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Inaugural: Brown Urges Loyalty to the Community

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Jerry Brown’s inaugural address was a political homily that invoked a pioneer philosopher and his own ancestors’ journey westward to argue that California’s only way forward from chronic gridlock and fiscal morass is “loyalty to the community.”

After taking the oath as the state’s 39th governor, Brown not only offered an unvarnished look at the intractable political and economic condition of California but also pledged to confront these challenges without flinching.

“Choices have to be made and difficult decisions taken,” he said. “At this stage of my life (a refrain from his campaign commercials), I have not come here to embrace delay or denial.”

Having set low expectations for his address, Brown soared over them, as he delivered a 16-minute speech that was interrupted 14 times for applause by a crowd of supporters and elected officials packed into Sacramento’s Memorial Auditorium. Long known for his disdain for self-discipline and tradition, Brown displayed a serious and, at times, formal style as he shocked pundits and political hacks alike by showing up on time and actually speaking from a printed text.

Alternately sober, funny and inspiring, his elegant speech made a post-post-partisan appeal for a commitment to shared sacrifice that transcends politics. Brown recalled the courage and values with which his great-grandfather August Schuckman survived his arduous 1852 wagon train journey to the Golden State, saying that “the people of California have not lost their pioneering spirit or their capacity to meet life’s challenges.”

“It is not just my family, but every Californian is heir to some form of powerful tradition, some history of overcoming challenges much more daunting than the ones we face today,” he said. “From the native people who survived the total transformation of their way of life, to the most recent arrival, stories of courage abound. And it is not over.”

The 72-year-old Brown reportedly wrote the speech himself and was introduced by his wife and closest adviser, Anne Gust Brown. In it, he acknowledged the state faces dire circumstances, but insisted that California remains, as Cary McWilliams labeled it, “the Great Exception.”

The state’s rich and vibrant history demonstrates how the outsized energy, imagination and innovation of its people provide a legacy of hope that will outstrip the blight of recession, joblessness and chronic budget crisis, Brown said, as he summoned the beliefs of Josiah Royce, born in1855 in a mining camp that later became Grass Valley.

“We can overcome the sharp divisions that leave our politics in perpetual gridlock, but only if we reach into our heart and find that loyalty, that devotion to California above and beyond our narrow perspectives,” Brown said.

The new governor connected Royce’s “philosophy of  loyalty” to the problems of today, which he insisted can only be surmounted if the politics of polarization and deadlock of recent years are set aside in favor of a commitment to the common good:

“Without the trust of the people, politics degenerates into mere spectacle and democracy declines, leaving demagoguery and cynicism to fill the void,” he said, pivoting to the specific issues he and the Legislature now face.

“The year ahead will demand courage and sacrifice. The budget I propose will assume that each of us who are elected to do the people’s business will rise above ideology and partisan interest and find what is required for the good of California. There is no other way forward. In this crisis we simply have to learn to work together as Californians first, members of a political party second.”

His presentation was not without its humorous notes. As Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye swore him in, the crowd murmured a laugh at the notion that he was taking the oath “without mental reservation” at which point Brown smiled, looked to the audience and said “really – no mental reservation.”

He later noted that he was not only following his father’s footsteps, but “my own” as well. And when he introduced his 99-year old Aunt Connie Carlson he warned those who are “hankering after my job, it may be a while. God willing, the genes are good.”

But it was passion and seriousness of purpose that set the tone for most of his address:

“This is a time to honestly assess our financial condition and to make the tough choices. And as we do, we will put our public accounts in order, investments in the private sector will accelerate and our economy will produce new jobs just as it has done after each of the other ten recessions since World War II.”

While hopeful rhetoric filled much of his speech, he also touched on some specific issues that he highlighted during the campaign:

Budget: In confronting the immediate challenge of a $28 billion budget deficit, Brown said he would work to forge a strategy in line with the basic principles he set forth in the campaign:

“First, speak the truth. No more smoke and mirrors on the budget. No empty promises. Second, no new taxes unless the people vote for them. Third, return – as much as possible – decisions and authority to cities and counties and schools.”

Energy: Brown echoed his call during the race for new forms and expanded use of alternative forms of energy:

“As Californians we can be proud that our state leads the rest of the country in our commitment to new forms of energy and energy efficiency. I have set a goal if 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy by 2020 and I intend to meet it by the appointments I make and the actions they take.

Education: Despite his concern for the state’s budget woes, Brown promised to public schools a centerpiece of his efforts to lead a comeback for the state.

“Aside from economic advance, I want to make sure that we do everything we can to ensure that our schools are places of real learning. Our budget problem is dire but after years of cutback, I am determined to enhance our public schools so that our citizens of the future have the skills, the zest and the character to keep California up among the best.”

Returning to his philosophical tone at the end of his address, Brown noted that “many of these issues have confronted California one way or another for decades, certainly since the time of Earl Warren.”

“I have thought a lot about this and it strikes me that what we face together as Californians are not so much problems but rather conditions, life’s inherent difficulties. A problem can be solved or forgotten but a condition always remains. It remains to elicit the best from each of us and show us how we depend on one another and how we have to work together.”

Brown’s speech was a big hit with politicians sitting in the front row at Memorial Auditorium – almost none of whom matter in Sacramento.

Outgoing governor Arnold Schwarzenegger pronounced the speech “fantastic.” Former Gov. Gray Davis said Brown offered the right mix of realism and inspiration. U. S. Senator Dianne Feinstein agreed with the notion of giving responsibility and authority back to local government.

And the guy who mattered most, Senate Democratic Leader Darrell Steinberg, predicted that he’d be able to push Brown’s plans for the budget and taxes through the Legislature without going to a vote right away.

Dr. H Returns, Calbuzz Classic, Weird Holiday Dogs

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Despite his annual struggle against Seasonal Affect Disorder, Calbuzz staff psychiatrist Dr. P. J. Hackenflack has bravely battled his way through the stacks of mail that have piled up since the election, and graciously agreed to return today to answer our readers’ burning psycho-political questions.

Dear Dr. Hackenflack,
Now that the election’s over, is Meg Whitman feeling any regrets about the way she treated her housekeeper, Nicky Diaz?
– Gloria La Rouge, West Hollywood

Totally. She can’t find anyone to clean the kitchen or do the wash, let alone bring in  the mail.

To the Honorable P.J. Hackenflack,
I’ve noticed that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa all of a sudden is traveling around the country trying to raise his profile. Wussup with that?
– Cass A. Nova, Reno

Ignore the political speculation. Just happens Tony V’s run through all the female anchors in L.A. and feels ready to move up to network news babes.

Dr. H,
Why is Dianne Feinstein running for another term at her age? I’ve seen younger faces on cash.
– Tom C. Silicon Valley

She’s determined to pass Strom Thurmond on the all-time Senate geezer list.

Yo Doc,
A friend said Jerry Brown is going to make his wife his chief of staff in the governor’s office. Do you think that’s a good idea?
– Jacques B, Paris, France

Yo Jacques – the doc is still trying to finagle invites to the big inaugural parties, so no way I’m touchin’ that one, dude.

To whom it may concern,
One of the Hollywood blogs said Arnold Schwarzenegger is in line to play the lead in a remake of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” True?
–  J.M. Stewart, Indiana Pennsylvania

False. He’s actually signed to play Willy Loman in an update of “Death of a Salesman.”

Sir,
I saw on the news that Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton sat in the audience instead of onstage at Jerry Brown’s first public hearing on the budget. Do you think that was an effective protest?
– Darrell S, K Street Mall

Bob who?

Hello Dr. Hackenflack,
Ana Matosantos seems like a nice, smart person, but it seems strange that Jerry’s keeping on Arnold’s finance director. Can you shed any light?
– Harry P, Sacramento

Turns out Governor Gandalf was time traveling when he met her and thinks he’s rehired Adriana Gianturco.

Hey Doc,
Now that San Francisco’s mayor’s been elected lieutenant governor, there’s a big fight to replace him. Who’s the best candidate?
– W. Brown Mineola, Tex.

Clearly Gavin Newsom. He has absolutely nothing else to do for the next four years.

Calbuzz Classic: Less than three weeks before he takes the oath of office as governor, Jerry Brown is already making moves to assume the powers of the state’s chief executive.  So we thought it was an appropriate time to start measuring Brown’s acts against his words in the campaign. Here’s a piece we ran on April 13, 2009, based on the first major interview with Krusty that focused on his bid for governor:

Reflecting on his first incarnation as California governor, Jerry Brown says he was overly concerned with the importance of new ideas and not focused enough on the practicalities of getting things done.

In the first extensive interview about his 2010 gubernatorial bid, Brown told Calbuzz that if he wins back, at the age of 72, the office he first captured when he was 36, things will be different.

“Then I emphasized new ideas, now I would emphasize management more,” he told us. “It was very exciting then, but without losing that sense of innovation, I’d be more practical-minded, very detailed, focused on follow through and consensus building . . . I’d be looking for people who are seasoned administrators.”

In a telephone interview last week, Brown said he is motivated to seek a second turn as governor by his own “unspent potential,” a notion he credited to the anthropologist Gregory Bateson: “The key to flexibility is not spending all your potential.”

Speaking in rushing streams of high-speed sentences, Brown talked of everything from how to attack Sacramento’s partisan dysfunction to the hair products used by Democratic rival Gavin Newsom. Boasting that his two terms as governor were “good years” for California, he rattled off a list of accomplishments, while uncharacteristically acknowledging some shortcomings.

“My sense of management has been refined and developed,” said the man who, as governor, was known to mock and belittle the pathways, processes and procedures of state government and those who work in it.

His candidacy still formally undeclared, Brown only occasionally used the phrase “if I run,” in portraying himself as a master politician whose experience in elected office at every level – mayor, attorney general, state party chairman, to name a few – affords him unmatched understanding of government organization and operations which he would wield at California’s intractable problems.

“I have a greater sense of how things get done and don’t get done,” he said. “I have a much better, hands-on understanding of how (government) functions . . . a sense of how things work . . . a much better sense of sizing people up and how you go about building an administration.”

We wanted to interview Brown to ask his views on seven key questions we posed to all the candidates in one of our first posts. In his own fashion, he addressed most of them. However, Brown staunchly refused to specify what combination of cuts and tax hikes he would support to deal with chronic deficits, beyond stressing his view that California is a “very high tax” state and dismissing as politically impractical the proposal to amend Proposition 13 by taxing commercial and industrial property at higher rates than residential property.

“Anyone who answers that (tax and cuts question) will never have a chance to be governor,” he said. “It’s very hard to discuss with particularity anything that can be turned into (campaign) fodder.”

Moreover, he added, “dictating from the corner office does not work . . . If eliminating the structural problems in the California budget were easy, Wilson, Davis and Schwarzenegger would have done it.”

How would he deal with fiercely ideological legislators on the left and the right?

“I’m going to become an apostle of common sense,” he said. “I will disabuse them of their ill-conceived predilections.”

“There’s an embedded partisanship that has to become disembedded,” he said. “In my bones, I’m not that partisan. I’m an independent thinker. That’s my tradition. I’ve been wary of ideology since I left the Sacred Heart Novitiate (in 1960).”

(Nostalgia footnote: Brown’s reference to “common sense” reminded us that when we covered his 1992 “Winter Soldier” campaign for president, he signed copies of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” at a bookstore in Nashua, New Hampshire.)

[Only later did we discover that there had been a TV series about one of Brown's intellectual inspirations, hosted by Dale Ahlquist, President of the American Chesterton Society, titled " G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense."]

We asked Brown this key question: What do you want to do as governor?

He quickly ticked off four key concerns with specific ideas in each area: Renewable energy; prison reform; education reform; water policy (we’ll report details on these in future posts).

He acknowledged that pushing through innovative solutions on these issues would be difficult in the polarized atmosphere of Sacramento. He labeled as “a type of anarchy” the view of some GOP lawmakers that sending the state into bankruptcy is preferable to voting for a budget that includes tax increases.

“That kind of subversive attitude is unacceptable,” Brown said.

Asked about structural reforms, Brown said he doesn’t “think term limits have been helpful” because they create a revolving door mentality, with lawmakers constantly running for the next office.

“People being around 20 years is a problem. But people being around for just six years is a bigger problem,” he said. “They become more dependent on interest groups because they don’t have time to develop loyalty in their districts.”

While not a fan of the two-thirds majority vote needed to pass budgets, Brown said he doesn’t think there is a “mechanical” cure to structural financial problems.

Sounding most unlike an old-school Jerry Brown Democrat, he argued repeatedly that regulations making California less competitive than surrounding states must be challenged. “We have to make sure that regulation does not curtail business,” he said, echoing the Chamber of Commerce more than the Sierra Club.

On the issue of his age, about which Newsom and others (including Calbuzz) have needled him – Brown said the question was “meaningless.”

“Is their premise that my opponents think faster than me? Do they want to challenge me to a timed multiple-choice test?”

Informed that he’s older than the ballpoint pen, Brown laughed. “I remember the ballpoint pen,” he said, recalling that when the instrument came out, it was available to students only in blue ink (and it leaked).

The age attack “has no meaning . . . If Feinstein is so old, how come she’s 20 points ahead (in polls listing her as a candidate)?”

“It’s all about creativity . . . The fact that they’re attacking me is a plus, not a minus . . . I don’t know that it’s bad to be associated with Linda Ronstadt and the Beatles.”

As for those behind the line of attack on his septuagenarian status, Brown personally chided Newsom and his strategist Garry South:

“I don’t know whether he’s sniffing his hairspray or what,” the buzz-cut Brown said of South. “Between the hairspray and the gel (favored by Newsom) I think they’re getting a little intoxicated.”

Ho, ho, ho: Just because we can’t resist pictures of dogs in goofy costumes.

Jerry’s Challenge, Tony V’s Play, Arianna’s Aura

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Gov.-elect Jerry Brown’s Budget Teach-In last week in Sacramento was refreshing in its openness — with Brown and other presenters warning that the state’s budget shortfall is now estimated at about $28 billion between now and July 2012. No smoke. No mirrors. Just cold ugly facts.

But the gathering at Memorial Auditorium only took about 12 seconds to demonstrate anew that the fundamental conflict in Sacramento will not be solved by gathering everyone in a room together, sitting around the fireplace and singing kumbaya. Collegiality and civility certainly have been in short supply among the locusts fine men and women California voters have sent to the capital on their behalf.  But the principal contradiction is not a matter of congeniality — it remains political and ideological.

Most of the Democrats, and all of their leaders, believe the state’s budget shortfall is a revenue problem. They think taxes aren’t properly distributed and that solutions will be found by increasing revenues.

Most of the Republicans, and all of their leaders, believe the state’s budget shortfall is a spending problem. They think cutting unnecessary and overly generous state spending is the road to salvation.

KQED’s John Myers outlined the conflict nicely last week under the headline: “Jerry, Meet Gridlock; Gridlock, Jerry.”

Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did no better — and some would argue a lot worse — than his Democratic predecessor, Gray Davis, at placing California on a firm financial footing. As he skips town, he leaves behind a huge mess that former-and-future Gov. Brown now must try to clean up.

Rumors abound that Jerry is planning to craft an austere budget which he will use as Exhibit A to obtain from voters some sort of temporary tax increase in June, or perhaps even a measure granting voters in cities, counties and school districts the authority to raise taxes with a majority vote or at least something less than two-thirds.

That would certainly return decision-making to local communities, “closer to the people” as he said in his campaign commercials. This of course could only succeed if Republicans and conservatives did not wage war against it. Which brings us back to the principal contradiction, which is a matter of ideology not civility.

To a cartoonist, like our Tom Meyer, it’s all a huge pile of garbage that’s been left behind by the previous administration and Legislature.  It’s hard to argue with that.


.

What does Tony V want (don’t ask the LAT): Not since M.C. Escher has there been such a perfect image of bizarre and inescapable bureaucracy as the By God Los Angeles Times displayed over the past week in its  mishandling of an important political story involving hometown mayor Tony Villaraigosa.

Villaraigosa was in Sacramento on Tuesday to deliver the opening speech of the big conference on the state’s future sponsored by the Public Policy Institute of California, which drew about 600 political and policy types, including the likes of such national names as Judy Woodruff, Van Jones and Dan Balz of the Washpost.

Despite an early morning speaking slot that preceded the day’s first panel, focused on education, Tony V promptly made news: Villaraigosa, whose labor organizing and Sacramento political careers featured fierce advocacy for teacher unions, surprised his weed whacking audience by issuing a harsh denunciation of those very unions:

What is stopping us from changing direction?

Why, for so long, have we allowed denial and indifference to defeat action? I do not raise this question lightly, and I do not come to my conclusion from a lack of experience. I was a legislative advocate for the California Teachers Association, and I was a union organizer for United Teachers of Los Angeles. From the time I entered the California State Assembly and became Speaker, to my tenure as Mayor of Los Angeles, I have fought to fund and reform California’s public schools.

Over the past five years, while partnering with students, parents and non-profits, business groups, higher education, charter organizations, school district leadership, elected board members and teachers, there has been one, unwavering roadblock to reform: UTLA union leadership. While not the biggest problem facing our schools, they have consistently been the most powerful defenders of the status quo…Regrettably, they have yet to join us as we have forged ahead with a reform agenda.

Tony V’s deliberately provocative comments, coming from California’s most prominent Latino politician, not to mention a lifelong union goon, were a big deal, voiced at a time when teacher unions are increasingly embattled by national education reform efforts, starting in the White House.

And that’s how the matter was treated – by almost everyone except Hizzoner’s hometown paper.

Within minutes, David Sanchez, president of the California Teachers Association, had fired back at the mayor during a panel discussion that followed his speech. The relentless Jack Chang filed a post about the conflict on the Bee’s Capitol Alert blog not long after, as did the invaluable John Fensterwald on his state education blog .

By the next morning the reform-minded Joe Mathews had characterized Villaraigosa’s remarks as “the most significant speech given by a California politician this year,” and a variety of broadcast and wire reports, along with several newspaper editorials strongly supporting the mayor’s sentiments, were circulating.

And amid all the urgent buzz over the next two days, the L.A. Times produced . . . radio silence.

Not a word from any beat, anywhere on its far-flung editorial depth chart, which is rivaled only by the forces that gathered for the invasion of Normandy for organizational complexity and resources.

Our motto: if it’s news, it’s news to us.

Finally, on Friday morning, Times editors managed to clue their readers into what their mayor had been up to that week. A double byline story by Patrick McDonnell, who writes about labor, and City Hall reporter David Zahniser,  which also included reporting by Teresa Watanabe and Jason Song of the education desk, finally caught up with the news – a full 72 hours after Villaraigosa spoke.

“I knew it would cause a firestorm,” Villaraigosa said in an interview Thursday, two days after the speech.

This just in: Big firestorm slowly heading toward L.A.

In the end, it was left to Cathy Decker,  the paper’s ever reliable state politics editor, to clean up the elephantine mess with a Sunday thumbsucker that addressed the key question puzzling Calbuzz readers: WTF is Tony V up to?

“For a Democratic politician who is presumed to have ambitions once he is termed out of office in 2013, Villaraigosa’s moves were intriguing,” Decker wrote.

To those more Machiavellian in nature — say, the entire political establishment — other possibilities came to mind: Villaraigosa was angling for an Obama administration job. He was declaring independence from party positions and powers in preparation for a future statewide run. Or he was trying to redefine his mayoralty in a way that could reap benefits down the line, were he to decide to exercise options one or two….

Part of the difficulty in divining what Villaraigosa was trying to accomplish last week is the parallel difficulty in figuring out where he might be going.

Decker seemed to hit upon the nut of the matter when she noted that, regardless of Tony V’s secret aspirations, he needs to bump up his profile, now, to avoid being generationally squeezed out, between California’s Democratic Geezer Trio and its cool new Dynamic Duo:

When he first ran for mayor in 2001, Villaraigosa was seen as one of the Democratic Party’s up-and-comers. Now the senior Democrats — Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and Gov.-elect Jerry Brown — are in their 70s. Villaraigosa will be pushing 60 when the next big race occurs — Feinstein’s Senate seat is up in 2012, though she has said she plans to run again. Catching up with the mayor is a younger group of Democrats, personified by the incoming lieutenant governor and attorney general, Gavin Newsom and Kamala Harris. Both are in their 40s.

For upward momentum, or just a legacy, Villaraigosa has to make good on his basic pledges: to lower crime, improve schools and increase jobs. Crime has been down, but joblessness is high. Voters can cut mayors slack during national downturns, but no such slack is likely when it comes to the state of the schools. Villaraigosa himself said years ago that voters should “absolutely” hold him responsible for reforming schools, and unless he can convince voters that the unions are to blame, they are likely to hold him to it.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Remind us again why she gets to be on “Meet the Press”?

Sacto Dysfunction Mirrors Whacko Views of Voters

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Just six weeks before Jerry Brown rolls out the long-awaited opening of “Krusty: The Sequel,” the most fundamental problem the new governor faces  is neither the $25 billion state deficit nor the utter  dysfunction of the Capitol: it’s California’s dual personality disorder.

As much as politicians, government geeks and bureaucrats — not to mention “the media” –  get blamed, deservedly, for the mess the state is in, there stands a mountain of evidence showing that the polarized partisan gridlock in Sacramento perfectly reflects the sentiments of the electorate.

The plain fact is that California’s litany of problems is underpinned by an everything-for-nothing ethic among voters that is both conflicted and contradictory.

We first took note of the over-arching importance of this dynamic back before the earth cooled (“Calbuzz: The Prairie Years”) when we analyzed the confounding perspective of the electorate in advance of the disastrous May 19, 2009 special election. In that debacle, Governor Schwarzmuscle and the Democrat-dominated Legislature tried to have it both ways with a series of five initiatives that, variously, raised taxes and imposed some cuts in several popular programs.

But we’d be remiss if we didn’t also call out our fellow voters, who exhibit a maddening syndrome of self-canceling impulses about how to pay for their government.

What do policymakers see when they look at such data? Voters, pointing a gun to their own heads, screaming “Stop, before I shoot!”

This self-destructive, self-canceling world view of voters has grown both more acute and more chronic since then, as illustrated by some new data in  the most recent LA. Times/USC poll.  Among the findings, the survey found that:

–By a huge plurality – 44-6% — voters said they would rather cut spending than raise taxes to address the deficit (another 44% opted from some murky, unspecified combination).

–But by even larger margins, voters said they would either a) not support any cuts or b) favor more spending on K-12 education and health programs – the two largest items in the budget (for schools, 37% oppose reductions and 34% want more spending while 36% are against cuts and 20% want to spend more on health). The only area of the budget where there is strong sentiment for reducing expense is on prisons, where 71% favor cutting a great deal or some of current spending.

–Most troubling of all, by 70-24%, voters said that “there is enough waste and inefficiency in government spending that we can reduce most of the state deficit by cleaning up programs without cutting programs like health care and education” –  the fairy tale scenario that Meg Whitman tried to peddle, ranking up there with Santa showing up with the Great Pumpkin and the Tooth Fairy in tow. That’s how he rolls.

Our friend Joel Fox took a run at the Great Dichotomy the other day over at Fox and Hounds and offered a pretty good succinct synopsis of the problem.

So what to make of the California electorate’s pro-government, no more taxes dichotomy? Can we say that Californians have big hearts and small wallets? Or is something else going on here?

Many people believe in the California Dream. The notion of California as a place of opportunity cuts across demographics and ethnicities and is a thread that binds people in this most diverse of all states. Californians support proposals that will give people access to opportunity. I suspect that is why those polled would support avenues to citizenship and open doors at educational establishments and government programs to give people a hand up.

However, while supporting a basic framework of government support, voters clearly don’t want to pay for too much. Those responding to the survey think they already pay too much when they say the best avenue to a balanced budget is to cut spending.

Voters don’t trust government to deliver the opportunities they believe in… There is a strong sense amongst the electorate that those in government take care of themselves first.

During the campaign, Brown’s big proposal for addressing the budget mess was to lock all the legislators of both parties in a room and browbeat them with sweet reason until everyone agreed on solutions.

As a political matter, that seems to us to be 180 degrees wrong in dealing with the size, scope and depth of the problems the state now faces: Instead of spending his time in backrooms with Sacramento pols, Brown needs to get out of the Capitol and travel energetically around the state, conducting what amounts to a one-man basic civics education campaign, so that Californians truly understand a) what services state government actually provides; b) how much they cost; c) how they’re paid for.

Above all, he needs a full-blown strategy to build a shared public awareness of the simple facts of California’s predicament by breaking through the bumper sticker clichés and well-worn grooves of the political arguments that have straight jacketed California for a generation. Anything else is just tactics.

eMeg’s Secret Diary: Muffy and Bryce Come to Dinner

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Thanks to sources close to our imagination, Calbuzz brings you some purloined excerpts from Meg Whitman’s secret campaign diary.

Wednesday

Dear Diary,

So Muffy and Bryce came by last night for drinks and stayed for dinner, and they were absolutely mesmerized when I told them about my plan to create jobs, fix the schools and cut government spending.

Griff insisted we play charades, so I shoved him and smacked him around a little, but I have to admit he was very amusing when his turn came. His category was “books,” and he pantomimed performing neurosurgery on Arnold. The answer, of course, was “The Governor’s Brain is Missing.” Tres drole!

As I told Muffy, it was a real relief to spend a few hours away from all that campaign dreariness, especially those loathsome reporters and those sweltering people in Barstow and Indio and Weed, all of them snorting and hocking at their own jokes about how I should put their trailers and chain saws and snow machines up for sale on eBay, ha, ha, ha.

I had  Conchita whip up a quick cote de porc rotie, which was tasty, but the crostini for the soupe aux oignons were unspeakably soggy. So I had to box her ears a little. I simply refuse to let her fail.

Oh dear, someone’s tapping at the study door. Qui est la?

Later: So that was Henry, who’d completely failed at a very simple assignment I’d given him. I’d asked him to buy us at least one TV station in each major market, so we could stop paying retail for all this advertising. Instead he came back with some dithering excuse about the FCC or something.

So here’s what I thought about that: I had to chew him out, and then I gave him a couple of good swift Ferragamos to the shins and reminded him that I forbade him to fail.

Then I pushed him out the door, and told him to get back to it before I started eyeballing his expense sheets and he ended up like that poor Mark Hurd, with barely a penny to his name. Off he went.

Before I could get back to you, diary, it was the cell phone next (bless Sarah, the little minx, for finding that “God Save the Queen” ring tone – quelle amusant!). It was Murphy calling.

Of course he wanted to come over and talk about his script again. So I had to explain once more how focus is so important. So what I thought was, I’d tell him I’d like very much for him to give the movie project a rest and instead focus on getting me over 40 points some time before 2016, if it wasn’t too  much trouble.

But he insisted it was important to see me and before I could say no, I noticed that someone had emailed a photo. When I paused to open it, he rang off before I could stop him (reminder: tell him again to keep his shirt tucked in, or else I’ll have to shove him down the stairs).

I was so pleased to see the photo was from the boys. A mother’s biased, of course, but I must say they both look quite dashing in those orange fluorescent vests.

Now what is that commotion outside my window?

Later: Murphy’s come and gone – he wanted to know if I thought we should get Dennis Franz or Ned Beatty to play him in the movie (I suggested Danny DeVito – and thank you for asking).

In the meantime, those appalling nurses showed up on the south lawn again, parading around and beating their drums and doing their chants. All so tiresome. Although the crown on the Queen Meg person does look rather fetching, but that red velvet cape with the faux ermine will never do.

So I decided I’d have Lupe fetch a big pot of boiling oil which I thought I’d  pour down on those awful women, but as soon as I’d pushed her out of the way to lean out the window, Tucker came running in, insisting I couldn’t do that because the reporters might ask questions.

So I gave him a belt in the mouth, but then decided he might be right. So I just tossed a couple of paper weights and tennis racquets and that snow globe that plays “You are the wind beneath my wings” that Mitt gave me, and a candelabra or two down on them and that sent them scurrying off.

Oh dear, it’s past time to head for the Navigator and go meet (ugh) more  voters. Such a chore, though I’m certain they’ll be pleased to hear my plan for creating jobs, improving schools and cutting government spending.

More later, diary!

(Editor’s note: Monty Python scene a random bonus non sequitur.)