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Archive for 2012



Mitt’s Dog Checks Out Newt’s Panda & Rick’s Chaps

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Calbuzz gets results: One day after our Department of Campaign Strategy and Unsolicited Political Advice demanded that the Republican presidential front-runners attend the GOP state convention, party officials suddenly announced that Mitt Romney’s national co-chair was heading to California for the event.

Coincidence? We don’t believe in coincidence.

Now that former Minnesota governor and current Mittens front man Tim Pawlenty is skedded as the Saturday night keynote speaker at next weekend’s convention in Burlingame, only Rick Santorum, this week’s version of a GOP front-runner, remains without high-profile representation at the confab.

While our convention counsel to him remains unchanged, it may be that Santorum, aptly derided this week as “one of the finest minds of the thirteenth century,” simply sees too many dangers lurking if he gets too close to San Francisco. Already leading the league in glitter bombings, the Big Rick no doubt fears touching Bay Area doorknobs, using its public facilities or having one of his children recruited should he venture too near to Sodom.

Either that or he’s waiting for this year’s Mr. S.F. Leather Contest.

Passing the hat: We’re a bit surprised to learn that GOP convention delegates will have to fork over an extra hundred bucks, in addition to registration, travel, lodging and other weekend expenses, to hear Pawlenty weave his rhetorical magic at dinner, when they also have to sit through get to hear from both Rep. Kevin McCarthy, one of the few ranking California Republicans who isn’t from another planet, and from Reince Priebus.

No truth to the rumor that the latter is a virulent form of intestinal infection; usually reliable sources tell us tonight that Reince (rhymes with “pints”) Priebus is actually chairman of the Republican National Committee. You could look it up.

In truth, the $100 dinner ducat actually is a great bargain, given that it’ll cost another extra C-note to hear from Newt Gingrich at lunch a few hours before.

Gauging by the fine story filed by Sacbee prose stylist David Siders this week, the Grinch may not leave California before the convention starts. He seems to have transformed his erstwhile brief fundraising jaunt to the state into a full-blown vacation and, despite the carping of Mr. Crankypants over at Flashreport, appears to be having a swell time of it, from hanging out at Stanford with Condi Rice to feeding elephants and pandas at the San Diego Zoo.

Next up: Newt rollerblades and pumps iron on Venice Beach.

Ruff times for Romney: The biggest existential threat to Mitt Romney’s stumbling campaign is not his recent droop in national polls, current struggles in his “home state” of Michigan, or the consistent abuse heaped on him by the heavyweight conservative commentariat.

It’s growing outrage from the owners of America’s 78.2 million dogs.

As every school child knows, Mittens infamously strapped Seamus, his Irish setter, to the top of his station wagon on a family vacation in 1983, with predictable grody effects not suitable to be reported in a family web site such as ours.

While the shaggy dog tale has been oft-told among political hacks since 2007, there is growing evidence that the story is only now entering the nation’s mainstream consciousness. TV talking heads, from Chris Wallace to Rachel Maddow and David Letterman have spread the word, while demonstrators at the Westminster Dog Show picketed to protest Romney as NYT columnist Gail Collins constantly reminds the paper’s 1.2 million daily readers of his weirdo action by referencing the event in every column she writes that mentions his name.

However, the key nagging question – do we want a guy who strapped his dog  onto the roof rack for a 12-hour road trip to be in charge of the nukes? – now extends well beyond the bounds of elite media, thanks to an Alabama-based social networking professional named Scott Crider.

With 39 percent of America’s households owning at least one dog, millions of people by now have visited Crider’s blog, “Dogs Against Romney,” where, among other things, they can shop from among a wide selection of bumper strips, car magnets and dog bandanas, as well as T-shirts in men’s, women’s, canine and cat sizes.

Worse for Mitt, Crider is also mobilizing a “Super Pack” on Facebook, which had 31,057 “likes” at press time, saying he “feels that this just speaks to this guy’s character,” words which, to our erudite ears, echo long-ago sentiments of Calbuzzer Immanuel Kant:

If man is not to stifle his human feelings, he must practice kindness towards animals, for he who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.

Chew on that, Mittens.

Read of the week: Just when you thought the repulsive Grover Norquist couldn’t grow any more arrogant and self-important, the little furry monster announced at CPAC that it doesn’t matter how “severely conservative” Romney is or isn’t because all the Republicans need in the White House anyway is a useful idiot anyway:

All we have to do is replace Obama. …  We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget. … We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don’t need someone to think it up or design it. The leadership now for the modern conservative movement for the next 20 years will be coming out of the House and the Senate…

Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States. This is a change for Republicans: the House and Senate doing the work with the president signing bills. His job is to be captain of the team, to sign the legislation that has already been prepared.

Good to know.

Whither Tony V: Seems we unfairly bashed LA. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in our Democratic convention wrap-up for not showing up at the event, given that he had other things going on, namely the imminent announcement of his selection as the chair of this summer’s national convention. (Although his peeps insist the one had nothing to do with the other — it “just didn’t work out.”)

That said, we’re not sure that the high-profile post is as good a deal for Tony V as it for the party. It wasn’t exactly a launching pad for the pols that chaired the last half-dozen conventions. Nancy Pelosi (2008) managed to lose the Speakership just two years later, while Bill Richardson (2004), Terry McAuliffe (2000), Tom Dachsle and Dick Gephardt (1996), Ann Richards (1992) and Jim Wright (1988) all found defeat, scandal, obscurity or all three soon after performing their ceremonial duties.

The Dems, on the other hand, can’t lose by having Villaraigosa chair, in a year when the Latino vote will be more important than ever, and when Republican wannabes are locked in a close contest to see who can be the most culturally insensitive immigrant basher in the field.

Which unfortunately doesn’t give our old pal Bettina Inclan much to work with.

We apologize for being way overdue in congratulating Bettina on her good news, being selected director of the RNC’s “Hispanic Outreach Effort.” The bad news, of course, is that she’s been named director of the RNC’s “Hispanic Outreach Effort.”

Usted vaya nina!

Why GOP Wannabes Must Attend State Convention

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Urgent memo to Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum: You can still get a cheap, one-day round-trip flight to make the California Republican Convention.

With state Republicans scheduled to meet at the Hyatt Regency just south of San Francisco International Airport on the weekend of Feb. 24-26, Calbuzz has taken to Kayak.com to scope out travel arrangements for the two Republican presidential front-runners who will be damned sorry later if they miss the event.

Yeah, yeah, we get that the GOP field will be a bit preoccupied and focused on the key Michigan primary the following Tuesday, Feb. 28. But we also know that with the race playing out the way it is, it’s looking more and more likely that the June 5 California primary could be the decisive contest of the long campaign – and that anyone with the brains they were born with will hightail it to SFO the weekend after next.

So we’ve found a couple ways for the candidates to have the best of both worlds.

Act now and you can get a $1042 non-stop round-trip between Detroit’s Wayne County Metropolitan Airport in time to make a speech at CRP’s Saturday dinner and back in time for Sunday morning services with a friendly Michigan minister.

Or, if you’re really smart, or excessively cheap, you can speak at Friday’s dinner, grab a good night’s sleep and get back to Motor City for some afternoon pandering for only $702 round-trip.

Close readers will recall that we similarly urged the GOP contenders to show up at last fall’s Republican convention, for the very reason that California, and its huge cache of 172 delegates would end up being the big prize in the primaries.

But no, you – and we’re looking right at you Mittens – thought it would be shrewder to spend your time tramping around New Hampshire and (cough, cough) Iowa instead. How’s that working out for you now?

Since last we wrote on the presidential race, Santorum has suddenly surged and now leads Romney both in national polls and in Michigan. In fact, he’s only two points behind the alleged “front-runner” in California, according to a new SurveyUSA poll this week (if you believe their loopy numbers.)

To his credit, Newt Gingrich, who’s been spending the last few days in the Golden Gate state raising money, appears to be the only one smart enough to have figured out the long game – he’s the current headliner for the state convention. The Grinch, who was in the Central Valley on Tuesday, has more lives than a cat in the primary and seems to have settled on a Southern-West Coast play to accumulate enough delegates to keep things interesting.

And in case the rest of you have forgotten why you need to be here, let us remind you that:

It’s a global media village. San Francisco offers monster free media exposure that will be carried in California and nationally (including Michigan) and clips of you being cheered by thousands of die-hard Republicans – coverage worth millions – will demonstrate your wide appeal.

It may actually matter. With none of the candidates rolling in delegates, the primary season may well slouch right into June, when having throngs of activist California Republicans in your camp could make a huge difference because it’s so damn expensive to advertise on TV here.

It’s a cheap date. Bring along some Michigan reporters and give them one-on-one interviews on the way. Hold a little press conference with the California media. Give Calbuzz an exclusive sit-down. Schmooze with delegates. Show them they really matter. The 24 hours that you miss in Michigan will be a great investment in winning the nomination when crunch time comes in June.

So get the travel office busy, fellas, before these great fares expire. Calbuzz will even schlep you to and from the airport, which gives us an excuse to miss the debate over the party platform.

Jerry Brown’s Big Fail; Dem Winners and Losers

Monday, February 13th, 2012

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.