Archive for the ‘Bill Clinton’ Category



Ironic Potheads, Obama Mojo MIA, EJ in the Zone

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Pot post-mortem: Who knew the most interesting, intriguing and ironic question of the entire election would turn out to be: WTF did North Coast potheads vote against Proposition 19?

Calbuzz kudos to Bob Salladay of California Watch for breaking it down in a nice piece that reports how the dope legalization measure lost big in weed-rich Humboldt and Mendocino counties, which mirrored the statewide vote of 53-to-46 against, while Trinity County smoked Prop. 19 in a 60-40 landslide.

Prop. 19 undoubtedly failed because some of the state’s largest counties voted against it, not sparsely populated areas in Northern California. But that’s not stopping supporters of the initiative from lashing out at pot producers in the so-called Golden Triangle. Here’s one comment that has been getting attention:

“Lets grab machetes and head up to Humboldt… Humboldt, your little community just pissed off a ton of people who are sick of paying your inflated crop prices!”

The arguments against Prop. 19 centered in part around the layers of regulatory oversight imposed by the initiative. Some worried about a provision restricting growing to a 25-square-foot plot of land, even though the initiative allowed for larger cultivation amounts approved by local authorities….

Many felt that asking pot growers to vote for Prop. 19 was like asking bootleggers to overturn Prohibition: Why would they give up such enormous, tax-free profits?

Bottom line: the free spirits who’ve built the market in California don’t want the damn government hassling them with taxes and regulations. In other words, they’re Republicans, as Calbuzzer cartoonist Tom Meyer aptly demonstrates today.

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P.S. Also check out John Hoeffel’s look-ahead political analysis which seems to point to the inevitability of legalization, perhaps as soon as 2012.

What ever happened to the guy we elected? As Democrats across the nation, at least those without the good sense to live in California, descend ever-further into a pit of political despair following the Republican wipeout, perhaps the most depressing development has been the total weenie act being performed by a self-pitying Barack Obama.

After a sulky, day-after press conference in which he more resembled a spoiled teenager stuck in detention than what you call your Leader of the Free World, Obama sunk to new depths in a sad sack appearance on “60 minutes.”

As Huffpost blogger and business executive coach Kathleen Reardon excellently reported:

I waited last night for the confident Democratic President of the United States to appear on 60 Minutes but he never quite arrived. In fact, the president who did arrive said when asked by Steve Kroft about his promise to change Washington:

“That’s one of the dangers of assuming power. And you know, when you’re campaigning, you, I think you’re liberated to say things without thinking about, ‘Okay, how am I gonna actually practically implement this.’”

What? Nah! He didn’t say that, did he?

Washpost columnist Gene Robinson took a broader and politically more  trenchant look at the president’s woe-is-me session with Kroft.

Obama was reasonable, analytical, professorial – but also uninspired and uninspiring. I’m just being honest, if not generous; when Kroft asked whatever happened to Obama’s “mojo,” the president gave the impression that he’s been wondering the same thing.

“Do you get discouraged? Are you discouraged now?” Kroft asked.

“I do get discouraged,” Obama replied, according to the transcript of the full interview. “I thought that the economy would have gotten better by now. You know, one of the things I think you understand – as president you’re held responsible for everything. But you don’t always have control of everything, right? And especially an economy this big. There are limited tools to encourage the kind of job growth that we need. But I have fundamental confidence in this country. I am constantly reminded that we have been through worse times than these, and we’ve always come out on top. And I’m positive that the same thing is going to happen this time. You know, there are going to be setbacks, and we may take two steps forward and one step back, but the trajectory of this country is always positive.”

Well, it may be unfair, but presidents aren’t allowed to be discouraged. They aren’t allowed to talk about the limitations of the job, or the fact that they are held accountable for everything from inclement weather to the lack of a championship playoff system in college football. Presidents are not permitted to acknowledge familiarity with the concept of “one step back.” And good things aren’t “going to happen,” in the presidential lexicon. They’re already happening.

We keep wondering when the Democrats will get serious about pointing out that the Republicans who went before them — like George Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger — have left behind them a path of utter devastation, from the national economy to a $25 billion California deficit. Wonder if Jerry Brown is studying what a weak-ass job President Obama has done making it clear that he’s had to clean up a pile of doggie doo left on his doorstep?

Meanwhile, truly masochistic erstwhile Obama fans won’t want to miss Politico’s take out on the president’s political perils (warning: do not attempt to read this if you are a Democrat taking Cymbalta, Effexor, Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac, Wellbutrin, Zoloft or suffer from suicidal ideation), although Jason Linkins helpfully lightens things a bit with a nice takedown of the piece’s extraordinary Beltway-centric perspective.

E.J to the rescue: Our old friend E.J. Dionne, who long ago set down the theoretical framework for Bill Clinton’s Third Way centrist politics, appears to have been taking an extra helping of progressive pills in recent weeks, as he’s been on a real roll with columns urging Democrats to stop whining and stiffen their spines.

After his world scooplet interview with Never Say Die Nancy Pelosi, his  smackdown of the post-election instant conventional wisdom industry and his lead-the-way analysis of some of the actual factual reasons behind the GOP House takeover, our boy outdid himself on Thursday with a terrific piece in which he picked the docile and doleful Dems up by the scruffs of their necks and tried to shake some sense into them.

Funny that when progressives win, they are told to moderate their hopes, but when conservatives win, progressives are told to retreat.

Worse, Democrats tend to internalize the views of their opponents. Already, some moderate Democrats are claiming that all would have been well if Obama had not tried to reform health care or “overreached” in other ways. Never mind that Obama’s biggest single mistake (beyond the administration’s projection that unemployment would peak around 8 percent) was giving in to Senate moderates and not demanding the much bigger stimulus plan a weak economy plainly needed.

In fact, moderate Democrats would do better calling attention to how extreme and out of touch the conservative program actually is. Moderates should be more offended than anyone that the GOP’s ideological obsessions (health-care repeal, tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation) have little connection to solving the country’s problems, particularly the economic difficulties in the electorally pivotal Midwest..

Give Republicans credit for this: They don’t chase the center, they try to move it. Democrats can play a loser’s game of scrambling after a center being pushed ever rightward. Or they can stand their ground and show how far their opponents are from moderate, problem-solving governance..

A working class hero is something to be: If, like us, you’ve been too busy with the Odyssey of eMeg to have caught The Onion’s recent series lampooning Joe Biden, NYT biz writer Jeremy Peters is on the spot, explaining the nuances of the counter-intuitive humor behind these very funny pieces, and pointing to the best examples.

Five Ways eMeg Blew Her Campaign for Governor

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

In June 2009, a few months after she launched her campaign to become governor of California, Meg Whitman abruptly fired Nicky Diaz Santillan, an undocumented Mexican immigrant who had served as her housekeeper for nine years.

No one knew it at the time, but Whitman’s words and action in the privacy of her home on June 20, and on the phone four days later, would sow the seeds of her political loss, a debacle that will define her forever as the billionaire who spent more money on a political race than anyone in history and won nothing but a humiliating defeat.

Recollections differ sharply about exactly what happened when Whitman sent Diaz packing. The former eBay CEO insisted she was gracious and caring toward someone she saw as a “member of her extended family.” It broke her heart, she said at one point; only later did she suggest Nicky  should be deported.

At a Sept. 29 press conference with LA Ambulance Chaser Gloria Allred, Diaz said Whitman was cruel and heartless and insisted that her lawyer had told her there was nothing to be done.

“From now on, you don’t know me and I don’t know you,” Diaz said Whitman told her on the phone. “You never have seen me and I have never seen you.”

What Nicky revealed about Meg: The precise details of the episode may remain fuzzy – but its political impact is crystal clear. In the end, the Diaz story dealt two grave wounds that doomed Whitman’s candidacy:

First, the Republican nominee’s memorable Oct. 1 press conference responding to Diaz’s allegations was a public relations disaster. A real-time, real-life event, it was one of only a handful of times that California voters would see Whitman in public, outside of the carefully scripted and controlled campaign events or the unprecedented barrage of TV ads that she beamed into their living rooms. And polls would show that the unfavorable image they already had of the candidate would only grow more negative.

More broadly, Whitman’s handling of the Diaz affair – and her improbable insistence that she had no idea that Diaz was illegal and baseless accusation that Nicky stole the mail — underscored a central failing of her $160+ million effort. Ralph Whitehead of the University of Massachusetts once explained that in an executive leader, voters look for someone with a hard head and a soft heart. Whitman surely passed the first test. But her handling of Nicky Diaz – which had already occurred and could not be fixed – exposed her as a rich woman with the hardest of hearts.

She might, back then, have mitigated the damage that came later if she had done what most human beings would do for someone who had cleaned their toilets for nine years: hire her an immigration attorney, give her severance pay, help her find a new job. Whitman did none of those things. Voters – especially Latinos and women – concluded she was, at best, not like them and, at worst, inhuman.

“I could not be any prouder of the race we ran,” Whitman said in a farewell letter to supporters on her campaign web page. It’s a typical statement from a woman who could never admit a mistake, whether it was flipping IPO shares, booting her maid to the curb or refusing to pull down her negative ads when implored to do so in front of 14,000 women.

Because Whitman’s debacle cost an unprecedented sum – including about $142 million of her own money – it will be endlessly dissected by pundits, pros and political scientists alike. Calbuzz covered the race for 20 months, and our archive is filled with reporting, analysis and candid commentary about what we saw as its weaknesses from the beginning. Here is a look at eMeg’s five biggest blunders:

-She never gave people a reason to be for her. At some point, some determined academic will calculate the percentage of negative to positive ads that Whitman ran. Our bet is that at least three-fourths were attacks, first on her primary opponent Steve Poizner and later on Jerry Brown.

Whitman came out swinging early last winter against Poizner, long before most Californians had any idea who Steve Poizner was. After she captured the GOP nomination in June, she almost immediately started bashing Brown. The net effect: the first thing that many people came to learn about Meg Whitman was that she was mean-spirited.

The Murphy-Stutzman-Gomez consultant brain trust programmed their meal ticket to chant jobs, budget and education, which she did. These were to be the decisive issues that would drive Whitman to victory. What they overlooked was that they were running a billionaire newcomer who could not connect by eating chili dogs and traveling in a green bus.

Whitman needed to convince voters of the most critical question that Brown’s pollster, Jim Moore, asks in surveys: Which candidate best fits this description — Has the knowledge and skill to be governor?

But beyond endlessly identifying herself as the person who ran eBay, the Whitman campaign never really introduced their candidate to voters, never gave Californians more than a mantra of political platitudes and a few quick images of her and her husband when they were younger.

Who, in the end, was she? Why hadn’t she voted for 28 years? How come she’d never been engaged in a single civic project? Why did she lie about things she had no reason to lie about – like how government interference slowed down building a new headquarters for Pay Pal, or her position on offshore oil drilling or whether one of her ads included a shot of a border fence?

Calbuzz christened her “eMeg” at the beginning of the race and, in a very real sense, she never told us more about herself than that, which may be why the name stuck, and spread into publications across the country.

-She couldn’t handle the immigration issue. One of the big unanswered questions about the campaign remains what Whitman’s handlers knew about the Diaz matter and when they knew it. Either she told them the full details of the matter and they did nothing about it, which would amount to political malpractice on their part, or she kept the story to herself, which would amount to felony stupidity on her part.

After Whitman told reporters that she had informed her top advisers about the Nicky Diaz events, Calbuzz tried to ask her consultants what they’d been told and when. That’s when her top people stopped speaking to Calbuzz at all. That was more than a month ago. There was no way to answer our question without throwing either themselves or their candidate under the bus. So they just froze us out until we said we wouldn’t ask the question any more.

One of the reasons that the Diaz issue gained such traction was that Whitman offered up a constantly shifting kaleidoscope of positions on illegal immigration. When Poizner made it the centerpiece of his primary campaign, she tacked hard right, enlisting campaign chairman Pete Wilson – the former governor known on the streets of Mexico City as hijo de puta — to cut an ad declaring she would be “tough as nails.” But as soon as the primary ended, she lurched back to the center, with an expensive effort to woo Latino voters, a baldly transparent move that came across as crass opportunism, if not utter hypocrisy.

Once the personal became enmeshed with the political on the issue, she could never untangle herself. She couldn’t help Nicky Diaz become legal because she had taken a stand against a path to citizenship – a policy endorsed by most California voters, including about nine in 10 Latinos.

And she made matters much worse at the Univision debate in Fresno when she told a young Mexican-born woman – valedictorian in her high-school class about to graduate from Fresno State – that she was taking the place at the university of a legitimate California citizen. Any non-white parent hearing that would have been appalled at her utter lack of compassion.

No wonder the LA Times reported that exit polls found Latinos voted 2-to-1 for Brown.

-She didn’t have dinner with Calbuzz. Our standing dinner invitation to eMeg, first issued on Labor Day 2009, became a running joke on our site and elsewhere. But her refusal to sit down with us in an informal setting came to symbolize something greater – a contempt for the press in general, founded on her arrogant belief that she had enough money and power to go over the heads of the media.

Whitman gave an interview to Michael Finnegan of the LA Times the day after she announced her candidacy, and she made several stumbles in it, as he pointed out. For whatever reason, she reacted to that experience not by seeking to learn from her mistakes, but by walling herself from the press forever.

Far more serious than stiffing us for dinner was her refusal throughout the campaign to grant an interview to the venerable San Francisco Chronicle, the second largest newspaper in the state; when she refused to meet with the paper’s editorial board, as every candidate for governor in memory has done, it evinced nothing more than contempt, if not abject fear.

The press corps roiled with tales of interview requests ignored or turned down and, at one point, she even refused to answer questions at a press conference she had called. The net effect was to send a message that Whitman had something to hide, that she was afraid to engage in the normal give and take between politicians and reporters, and it raised suspicions among voters.

Not that anyone in the real world cares about whether reporters have access. They don’t mind if a candidate stiffs the media, if she speaks to them, mingles with them, does something other than staged events with phony, planted questions. People care about media access only to the extent that it’s a surrogate for their access

With her retinue of consultants, pollsters and handlers, Whitman presented herself to the public as being more important and too insulated to understand people like them. It is telling that the California Nurses Association character of Queen Meg, who followed her around the state, drove eMeg crazy, because it cut too close to the truth.

Worse, according to a variety of political consultants from the left and right, Whitman’s failure to get out among the media early in the campaign, where she could make mistakes and learn from them, rendered her brittle and unstable at the end of the campaign, when she needed to be sure on her feet. Whitman’s consultants failed to help her handle the unscripted moments of the campaign — and it was in those moments that voters saw who she really is.

The ultimate example occurred at the Women’s Conference in Long Beach, where she managed to get herself booed by 14,000 women by her mishandling of an idiotic proposal from the “Today Show’s” Matt Lauer to take down her negative advertising. “Of course I will, Matt,” she could have said. “As soon as Jerry Brown Inc. takes down their attack ads on me.”  A seasoned pro could have knocked it out of the park. Just days before the election, she was still a rookie.

When it became clear in the final weeks of the campaign that she was losing, she resorted to driving around in a bus and ordering junk food at diners in a by now pathetically too late effort to “reintroduce” herself to the public.

-She ran only one memorable ad and that blew up in her face. It is astonishing that Whitman spent more than $100 million on paid television advertising and even those of us who covered the campaign would be hard pressed to recall any of them that penetrated.

The sole exception was an ad she put up after Labor Day featuring an excerpt from a 1992 presidential primary debate between Brown and Bill Clinton, in which Clinton attacks Brown on many of the same issues Whitman was trying to press.

At first it looked like a killer ad. But when Brown and his fellow Democrats quickly produced, first, a statement from Clinton and then the former president himself to back Brown and assail Whitman for misusing the comments, it backfired on her. Things went from bad to worse when the former CNN reporter whose long-ago TV story was the basis for the whole controversy came forward to say he’d made a big factual error – and Whitman still refused to take down her ad.

This was a Big Moment in the campaign because it shifted the ground precisely where Team eMeg did not want the campaign to go – away from issues and toward character. The ad was mainly about the issues, in particular Proposition 13 and taxes, and secondarily about Brown’s truthfulness. Here was an icon of the Democratic Party saying Jerry Brown could not be trusted on taxes and spending. That was the single most dangerous charge Brown faced. But the ad turned out to be an exploding cigar. When Clinton repudiated it and Whitman defended it anyway, the story shifted to “liar, liar, pants on fire.” And what Team eMeg did NOT want was a campaign about Whitman’s character.

No one should have been surprised that the LATimes/USC survey found that among likely voters Brown had her beat 2-1 when rated on the quality of “tells the truth.”

-She ran as a brand and over-saturated the market. Months ago, Brown’s campaign manager Steve Glazer predicted to us that the race would be about authenticity, with Whitman, fundamentally a marketing executive whose closest confidant, Henry Gomez, was also a marketing guy, trying to brand herself and Brown, a lifelong public official, running as the real deal.

Calbuzz recognized the danger presented by Whitman’s unlimited marketing budget when we laid out how the “standard quantum limit” could inevitably affect perceptions of voters in a political campaign – even one as big as a California governor’s race.

“Some among the cognoscenti wonder if voters will, at some point, find a chalk-on-a-blackboard cognitive dissonance created by a candidate who spends with no limits  to become  governor in order to cut spending,” we wrote back in April.

“Others suggest that as Whitman’s spending keeps growing exponentially, it will bump up against some outer limit where cash begins to have diminishing returns, or even a negative impact, as voters find repulsive her free-spending ways amid the state’s worst recession in a generation.”

Lo and behold, that’s what happened. Whitman’s advertising became so ubiquitous, so intrusive, that voters found her in their living rooms, uninvited, at all hours of the day and night. It didn’t take long before Whitman’s branding campaign ran up against another scientific principle: The T Factor.

This strong force, according to the Calbuzz Department of Weights and Measures, is based on the power of  Tivo to mute and completely skip advertisements, especially nauseating political spots; it is greater than, or equal to, a voter’s curiosity about what an ad might have to say. (This is represented by the formula T≥b*X, where b=bullshit and X=off.)

Certain political consultants will, of course, dismiss this theorem out of hand because if candidates were to believe it, they would make less money. But not only did Whitman’s advertising over-saturate the market (diminishing exponentially the stickiness of later ads) but they actually fed Brown’s narrative about her: that she was a greedy billionaire with too much money to spend and too little respect for ordinary people.

Every new ad had to overcome that revulsion before its content had a chance of being heard and processed. And in the end, voters just tuned her out.

Clinton Rallies Dems; Krusty Bashes eMeg on Taxes

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Jerry Brown took some of his toughest shots of the campaign at Republican Meg Whitman at a rollicking rally Sunday night in San Jose, where former president Bill Clinton warmly embraced his one-time Democratic rival, lavishly praising him as a leader who “has always been on the side of positive change.”

The old-fashioned political rally drew about 3,000 people to the Event Center at San Jose State University, the second large, raucous event Clinton headlined in the state, as he energetically turned his popularity in California to motivating Democrats, especially younger ones, to cast ballots in an election year where most of the enthusiasm is on the Republican side.

Brown’s theme – apparently his closing meme – was “know-how, values and vision” – each of which he used to contrast himself to Whitman, the former CEO of eBay who has no prior direct political experience.

Clinton, on stage with Brown and Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Gavin Newsom, urged the audience to use all their social networking tools to contact their friends and if they’re not planning to vote, to ask them “What planet do you live on?”

Said the former president: “Your future’s on the line – but you’ve got to show up.”

Just two weeks before the Nov. 2 election, state Democratic leaders hope Clinton’s visit to the state can ignite the party’s base. It is a measure of the Democrat’s perilous political position in 2010 that the former president is spending time in California, normally a reliable blue state, during a midterm election where boosting turnout will be crucial to the party in holding down GOP gains in Washington and across the country.

The Whitman campaign sought to dismiss Clinton’s participation as a minor annoyance. “If it weren’t for his party affiliation, Bill Clinton wouldn’t have anything to do with Jerry Brown,” said  Whitman spokeshuman Andrea Jones Rivera.

Recent polls have shown Brown narrowly leading Whitman, while incumbent Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer remains locked in a tight race with GOP challenger Carly Fiorina in the other top statewide race.

Brown and Clinton have a long history of political conflict, but there was no evidence of it on Sunday, as the two warmly hugged and exchanged compliments.

Brown introduced Clinton as a great guy and a great president who persevered “in the face of the most outrageous Republican opposition,” and credited him with leaving the nation with a surplus and with creating 22 million jobs during his two terms.

“Now I know this president’s amazing,” he said “He took a lot of crap from a lot of people, okay? Yeah, I gave him a little myself “

Striking a populist tone, Brown also praised Clinton for giving “the people at the bottom” a chance at the American Dream. “It’s how society takes care of the least powerful,” that truly matters, he said, paraphrasing Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

It was a theme that he elaborated upon in his own comments, as he assailed Whitman as a tool of the rich, and he doubled down on his recent attacks on the GOP nominee for her proposal to eliminate the capital gains tax in the state.

“Here’s the Whitman economic plan,” Brown said. “The most important part of her plan is to take the 1% of the people in California who pay 80% of the capital gains tax and give them a complete pass . . . So here’s the plan, take the money from you and give it to her and her friends and her contributors . . . She wants to give them a complete pass.”

Warming to his theme and tapping his inner William Jennings Bryan, Brown mocked Whitman’s statement that she doesn’t know how much her proposal would save her personally.

“Let me give Ms Whitman a little bit of advice. Go look at your tax return. There’s a little line on her tax return – which she won’t release by the way, to the public – and on that line it says how much your taxable gain is. So you know what it is…she knows the number!

“I know my number by the way. I paid $1400 in capital gains tax this year. Doesn’t she know? I don’t know. Maybe somebody stole her tax return, like they stole her mail or something,” Brown said to laughter, referring to Whitman’s allegation that her housekeeper stole her mail containing information about her mismatched Social Security number.

One of Brown’s biggest applause lines came when he referenced Whitman’s argument that most of the state’s fiscal problems can be traced to the power and greed of public employees unions, and her promise to lay off 40,000 state workers if she is elected.

“I’m not ashamed that people join unions and bargain collectively, because you know what? If you’re a janitor or you’re a farm worker or you’re a housekeeper, God help you if you don’t have somebody looking out for you that’s more powerful than you are. And that’s what it’s all about,” he said.

He also bashed Whitman as someone who wants to enter political life at the top of the ladder and is in it for her own personal ambitions.

“This is somebody who never voted, never got involved in her local school board, never did anything . . . and she wants to start at the top.” He compared her to a job applicant who goes to an interview and says, “Here’s my resume – it’s blank.”

Referring to Whitman’s injection of $140 million of her own funds into the race, he said: “We’ve found out a billion is not enough if that’s all you got.”

PS — Here’s our favorite Clinton riff (which we think we have verbatim):

I was raised in a home where nobody I knew had a college degree. I had people one generation older than me, who I knew had higher IQs than I did, who never had the opportunities I did. We were raised to believe if you were fortunate, you were supposed to give back to your community, give to the future of your community and that was the right thing. All I think about these days both here and when I work in Haiti and Africa and Latin America and East Asia and all these places … I just think about the fact that intelligence and ability and dreams are evenly distributed across this state, across this nation and across this world but the resources, they’re not evenly distributed. And whenever you let them get out of whack, you pay a terrible price. So what I think about all the time is, I want all of you to have the chance I did. That’s why Jerry Brown sounded so angry when he was talking.

We were raised in a totally different tradition. We were raised in the first generation of Americans that took a middle class lifestyle for granted. All we had to do was show up, be good students, obey the law, do what we were supposed to do and we had a chance to live our dreams. I have watched for 30 years the assault on the American Dream and I am sick and tired of it and I want you to stop that from being your future. (cue WILD APPLAUSE AND CHEERING)

Thanks to DWT for photos, limo service and transcription.

The Death of Truth II; Meg’s Big Decision; Bill 4 Jerry

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

You see an ad on TV in which a candidate or someone else says flatly, “______ (my opponent) raised taxes.” And you say to yourself, “Gee, that must be true or they wouldn’t allow it on TV.”

Wrong. Under the Federal Communications Act, which governs broadcast stations (because the airwaves, allegedly at least, belong to the people), candidates may lie with impunity.

In fact, the law “requires broadcasters who run candidate ads to show them uncensored, even if the broadcasters believe their content to be offensive or false,” as Brooks Jackson, explained in the best primer on the issue on the web.

Ironically, that’s the same Brooks Jackson, formerly of CNN, whose erroneous report is the evidence Bill Clinton is referring to in the Meg Whitman ad that falsely accuses Jerry Brown of raising taxes when he was governor. (Clinton, btw, has since denounced the ad.)

The First Amendment, which we all remember says “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech,” makes it really difficult for anyone to craft legislation allowing any third party to adjudicate what is and is not “true” or “factual” in political speech.

All a candidate has to do is show a picture in the ad of himself or herself and have a statement saying he or she approved the ad. And they can lie away, which they often do. (For further discussion of this phenomenon see “The Death of Truth: eMeg and the Politics of Lying.”)

Which is why, according to Brown’s mouth organ The Sterling of Clifford, “Most people assume what they see in political ads is not true. People see a commercial and they go to whatever news source they trust to confirm or reject what they just heard.”

This is not the same in commercial speech, which is where the confusion comes in.

Ford cannot run an ad saying its latest car will get 100 miles to the gallon if that’s not a fact. If a commercial product makes a claim that’s not substantiated by facts or is not a subjective observation like “It’s Amazing!” then the ad can be censored by the TV station or network and the sponsor may be liable for damages.

A candidate’s right to lie in commercials, however, does not necessarily extend to political committees and other political players besides candidates themselves. That’s because when broadcast stations run ads from committees making charges, they may be held liable if the person skewered decides to sue for libel or slander.

Now, for a public figure to win a libel or slander suit is really, really, really hard because he or she has to show that the person or entity being sued knew the facts were wrong and broadcast them anyway with malicious intention. The standard is deliberately difficult for public figures in order to encourage robust public debate without fear of being charged with false defamation.

So, Calbuzzers, when you see an ad on TV, check to see who paid for it at the end. If it was put up by a candidate, no one had to say whether it was true or not before it was broadcast. That’s why newspapers, online sites, radio and TV reporters pay attention to what’s in those political ads. They’re the only ones who can tell you whether they’re based on truth or falsehood.

Department of Dumb Ideas: Regular readers of Calbuzz know that we have nothing but respect and affection for our friend George Skelton at the ByGodLA Times (he’s got even more institutional memory than we do!). But his piece arguing that Jerry Brown should pledge to serve only one term suggested that George is desperately seeking fresh material about the current state of politics, even if he has to resort to what he knows is a bonehead idea. Which, he acknowledged by saying: “I don’t know of anyone else who thinks it’s a good idea.” You got that right, George. Unless Krusty — should he happen to beat eMeg — wants to start out his third term as the lamest duck ever to sit in the horseshoe’s back office.

Yes, no, maybe so: Meg Whitman kept bobbing and weaving on Proposition 23 Monday, telling the Sacramento Bee editorial board she was pretty sure she’d be making her stance on the most high-profile measure on the November ballot clear any day now.

When asked about Proposition 23, which would suspend the state’s global warming law AB 32, Whitman said she would release a list of her proposition positions at the end of this week or at the start of next week.

Or maybe whenever the eMeg Empire marketing department gets around to telling her what she thinks.

Whitman has been all over the lot on the out-of-state-oil-company-financed measure, aimed at blocking California’s landmark legislation; she’s variously bashed AB32 as “a job killer,” said she favored suspending it for one year instead of indefinitely and just completely dithered on the matter, as she did with the Bee ed board.

A few hours before her latest procrastination, Brown, who opposes Prop. 23, stepped up the pressure on eMeg at a campaign stop with green industry types at a SoCal solar company:

Meg Whitman wants to have it both ways. She wants credit for supporting the environment and green jobs, but she won’t do what is necessary to support this vital industry. We need a governor who will do what is right, not a governor who doesn’t know what is right.

When she finally does get around to taking a position, we’ll be surprised if Whitman comes out in favor of Prop. 23.

Despite efforts to pressure her from the right she simply has nothing to gain by backing the measure. The election between her and Brown will be decided among independents, who strongly favor AB32; sure, the right-wingers will be grumpy if she doesn’t support their who-really-knows-if-global-warming-is really-real  proposal, but what else are they going to do – write in Chuck DeVore?

Bill Brushes Off Jerry’s Gaffe: In an interview with Yahoo! News and the Huffington Post, Bubba said all’s good between him and Jerry Brown and that he understands why the old man made his stupid joke about not having taxes with this state. Also: “Unbelievable,” Clinton said. “Meg Whitman made me a household face again and my younger self, too, which I’m very grateful for.”

Meyer: Slick Willie Meets the Devil in a Blue Dress

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Before the California Democratic Party announced that Bill Clinton will come to California next month to campaign for Jerry Brown (and Gavin Newsom) and before Brown apologized to Clinton for making a joke about his denial that he’d had sex with Monica Lewinsky, Calbuzz suggested Jerry might have to slip into a blue dress and seek forgiveness from Bubba.

Which got our Chief Editorial Poison Penman Tom Meyer thinking about the delicious possibilities that scenario presented. And before you could say “impeachment,” or explain what the meaning of the word “is” is, Meyer whipped up a vision of how that scene might have gone down — with Meg Whitman laughing her ass off on the sidelines.

And remember, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. So don’t be making any salacious suggestions from Meyer’s drawing. Note: we have no evidence that Jerry has ever pranced around in drag. But we’re always looking for tips.

Who’s afraid of 5th & Mission? The Chronicle’s John Diaz is probably the most thoughtful, most fair and most civil editorial page editor in the state, so Meg Whitman’s refusal to accept his respectful invitation to meet with the paper’s editorial board seems particularly craven, even for a campaign that has been marked from the start by cowardly unwillingness to meet face-to-face with most journalists or, for that matter, with just about anyone outside her cordoned off cocoon of corporate marketing and paid TV ads.

What is Whitman so afraid of? Why is she apparently so terrified of traveling outside her safety zone of staged media events, preselected audiences and ranks of courtiers paid big bucks to kiss her ring? Is she so entitled, superior and important that she shudders at the thought of lowering herself to answer basic policy questions from ink-stained journalists from a storied and historic California institution to whom hundreds of thousands of citizens turn every day – 12 million a month online – for information about those who seek the power to spend their tax dollars?

Perhaps a hint of the answer came in Whitman’s pathetic performance the other day at Yelp where employees cleaned her clock just by asking a couple of tough questions.

Calbuzz was the first news organization in California to call sustained attention to Whitman’s obsessive avoidance of engagement in the public rituals of seeking California’s highest office, which voters have a right to expect of anyone who presumes to lead a sprawling, noisy state of 37 million people of extraordinary diversity, cacophonous voices and conflicting interests.

Since we first wrote about the issue back in the spring of 2009, the mystery has only deepened: What does eMeg have to hide?

The most undercovered issue in politics: Timothy Noah continues to impress with “The Great Divergence,” his ongoing series about income and wealth equality in America. For a short course on the subject, check out these 15 quicky charts, courtesy of Business Insider, which pretty much tell the story.

And for a good time: Catch Jerry’s appearance on the always insightful and informative Good Day LA .