-year watch. As you can see by the figures I posted, that does account for the bulk of it. The stimulus debt added during the three years of the Obama administration (so far) was necessary to haul the country out of the recession bequeathed to the president by his predecessor. I fail to see that effective response as a “sin.” In fact, though I doubt you’ll admit it, it seems to be working. Also, since you clearly can’t tell the difference between 3 and 4, I’m not sure how credible your refutation is of these clear debt numbers. I think I’m going to stick with the Pew Center.

      As for the president’s middle name, I’m perfectly aware of what it is. Again, I fail to see why it’s a weak point that we elected a man whose father was Kenyan and Muslim to the highest office in the land. You’ve said in earlier posts that your family immigrated recently. Mine did a generation earlier. That’s one of the strengths of our country. We’re the great American melting pot. So, you’re wrong, I’m proud of president Barack Hussein Obama. I’m ashamed of my small-minded countrymen who can’t see his election as part of our cultural heritage of inclusiveness.

  2. avatar chuckmcfadden says:

    John Burton sees the world through rose-colored glasses? JOHN BURTON?

  3. avatar Parke Skelton says:

    Typical for Berman supporters to refer to grassroots activists as “Cuckoo” and “Propeller-heads”, But just for the record, the delegates who were not those appointed by a politician (often one with no ties whatsoever to CD30) voted for Brad Sherman, 33 to 12. Berman was able to block the endorsement only by importing delegates from all over the state. Part of the rules, I know, we’re not complaining. But Brad’s strong support in the district is what this election will turn on.

  4. Maybe if Berman or Sherman had joined the Congressional Progressive Caucus, it might have mad a difference. Why both choose to remain unaffiliated boggles my mind.

  5. avatar LADem says:

    I would add Senator Al Franken as a winner for a compelling and articulate speech at the Saturday night dinner. I wouldn’t call Dianne Feinstein a loser because she is able to manage issues with extraordinary precision–the audience was respectful and supportive, but to me, the room seemed disengaged. An interesting style contrast between the two senators.

  6. avatar GeoHagop says:

    Uh…very entertaining, but if I had to guess the funder that makes this more fun, I’d guess the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, and definitely not the CTA, who came in for a drubbing in the last post.

  7. avatar LADem says:

    An article appeared in the Jewish Journal yesterday about the Valley-Israel Alliance Super PAC. The quote from Brendan Huffman from the Valley-Israel Alliance indicated that Congressman Berman had “made it clear” that he was not comfortable with Super PACs and that Congressman Berman had also expressed “concern” about Super PACs. Mr. Brendan Huffman was quoted in the article as indicating that the Valley-Israel Alliance Super PAC was closed “at the request of” Congressman Berman. It is good news that there is now one less Super PAC to disrupt a fair race in CD 30. However, at the same time, it is a concern that Mr. Brendan Huffman seems to indicate in his interview with the Jewish Journal that Congressman Howard Berman may have had detailed communications with him regarding the specific activities and disposition of the Valley-Israel Alliance Super PAC organization. Jon Stewart and Steve Colbert clearly demonstrated that the scope of the FEC regulations regarding communications between Super PACs and candidates are more of a punchline than a rule of law. If you want to learn more about Super PAC regulations, google “FEC cfr 109.21″–all the Super PAC regulations are online and there are also online video trainings by FEC staff. Congressman Howard Berman has been a long-respected and valued member of the Democratic Party. Everyone in the region hopes that Berman will run a race in CD 30 that reflects the highest ethical standards. If Congressman Howard Berman is willing to make the personal effort, he has the capacity to raise funds for his campaign in CD 30 without any assistance from Super PACs. The voters in CD 30 deserve a Congressman who will make that personal effort. Let’s hope that the two other Super PACs which have indicated an interest in the CD 30 race will close their doors as well. The discussion at the upcoming debates in CD 30 needs to focus on moving America forward–not Super PACs.

    • avatar doughnut70 says:

      Actually Huffman said that he closed the SuperPac because Congressman Berman objected and wanted to follow his wishes. The real question is when Congressman Sherman will pledge to stop IE committee’s from supporting his campaign. These include business associates of his family and former clients of his.

  8. avatar LADem says:

    According to FEC records, the Valley-Israel Alliance Super PAC wasn’t able to raise much money at all (under $3K last I looked). The lack of funds might have had something to do with closing their doors. The other two Berman Super PACs seem to still be in place, but with limited funds on hand (under $25K on the last FEC report). Is Berman so unsure of his own ability to raise funds for his campaign that he feels the need for the support of not one, but two Super PACs? As for family, Berman has as much support from family members and family business associates as Sherman does. Brother Michael Berman and the Duberstein consulting group in D.C. are at the top of that list. I’ve never heard anyone portray Congressman Howard Berman as a victimized shrinking violet with Congressman Brad Sherman beating him up on the playground all because Brad has more friends and business associates. That is definitely a first. If Congressman Berman is indeed so capable and skilled at fundraising, why doesn’t he publicly ask that the two other Super PACs close their doors as well? Or, was Berman’s “objection” about Super PACs really only intended for the Super PAC which wasn’t able to raise much of any funds?

    • avatar doughnut70 says:

      His brother Michael Berman is not the same Michael Berman who is tied in with the Duberstein group. Berman has asked all Superpacs to stop and called on candidates to renounce superpacs and IE committees and he has also asked Sherman to contribute to other Democrats the amount he has given to other Democratic candidates for Congress. Seems pretty reasonable to me.

  9. avatar LADem says:

    You are right. I assumed that Michael Berman was with a political consulting firm in Washington DC. However, Michael Berman’s firm is called Berman & D’Agostino and seems to be located in Beverly Hills. Is this the same small firm which was fired by the Yaroslavsky campaign back in the 1980′s for using racist and anti-semitic language in their communications? Is this the political consulting firm advising the Berman campaign? There were more than a few articles online which wondered if Yaroslavsky lost the race for L.A. Mayor because of the mistakes made by that firm. Thank you for the correction.

    Did you see the interview with Berman on MSNBC? Berman never responded to the question from Chuck Todd about Super PACs. Todd waited and waited and Berman never gave him a direct answer. All Berman had to do was use that valuable air time on MSNBC to publicly come on strong and make a sincere request that the two remaining Super PACs close, but he didn’t! Berman equivocated–he stuttered, he stumbled. It was painful to watch. This type of response from Berman really makes it seem that he is unsure of his own ability to raise funds for his campaign. Berman appeared weak and defensive. I remember the good old days when Berman was considered an L.A. fundraising powerhouse. Times sure have changed. Berman knows that small group of Super PAC donors personally. There isn’t a Democratic campaign in LA. which doesn’t know those donors. They will do what is asked, but Berman has NOT been clear. If the two remaining Super PACs do not end their operations, their continued existence could make Berman appear not just insincere, but ineffectual. This is just not the way that I want to see Congressman Howard Berman end his career.

    • avatar doughnut70 says:

      Well, Berman has raised over twelve million dollars for Democrats throughout the country in the last decade, so I guess he has some ability on that score and he seems to be doing well so far. He has nearly caught up with Sherman already even though Sherman hasn’t been donating any significant amounts to other Democrats as has always been the tradition in the past. As for the comment about Berman’s brother, both consultants have had issues in the past with strategy that stepped over lines and hopefully both will watch it in the future and avoid that type of stuff. As for Superpacs or other outside money, neither side is willing to unilaterally disarm, but both claim they would do so if the other side takes the lead. However when anyone makes suggestions in that direction (like setting up a commission to enforce any violations of an agreement) suddenly that doesn’t work. But you keep making it sound like that is coming from one side. It isn’t. Both sides have had it suggested by their opponents that they try and limit the amount of outside money in the race and create an independent commission to enforce that effort. Both have been guilty of quibbling and neither side has said they would really support such an effort. Of course I am sure since Berman has been a better fundraiser in the past for liberal causes, that if Sherman were to pledge to donate the same amount to other good Democrats that he has raised over the last decade, that Berman would probably go a lot further to do whatever was necessary to get an agreement in place. The problem is that Sherman who comes from a wealthy family hasn’t ruled out funding through IE committees from that source and that’s a hang up. To just single out Super Pacs is a semantic game that creates a distinction without a difference.

  10. avatar Dem4Life says:

    First on Brown: Simply put, his plan is initiative is the most likely version to pass. While it largely targets the wealthy, it demands a little bit our of the rest of us too, which makes it palatable to moderates who know our state is in dire straits and need something to justify raising their own taxes. Would I prefer that we solely target the ultra-wealthy? Of course! But we have to be pragmatic. It therefore drives me nuts that these two other initiatives have emerged. Hopefully, option #2 in analyzing Brown’s speech is correct. Otherwise, he miscalculated his capabilities in garnering Democratic support for this just as he miscalculated his capabilities on getting the GOP on board with a budget compromise last year.

    Regarding Berman-Sherman: I’ve said this before in my comments. Unless Sherman was to “unilaterally disarm” (to borrow Mr. Donut’s wording), bringing up only superPACs is nothing more than a campaign ploy and a distraction from Sherman’s lack of legislative accomplishments. If we want to be serious about the campaign finance issue let’s be serious. Otherwise, we should focus on what are likely much more important issues in this race–jobs, foreign policy, immigration, and the candidates’ achievements in their congressional tenure.

    Also Berman raised over $1 million last quarter–Sherman raised about 15% of that. The notion that he is anything but a prodigious fundraiser is simply unfounded. The fact that he donated generously to competitive races while Sherman didn’t is problematic for other reasons. Sherman is crying foul with finance issues while he’s unwilling to donate to Dems who need it (notwithstanding his peculiar avoidance of the IE issue). Even though Berman can raise money fast, it gave him less cash on hand for the state convention and several months ahead. This is effectively punishing him for party loyalty. But most notably, a lot of Dems could have used that money. Instead of handing it over, Sherman hoarded it for a race that did not even need to happen (did you see Betty Yee’s open letter!?!).

    Speaking of which, Steve Bennett’s officially out of the race for the 26th District. Perhaps this gives Sherman room to move a few miles westward and avoid this race?

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