Archive for 2012

Crack GOP Shyster Team Lectures State Supremes

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Of all the silly ape dances performed by California Republican apparatchiks in recent years, few have been as puerile as the tantrum they tossed over the state Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling upholding newly drawn senate districts.

At a time when the GOP’s ever-shrinking share of voter registration keeps shattering its own records for decline, the sputtering outrage of the big brains over at party headquarters would be entertaining if it wasn’t so pathetic.

We’ve previously detailed the inanity of the Crybaby Republican Caucus on this issue, but let’s review the chronology:

1-A Republican-sponsored ballot initiative in 2008 creates an independent commission, which over-represents Republicans, to draw a redistricting plan aimed at reflecting the public interest in place of the incumbent protection schemes crafted for decades by hacks in Sacramento.

2-Republicans in 2011 discover to their horror that after exhaustive statewide hearings, the commission has done precisely what Republicans said they wanted it to do when they put their reform initiative on the ballot. Perish the thought!

3-Republicans, screaming to the heavens that life is unfair, launch a desperate effort to undo what their own initiative has wrought by gathering signatures for a 100% partisan referendum to prevent the new redistricting plan from taking effect.

4-Republicans call on the Republican-dominated state Supreme Court to block the duly constituted new districts from taking effect before 2014, pending determination of whether a) their funky, 11th hour referendum even qualifies for the ballot and b) voters fall for their partisan con in November.

5-Republicans get laughed out of Republican court by Republican appointed (6 of 7) justices who, joined by their lone Democratic appointed colleague, dismiss the ludicrous case on a seven-zip vote.

Bring on the dream team: And then the topper: The great minds of the California Republican Party double down on their sense of political entitlement and announce that the real problem is that the Supreme Court justices don’t understand the law.

“As a 24 year practicing attorney, I can tell you that the failure to honor the law as written undermines the rule of law and encourages detrimental litigation,” thunders CRP chair Tom Del Beccaro.

Seriously? “As a practicing attorney, I can tell you”? Really?

Following fast on this thoughtful denunciation by the Clarence Darrow of California politics, next up for the crack Republican legal team comes Donald P. (Perry Mason) Wagner, an obscure Orange County assemblyman, who takes to the home page of Flashreport, that noted journal of jurisprudence, to school the obviously unlettered justices on their utter ignorance:

“Lawless. That’s the right word for the Supreme Court’s decision last week in the redistricting case. Lawless, in that it ignored the law to reach a decision the Court was explicitly prohibited from reaching.”

Cacoethes loquendi.

Now the GOP stands at a crossroads: Keep enlisting high-powered legal talent – maybe Jack McCoy, Ally McBeal and Arnie Becker are free – or hunker down and start doing the hard political work needed to rebuild their stature and influence in California by putting forth some ideas that might appeal beyond the ranks of brain dead ideologues, as George Skelton argues in this smart piece:

But the California GOP’s problem is not the shape of districts, it’s the size of a shrinking membership. Republicans continue to hemorrhage voters. New registration figures released Tuesday by the secretary of state show the bleeding…

“If the Republican Party had taken all the money it spent on lawsuits and the referendum and put it behind some good candidates, they’d have a better chance of winning seats,” insists a Republican member of the redistricting commission, Vince Barabba of Capitola.

What a concept.

The fight for two-thirds: The most immediate result of the Supreme Court’s ruling is that campaigns will now begin in earnest in several newly redrawn Central Coast districts –  the 19th and 24th 17th – where the GOP’s battle to deny Democrats a two-thirds senate majority will be waged.

It’s no surprise that GOP incumbents in both districts quickly bailed out of seeking re-election, since both had been gerrymandered to protect Republican incumbents in the 2002 reapportionment.

Sam Blakeslee, who replaced Abel Maldonado in a 2010 special after Maldo got briefly bumped to Lite Governor by ex-governor Arnold Schwarzipper, bowed out of the 24th 17th immediately after the court decision; with him gone, the San Luis Obispo Tribune makes Democratic Assemblyman Bill Monning of Santa Cruz Carmel the early favorite.

Also swiftly skedaddling was fellow Republican Tony Strickland, who was elected in 2008 to the four-county 19th originally customized for Tom McClintock; Taliban Tony now is running for the 26th congressional district seat being vacated by the retiring Rep. Elton Gallegly.

Strickland’s former district, now redrawn, will offer an intriguing test, not only of the newly drawn lines, but also of the new jungle primary rules.

With Democrats holding a substantial edge in registration, former Assembly member Hannah-Beth Jackson, who’s represented much of the district before, is considered the early front-runner, although she’s still tarred with the “Taxin’ Jackson” label Strickland hung on her to great effect four years ago.

Democratic rival Jason Hodge, a local official in Ventura County who made his bones as a political operative for the firefighters union, is also gathering significant support, with a major assist from spousal unit and plugged-in Assembly member Fiona Ma, D-S.F.

Hodge has enlisted the strategic services of the dexterous Richie Ross, who will face off against the estimable SoCal partnership of Steve Barkan and Parke Skelton in a race where the consultants may be more interesting than the candidates.

Also a factor under the new primary rules will be Republican Mike Stoker, a former SB supervisor, former McClintock operative and former Pete Wilson appointee, a familiar figure throughout the district.

Team Jason this week pushed out the results of a campaign push poll purporting to show all three wannabes closely bunched in the mid-20s. More interesting than the horse race numbers were some broader trends shown that could give the rookie Hodge some running room against the two political retreads.

P.S. Another Senate district on the two-thirds chessboard is the new 27th SD where shrinking Democratic registration could imperil incumbent Fran Pavley. Our pal Timm Herdt is all over that one.

Press Clips: Maldonado for months has been considered a strong challenger on behalf of national Republican efforts to pick off Democratic incumbent Representative Lois Capps in the new 24th CD, so insiders and other hacks were shocked when new reports showed Maldo only raised about $50K in the last quarter, while extending his bizarre pattern of flipping the same $250K personal loan in and out of his campaign fund. The Sacbee’s Michael Doyle has the story.

Interesting piece by CalWatchdog’s hard-working John Hrabe who details the all-politics-is-local down-and-dirty shaping both sides of the 26th CD race.

Rising star Mackenzie Weinger, the only former Calbuzz intern who appears to have a job, is prolific over at Politico, where her reprise of Mitt Romney’s dumbest hits and hard-hitting exloo on President John Tyler’s grandson calling Newt Gingrich “a big jerk” both hit the most-read list.

David we hardly knew ye: Nancy Pelosi’s long-shot bid to reclaim the House speakership crossed a crucial early hurdle this week when Democrats held on in a special election to keep the seat of resigned-in-disgrace ex-Rep. David Wu.

Before bidding farewell forever to the unfortunate Mr. Wu, here’s one more look at the only politician in history weird enough to be done in by a scandal over wearing a tiger suit.





Memo to Huey P. Newt: Keep on Keepin’ On, Brother

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Our favorite theme in Newt Gingrich’s campaign against Mitt Romney is his new slogan: “All power to the people.”

Okay, so the iconic Black Panther bumper-sticker message is not exactly the way Newt words it. Instead, he says, “We are pitting people power versus money power.” But it’s the same basic idea.

Except Huey P. Newt is not appealing to poor and working-class people to rise up against the State; he’s trying to rally the Tea Party reactionary, Palinista propeller head, chapel conservative wing of the GOP against the country club Establishment Republicans.

Which is why, after getting wiped out by Hurricane Mitt in Florida on Tuesday, Gingrich declared, in full-throated self-delusion, that “we are going to contest every place and we are going to win and we’re going to be in Tampa as the nominee in August.”

And why, on behalf of the greatest good for the greatest number, Calbuzz hereby energetically and enthusiastically applauds Newt’s determination to fight all the way through the June primaries, not only to ensure that California Republicans get a chance to weigh in with their 172 delegates, but also to continue providing the great public service of exposing Romney for the political charlatan he is.

K Street axe murders: The Republican Establishment was never going to allow Gingrich to win the nomination, as John Cassidy nicely explains in the New Yorker:

For the past two years, a battle has been raging for control of the Republican Party. On one side: the Tea Party insurgents of 2010, led by Sarah Palin, Jim DeMint, and the like, whose stated goal is to slash the size of the federal government, roll back the welfare state and remake the nation’s capital. On the other side: the Washington-based party hierarchy, consisting of the congressional leadership and the Republican National Committee, plus a permanent establishment of political consultants, K Street lobbyists, think-tank wonks and media types. Now we know where the real power lies, and—no surprise, really—it isn’t on the side of the flag-waving teabaggers.

It’s not that the insiders have anything ideologically against Newt: after all, he’s truly one of them (as Romney showed to his advantage by harping on the Gingrich record as a K Street influence-peddler). It’s that his undisciplined, shoot-from-the-lip, axe-murdering personality and political persona — all on full display in his non-concession speech Tuesday — are so alienating to Washington insiders and large numbers of voters alike that the GOP’s Grand Poobahs understand that if Newt is the nominee, they could lose both houses of Congress and a huge number of state Republican races as well.

And it is precisely those not-very-endearing Grinch-like qualities that have made the spectacle of the Newt-Mittens smack-down so endlessly entertaining in recent weeks, and why it would such a tragedy to lose his contributions so early in the campaign year.

The Kosher cowboy: Who else but Gingrich, after all, could so brazenly wave off serial adultery qua sick wives dumping, as if it were the buzzing of flies? Newt’s blind narcissism in this regard led to one of our favorite scenes of the campaign to date, when Brit blogger Tim Stanley asked a male voter in South Carolina for his take on the former Speaker’s Clintonesque hound dog record:

“No, Newt’s infidelities do not concern me,” said one Southern gentleman. “On the contrary, I take heart that someone older and fatter than me can still have an affair.” Amen to that.

Or take Newt’s special talent for pandering to Jews, as when he threw the Kosher kitchen sink (HT, The Hill) at Mitt in Florida for cutting Medicaid health care services that benefited Jewish and Catholic facilities, thereby trying to force poor, elderly, devote Jews to eat traif.

“Romney as governor eliminated kosher food from retired Jewish senior citizens on Medicaid and he has no understanding of the importance of conscience and importance of religious liberty in this country,” he said.

Right on, brother.

The beauty of Newt’s unfailingly shrill and bombastic attacks on Romney is that they come both from the left and from the right, illuminating hollow man Mitt’s lack of a political core. Not to mention that Gingrich, who pretty much invented the modern era of politics-as-personal-destruction, lacks even a hint of self-awareness, with his incessant whining about attacks aimed his way.

“Governor Romney has the ability to raise an amazing amount of money out of Wall Street, from Goldman Sachs to all the major banks,” he complained to Fox News. “And he has a basic policy of carpet bombing his opponent. He doesn’t build up Mitt Romney, he just tries to tear down whoever he’s running against.”

Lamenting about his unprincipled enemies to Charlie Rose, Gingrich noted that, “in a lot of cases it’s because they’re part of the establishment.”

“Look at who their ties are to, look at where their money comes from,” he added. “The New York and Washington establishments together want somebody they can trust: Somebody, for example, like Romney, who praised Secretary Treasurer Geithner, somebody who’s comfortable with his biggest donor getting $13 or $15 or $20 billion in taxpayer money.”

Dare to struggle, dare to win — Newt Gingrich, live like him.

Afternoons with Ronnie: Newt is never cuter than when he starts sputtering with rage at not being appreciated as the historic and transformational figure he genuinely appears to believe himself to be, the guy who basically taught Ronald Reagan everything the late president knew about conservatism.

“This party is not going to nominate somebody who is a pro-abortion, pro gun control, pro tax increase liberal,” Gingrich said the other day. “I am, in fact, the legitimate heir of the Reagan movement, not some liberal from Massachusetts.”

For a bit of context on that point, which seems to be a particularly sore one for Gingrich, we checked in with our friend Lou Cannon, the Hall of Fame political writer and Reagan biographer. Here’s what he said:

Gingrich was at most a very minor player in what some call the Reagan Revolution and in my books I call the Reagan Redirection.  His one appearance in the Reagan diaries is suggesting a budget freeze that Reagan thought was a bad idea…(Former GOP Representative) ) Vin Weber, as he often does, had it exactly right this morning on Andrea Mitchell’s show on MSNBC, when he said that he was in his first term and Newt in his second at the beginning of the Reagan presidency.  We were both foot soldiers in the Reagan Revolution, Weber said, but for some reason Newt thought he was a general.

When I was writing my books on Reagan, I talked to many members of Congress who had had important inter-actions with Reagan: Paul Laxalt, Howard Baker, Jack Kemp, Tip O’Neill, to name a few, and a host of less well-known figures such as Willis Gradison. Gingrich wasn’t among them. As far as I know, he never had a one-on-one meeting with James Baker, the WH chief of staff and strategist who made it a daily point to return all calls from members of Congress.

Gingrich undoubtedly admired Reagan and he made a credible pro-Reagan film last year: I was interviewed for it and Gingrich used a chunk of what I’d said. In my opinion, Gingrich is NOT lying when he makes his extravagant claims about his relationship with Reagan: he has been saying this for so long he probably believes it.

Ironically, Newt’s exaggerations in re Reagan–along with the demonization of Gingrich by Romney and his Super PAC–detract from his real political accomplishments, which are all post-Reagan. The most important of these is that Gingrich understood that the House elections could be nationalized, as he did in 1994, with the Contract With America.  At the time he did it almost the entire political media pooh-poohed it, accepting the Tip O’Neill mantra that all politics are local.  Gingrich was the first to demonstrate the fallacy of this belief in the Internet age, and it won Republicans control of the House. 

He certainly deserves some of the credit (some would say most of it) for the balanced budgets of the mid-1990s and he pushed Clinton into accepting welfare reform.  But his accomplishments–every one of them–came with a Democrat in the White House, not during the Reagan presidency.

Bottom line: Hang in there, Newt, the Democrats democracy needs you. And never forget — the people united will never be defeated.

Calbuzz Decodes the Prez Candidates’ Messages

Monday, January 30th, 2012

With his State of the Union address last week, President Obama began to spell out the central themes of the re-election campaign he will be running against (most likely) Mitt Romney or (less likely) Newt Gingrich.

First, let’s consider what we’ve been able to glean from the Republican opposition.

Romney’s message: “I’m a businessman; he’s France.”

Gingrich’s frame: “I’m for pay checks; he’s for food stamps.”

To Mitt, Obama argues: “I killed Bin Laden; he’s a rich guy.”

And to Grinch: “I killed Bin Laden; he’s nuts.”

Sure, we know there’s more on both sides. But in national politics, it’s the big, broad, brush strokes that tell us how the contenders plan to paint themselves and their opponents. In other words, although they all have more to say, what sticks in the ear of the man on the street?

You can try it: ask someone you know who is likely to vote but doesn’t follow politics closely to tell you one thing about Obama (besides that he’s black). Or one thing about Romney (besides that he’s a Mormon) or Gingrich (besides that he cheated on two wives).

Assuming the race will be Obama v. Romney, it will indeed be class warfare, for which we can credit 1) the Occupy Wall Street movement 2) Romney’s immense wealth and low tax-rate and 3) the distribution of wealth in America.

As we noted the other day, a recent Pew Research Center study found that “two-thirds of the public (66%) believes there are “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between the rich and the poor—an increase of 19 percentage points since 2009. Not only have perceptions of class conflict grown more prevalent; so, too, has the belief that these disputes are intense.”

Fairness and France: The OWS movement may not have developed a programmatic agenda, but it has shined a blinding light on the fundamental maldistribution of resources and burdens in modern American society. The more super-wealthy .01-percenter Mitt protests, the more he draws attention to his status as a vulture capitalist with off-shore bank accounts for whom job creation takes a back seat to return on equity.

American voters have long been just fine with rich politicians, from John F. Kennedy to Michael Bloomberg. They admire Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. But they expect a certain level of human decency, of generosity, of commitment to the common good that – sadly – is unapparent in Mitt Romney.

When he goes on and on about Obama trying to turn America into a European-style socialist welfare state, it just sounds like he’s saying, “He wants to make me just like you – you nebbish.” This is not great mass messaging.

Both sides of Romney’s frame backfire on him: he’s a businessman with vast investments at a time when people increasingly distrust Wall Street and the wealthy. And he tries to paint Obama as a social democrat at a time when there’s increasing hunger for greater equality or at least equity.

Even before Romney released his tax returns, and it was revealed that he earns about $57,000 a day from clipping coupons and pays just a 14% tax rate, more than half of those surveyed nationwide by YouGov (and we can’t vouch for their methodology, but they’re usually in the ballpark) said they believe the Mittster is not paying his fair share of taxes – worse than Gingrich, Obama and even Bill Gates.

And that was before the New York Times revealed the extent of Romney’s cozy relationship with Goldman Sachs – the investment banking firm that got Mitt’s protégé eMeg Whitman in hot water during her campaign for California governor in 2010.

Meanwhile, Newt has discovered what Calbuzz has, since July 2010, called the Death of Truth. This is rich, given that he is one of the progenitors of the Big Lie technique in American politics, one of his latest being his supposed loyalty and oneness with Ronald Reagan although, for example, as Eliott Abrams noted in the National Review, in 1985 he called Reagan’s meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev “the most dangerous summit for the West since Adolf Hitler met with Neville Chamberlain in 1938 in Munich.”

Mittens lies: Gingrich is correct about Romney: the facts don’t and won’t matter to him. (Although, we gotta say, Tom Brokaw and NBC have no valid complaint against the Romney ad that uses Terrific Tom’s broadcast about Newt’s ethics charges.) But even if Grinch is right about Romney’s tendency to prevaricate, that won’t stop Mitt from trying to portray Obama as un-American. This has been and will be how he tries to frame the debate against the president.

“If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on earth, I am not your president,” Romney said in a foreign policy speech at the Citadel. “You have that president today.” Which caused Walter Rodgers to note in the Christian Science Monitor that Romney seems unmoved “by the fact that this president increased military spending in each of his three years in office, ordered more drone attacks on the Taliban and Al Qaeda than his predecessor, and took out Osama bin Laden.”

Another way Romney argues that Obama is France is the contention that the president “doesn’t have a jobs plan.” Which, as Benjy Sarlin noted at Talking Point Memo, is simply untrue.

“President Obama has been pushing a bill called the American Jobs Act for months, a $447 billion package that includes billions in tax cuts, funding to prevent teacher layoffs, and investments in education and transportation infrastructure. You may remember it from the time he called a rare joint session of Congress in September to announce the legislation or from the many times the Senate debated its individual components throughout the rest of the year. By all indicators, it will play a central role in his re-election campaign. Disagree with it if you will, but it’s factually inaccurate to say he doesn’t have a plan.” (Psst Benjy, we call that a “lie.”)

We don’t expect Obama to counter-argue “L’etat c’est moi.” But if he had any sense of humor, he might try “Liberté, égalité, fraternité.”  It’s worked before.