Archive for the ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger’ Category



Calbuzz Classic: Mega Thanks From Your Turkeys

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Tom Meyer’s mandatory Thanksgiving turkey cartoon, featuring a big bird ogre whose cranium is festooned with hatchets, not only sheds a frightening bright light on the cartooning Calbuzzer’s just-below-the-surface sociopathic tendencies (which some day will likely result in us being quoted as telling some know-it-all, whippersnapper reporter that Meyer “was always a quiet loner”) but also offers a scary glimpse at the terrifying political threat that California’s  not-so-jolly giant budget deficit represents to Jerry Brown, who will have to  slay the awful monster if history is to judge as a success his gubernatorial second act.

And for those keeping score at home, that’s a crisp, three-year-old 100-word lede, three times as long as the traditional MSM  industry standard to which New Media over-the-hill guys thankfully no longer must adhere. But we digress.

Not since the Fifth Labor of Hercules, when another son of a famous political family was assigned to muck out the dung produced by a herd of immortal cows chewing their cuds in the Augean Stables, has a public figure faced such a daunting task as Brown. Even in a state familiar with chronic deficits — and with chronic, gimmick-laden “solutions” to them — the latest red ink estimate of $25.4 billion sent chills through denizens of the Capitol.

As a brilliant political analyst recently noted, Governor-elect Krusty will begin his term with policy options that are straitjacketed, both by a host of long-standing restrictions imposed by initiatives, and by a whole new batch of ballot measures just voted in by California’s have-it-both-ways voters – More services! Less taxes! – including Props 22, 24 and 26.

Add to that the disappearance of federal stimulus money, not to mention the pig-headed intransigence of Republicans to even rational new revenue ideas, and you’re left wondering why in the world Brown ever thought moving back to Sacramento would be a good idea at the ripe old age of 72.

During his campaign, Gandalf made few proposals to fix the budget, beyond a fuzzy promise to convene bipartisan kumbaya meetings, where sweet reason will allegedly replace the bitter ideological gridlock that grips the Capitol. Good luck with that.

“This will take all the know-how that I said I had,” Brown said the day after election, “and all the luck of the Irish as I go forward.” Indeed.

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Pilgrims rout Indians – lead series 2-1: As we approach the end of our second full year of publishing, our Department of Green Eyeshade Performance Based Measureables and Obscene Year-End Executive Bonuses reports that our page view total is certain to exceed the number of votes won by Meg Whitman.

Given that our little enterprise seems in much better shape than her out-of-business campaign, and that we’ve managed this feat by spending a teeny bit less on expenses than her, we feel entitled to celebrate by indulging ourselves in that hoariest of journalism practices – reprinting our annual Thanksgiving message to readers. Herewith a slightly updated version:

As Calbuzz joins in our annual national celebration of gratitude and gluttony, we recall Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous words of blessing for this special holiday:

“I love Thanksgiving turkey. It’s the only time in Los Angeles that you see natural breasts.”

With humble hearts and heaping helpings of snark, we want to thank the Calbuzz online community for all your support, encouragement, boorish comments and vicious critiques. We look forward to the next year, and hope you’ll stay with us for an exciting and entertaining ride with Gandalf  the Wizard, Prince Gavin, Lady Difi and all the other colorful characters who populate the ever-entertaining court of California politics.

Beyond that, we sincerely hope that on this joyous day, you’ll click on our ads a whole bunch of times, and that you won’t get a wishbone lodged in your throat while stuffing your pie hole. Also: take the Saints, give the points, and bet the under.

Our Department of Living History and Living Wills tells us that it was Abe Lincoln, not Miles Standish, who jump started this whole Thanksgiving thing.

Nonetheless, Calbuzzers of a certain age remember with fondness the Thanksgiving school pageants of years gone by, when pilgrim hats made of folded black construction paper oozed gooey globs of white paste at the seams, and Pocahontas was played by the smart girl in the front row who always had her hand up, and who ended up living in Newport Beach, botoxed to the max.

We leave you with our favorite commentary on that historic period, courtesy of Calbuzzer emeritus Mark Twain:

Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for – annually, not oftener – if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months, instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians.

Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man’s side, consequently on the Lord’s side; hence it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments.

Happy Turkey Day.

 

Arnold’s Exit Reeks; Must Read for Political Junkies

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Our first inclination was to let Arnold Schwarzenegger’s long-awaited and very welcome departure from Sacramento pass, feeling content to bid good riddance to bad rubbish without remarking on the occasion.

Unfortunately, and despite the big blast of fresh air that Jerry Brown’s inauguration blew into the capital this week, the atmosphere still reeks of the feculent odor produced by the final acts of the phony huckster who held California captive to his unbridled narcissism for the past seven years.

The parade of hacks, sycophants and cronies that he and his Chief of Staff Susan Kennedy shamelessly appointed to six-figure scam government jobs is reprehensible enough; sadly, however, it differs mainly in degree from the actions of previous one-step-ahead-of-the-posse administrations. What is truly different, and truly stomach-churning, is Schwarzenegger’s cowardly action in reducing the prison sentence of the punk son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez in the knife attack killing of a student at the San Diego State campus several years ago.

What Dan Walters properly and precisely labeled the “foul stench”  of Schwarzenegger’s move had one and only one motive – to misuse his public trust power to do a personal favor for a political ally; the big bad movie tough guy didn’t even have the courage – let alone the common decency – to notify the dead kid’s family, who had to learn the news from a reporter while  the gutless ex-governor sneaked out of town like a “con man on the run,” as Chronicler Deb Saunders aptly put it.

It’s instructive that young Nunez, clearly raised with a keen sense of entitlement, boasted to his friends after the killing that his father was a big shot who would help them avoid the need to take responsibility for their craven actions.

In a broad sense, the most destructive impact of Schwarzenegger’s move is the message it sends to Californians that they’re right to hold a low opinion of state government as a fix-is-in special interest operation doling out goodies and personal rewards to privileged insiders – even one convicted of a senseless act of manslaughter – while treating as a bunch of chumps ordinary folks whose daddies don’t happen to be close pals of the governor.

“The significant damage is that his behavior merely reaffirms the cynicism and disgust most Californians hold for the institution of government,” George Skelton wrote in an on-the-money column on the matter.  And as Tom Meyer illustrates today, the spectacle of such disgusting behavior performed by an alleged, self-described “reformer” is a mockery that reveals Schwarzenegger to be a bigger fraud than even Calbuzz thought possible.


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Life after (thank God) Arnold: If you didn’t get a copy under the Christmas tree this year and you’re jonesin’ for a fix of unfiltered California politics, you should pick up a copy of “California After Arnold,” an insightful look at where we’ve been and where we might be headed by a couple of longtime Democratic intellectuals.

Steve Cummings and Patrick Reddy have gone to a lot of trouble to pull together an enormous compendium of polling, census and voting data on California, which is just the 208-page appendix to their smart analysis of  Schwarzenegger’s election and governorship and a survey of the history, structure and likely future of California politics.

This is not a breezy read. But it’s packed with keen observations and research that allows them to make conclusions like:

– The preliminary assessment (of Schwarzenegger’s performance) is on the edge of either a B-minus or a C-plus.

– From a fiscal standpoint, Jerry Brown was much more like Ronald Reagan than Pat Brown.

– For some forty years, Californians have wanted a blue state culture financed on a red state budget.

– Proposition 187 shook the Hispanic giant out of its slumber because it threatened the one thing they consider most precious – their children.

Besides having the brilliance to quote liberally from Calbuzz, Cummings and Reddy appear to have read and digested every poll, voting tabulation, census factoid and consultant’s playbook for the past several decades.

Their unflinching analysis of Tom Bradley’s narrow loss to George Deukmejian in 1982 not only considers the effect of the Handgun Registration Initiative and lackluster Latino turnout for the black Democrat, but even extends to “urban white precincts that were in close proximity to black neighborhoods.”

If Tom Bradley had won every white Democrat who voted for the extremely unpopular Jerry Brown [for US Senate] that same day, he would have been governor of the nation’s most populous state. There is no explanation for the loss of white working class voters other than race.

Published after the 2010 governor’s race had begun but before it was over, Cummings and Reddy provided nice capsule profiles of the various candidates but were unable to analyze the outcome.

But even before the final combatants were known, they predicted, “If the general election is between Brown and a conservative, Brown will win. The Republicans have simply no one to match up with him.”

They got that right, too.

Make way, make way: Looks like your Calbuzzers aren’t the only ones to look askance at the excessive self-regard and blatantly over-the-top ambition to be governor that have marked the early days in office of Attorney General Kamala (Landslide) Harris.

” So far, there is plenty of evidence that she’s running. Her inauguration lasted almost twice as long as Jerry Brown’s swearing-in, and she promised much more,” writes the Sacbee’s ace editorial columnist Dan Morain. “It’s heady to be a contender for governor, maybe the front-runner. Harris has the talent to rise. But first, she needs to tend to the job she has and leave foreign policy to her pal in the White House…”

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.

Meyer on Arnold Fail; Obama Circles the Drain

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

The good news for Governor Schwarzmuscle this week is that he got off the best one-liner at the Sacramento Press Club’s Gridiron Gala: “I stand here before you as probably the second-most famous immigrant in California,” he told the audience of journos and political hacks. “The first is Meg Whitman’s maid.”

The bad news: The joke was pretty much the highlight of Arnold’s last four years.

Tom Meyer today details the final scene of mass destruction of the Terminator’s all-time worst movie – “Conan the Incompetent” – even as  Schwarzenegger keeps huffing and puffing a whirlwind of words on his own behalf, trying to gin up his alleged “legacy” in a desperate effort to declare victory as he leaves town with the Capitol in ruins.

The plain facts, however, are these: a) Schwarzenegger has utterly failed in leading California to a solution for its fiscal problems, the central promise of his election  in the historic 2003 recall, and is leaving things far worse than when he arrived; b) his job performance rating remains in the toilet, on a level with the recalled Gray Davis, as voters aren’t buying the phony shtick about what a swell job he’s done; c) he long ago lost any significant political influence in Sacramento, where both parties treat him as a joke.

In fairness, an attitude that occasionally descends upon us, the weight-lifting governor, whose biggest muscle always has seemed the genioglossus , has a few accomplishments: his play on public employee pension reform, while too little too late, is a good first step, his successful push for initiatives taking reapportionment  out of the hands of the Legislature is laudable, and may pay good government dividends down the road, and AB32’s climate change regulations are a signal achievement.

That said, his shameless pandering in rolling back the vehicle license fee blew a huge hole in the budget as soon as he took office, from which the state never recovered, his promise to “cut the state’s credit card” was a cruel joke, as interest on borrowing became the fastest-growing item in the budget, and his bone-headed play to put a reasonable spending cap initiative on the 2005 ballot along with three unrelated, largely partisan measures doomed his governorship just two years after it began.

When Schwarzenegger came into office, he made a solemn promise not to accept a salary as governor. In the end, he proved to be worth every penny.

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Incredible shrinking Obama: As a symbol of political weakness, it’s too soon to say whether Barack Obama getting bashed in the lip while playing hoops will become the functional equivalent of Jimmy Carter getting chased by a Killer Rabbit. What is clear that the president now looks so hapless and enfeebled that he’s on the verge of becoming a national joke.

With national Democrats in disarray and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Obama seems completely unmoored, as the White House drifts politically amid a sea of ineptitude and bobs disconnected from the economic policy concerns of recession wracked Americans.

And all the while he just won’t stop droning in that annoying voice of clipped condescension and arrogance that he seems to think makes him sound authoritative. Calbuzz can just picture the out-of-work carpenter, sitting grimly over a draft in a Mission Street saloon, suddenly looking up and shouting, “Will you shut the fuck up!” to the image of a yammering Obama that flickers on the TV over the bar.

Even some of his most loyal defenders are looking for the exits:

But this week I have no blessed clue what the hell he’s up to. I’ve tried to look at this from every angle and each one leads me back to weak, weak, weak.

He’s following rules that no longer exist, pandering to voter attitudes that will have zero consequence in terms of both his approval numbers and his reelection chances. He’s completely off the rails — well beyond any notion of post-partisanship. In fact, if his intention has been to “change the way Washington does business,” he’s currently and epically failing because I simply can’t believe that the new and improved way is this way.

Within roughly 24 hours, President Obama preemptively capitulated to the Republicans and proposed an unabridged GOP idea — freezing federal worker salaries, then, almost as if on cue, the Senate Republicans put their unflinching childish obstructionism in writing and pledged to block everything unless the president extends the deficit-ballooning Bush tax rates. And in that mix, the Republicans blocked extensions of unemployment benefits. Twice.

The upshot? The president looks extraordinarily weak. Weaker than at any other time in his presidency. It probably didn’t help that he was literally beaten and bloodied when he announced the pay freeze, due to his weekend basketball fracas.

Of course the intention isn’t to appear weak. The intention is to appear magnanimous. The intention is to secure support from voters who buy into the ridiculous “both sides are the same” meme and who tell pollsters that they want more bipartisan cooperation, while incongruously voting for total gridlock and the potential of a government shutdown…

Unfortunately, however, bipartisan cooperation in this era has been entirely redefined to the point of virtual extinction. There’s no such thing as mutual cooperation between both parties. Modern bipartisanship is all about one party, the Democrats, flailing around and desperately struggling to appease the Republicans who return the favor by smacking the textbooks out of the president’s hands then kicking him in the ass while he picks up his crap off the floor — embarrassed and chuckling while muttering, “Oh, you guys.”

That character doesn’t look cooperative at all. He looks like a very smart and very serious… wimp.

Memo to Obama: Watch out for the wascally wabbit.

Sarah Palin takedown of the week: Don’t miss Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s superb essay drop kicking Half-Governor Whack Job’s no-nothing, breathtakingly presumptuous criticism of JFK’s famous speech on religion and politics.

eMeg’s Historic Meltdown: Woman Booed by Women

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

LONG BEACH  — Handed a splendid opportunity to portray her campaign as an historic event for women in politics, Meg Whitman made a different kind of history on Tuesday.

Campaigning to become California’s first female governor, Republican Whitman accomplished the seemingly impossible feat of getting roundly booed by a non-partisan audience of 14,000 women gathered to, um, celebrate the accomplishments of women.

In a remarkable few moments of unscripted political theater, eMeg turned cheers to jeers at the California Women’s Conference in Long Beach, as she fumbled and stumbled through an excruciatingly awkward exchange about TV attack ads with Democratic rival Jerry Brown and NBC’s Matt Lauer, who moderated the unusual session, which also included outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

As on two previous occasions when she was forced to react in real time outside the accustomed comfort of her campaign cocoon – her famously awful 2009 press conference when she tried to defend her decades-long failure to vote and the presser she convened a few weeks ago to answer questions about employing an undocumented housekeeper for nine years –  eMeg on Tuesday displayed a rare combination of political tone deafness and an utter inability to think on her feet.

By the time the fireworks ended, Whitman had not only failed to take advantage of a chance to boost her sagging standing among women voters, a week before the Nov. 2 election, but also succeeded in making her male opponent look good.

In the process, she managed to embarrass herself with a thoroughly dopey performance before the state’s political press corps and most of the TV cameras south of the Tehachapis, making major campaign news out of what should have been a feel-good appearance at a touchy-feely event.

How it started: The drama began near the end of the live session with the governor and the two candidates who want to succeed him, as Lauer — who demonstrated he knows absolutely NOTHING about politics — shamelessly sought to play to the kumbaya crowd with a horseshit, goody-goody question.

First decrying the negative ads that both sides have run – which, Lauer emoted, have created a “bloodbath” (puh-leeze) – he asked:

“Would either of you, or both of you, be willing to make a pledge that you would end the negativity? [Big cheer] Would you pull your negative ads and replace them with positive ads and talk to the surrogate groups as well [which would be ILLEGAL, you jackass, which is why they're called independent expenditures] and express that to them, that you want only positive message out there to give the people of California a break and let them decide what really matters. Would either of you accept that?”

It was a totally inappropriate question and actually unfair to Whitman, who is behind in all the public polls and has no choice in a tough campaign in which she’s invested $140 million of her own money, but to try to pull voters away from Brown. In any event, that’s her decision. And Lauer had no business sticking his scrawny ass into the campaign and trying to broker some deal because he thinks that’s how the game should be played. If he knew anything about politics in general and California politics in particular he would not have asked such a dimwit question.

But the women in the audience, who spent the day applauding the inspirational good works of poets, playwrights, Supreme Court justices — not to mention Oprah Winfrey and conference convener and California First Lady Maria Shriver — thundered their approval.

Round One: Brown answered first, venturing forth with a Buddhist-tinged meditation on the subjective nature of reality — “First of all you have to remember, negativity is in the eye of the beholder . . .” –drawing scattered boos and hoots. But Brown’s political antennae suddenly tuned in — “Oh yeah,” he must have thought, “I’m AHEAD, I can afford to go all positive if she does” — and with head-snapping alacrity, he switched direction:  “. . . but if Meg wants to do that, I’ll be glad to do that.”

Cheers.

Then eMeg started digging herself in, trying to draw a bright line distinction between her negative ads – true, honorable and all about the issues – and Brown’s negative ads – false, unfair personal assaults on her sterling character. Sez her.

“The character attacks, the attacks of personal destruction, the attacks on one’s character I think are very different than a debate on the issues. It’s OK that Jerry Brown and I disagree, for example, about the capital gains tax – something I think should be eliminated and he doesn’t. It’s OK to have a discussion around the issues,” Whitman argued. “What I have found very challenging, and I’ll be honest about it, is the personal attacks. The things that I have been called in this campaign – it’s not fair to the voters of California, it isn’t the right thing to do…”

Lauer broke in and got up on his New York know-nothing high horse: “There’s been enough slurs and housekeepers. We know you are both flawed people. Everybody in this room is flawed…But what is going to accomplish what Gov. Schwarzenegger is talking about – taking California to the next step, financially in particular, is going to be your strengths not your weaknesses. And I’m asking again, will you both pledge? I’ll give you 24 hours because I know the wheels of a campaign don’t stop overnight,” he said, as if he actually knew anything about how campaigns operate.

Round Two: Brown, quick as ever, joined Lauer’s game: “Let’s be clear about it: if she takes her negative ads, reasonably defined, I’ll take mine off. No question. We do it together. No problem. . . . I pledge that right now.” Krusty was in for a dime, in for a dollar, eliciting big cheers from the ladies at lunch.

But Meg kept digging, trying to parse and finesse the question before an audience that was in full bay for promises of sweetness and light.

“So here’s what I will do,” she said. “I’ll take down any ad that could even be remotely construed as a personal attack. But I don’t think we can take down the ads that talk about where Gov. Brown stands on the issues. I just think it’s not the right thing to do.”

Booooo, hisssss, hoooot….

Lauer said people seem to be asking for more.  And Brown smelled blood in the water.

“I’ve got one nice ad where I look into the camera and I just say what I’m for,” he said, ever so reasonably to Whitman. “You have a very nice ad where you look into the camera – it’s a pretty good ad by the way. We’ll leave up one and let all the other ones go off. I’ll agree to that right now.”

Lauer tried to seal the deal but Whitman froze. “Let me try a different approach…” he said, when Brown jumped in, offering Whitman a lifeline: “You know, I don’t think it’s quite fair, to [have to] make a decision in the face of all this,” he said, sounding ever so gentle.

Round three: Lauer said he’d studied the polls [right] before he came to California and “some could say what you’ve tried to this point isn’t completely working, why not try a different course,” he lectured Whitman. “And Gov. Brown, some could say if you do believe the polls and you’re leading, I would imagine you wouldn’t only want to think it’s because you diminished your opponent, correct, so get rid of all those things” — which was doubly stupid because 1) Brown is happy to diminish his opponent and 2) he’d already agreed to Lauer’s dumbass proposal.

But Whitman kept digging:

“I think it’s important because I’m new to politics. People need to know where I stand and also they need to know Jerry Brown has been in politics for 40 years and there’s a long track record there and I want to make sure people really understand what’s going on.

“And I’m not doing it in a mean-spirited way. [Guffaws in the press tent] I just think it’s important for people to really understand what the track record was in Oakland, what the track record was as governor,” she said, while audience members started searching for overripe vegetables to throw.

His lifeline rejected, Brown decided to go in for the kill: “I’ve got a great ad. It starts off with Meg Whitman saying I moved to California 30 years ago because it was such a great place with all this opportunity. And then the ad says, and who was governor?”

Huge uproarious laughter and whooping in the press tent.

Did Meg stop digging? No way. “What you need to know is that in many ways, Jerry Brown left the state in worse shape than he did (sic) when he inherited it,” she said.

Booooooo…

[Capsule clip here]

End Game: Lauer was worried he was going too long until Schwarzenegger told him the conference was his and Maria’s and he shouldn’t schvitz (sweat) the extra minutes. And then he said nice things about Meg, nice things about Jerry and also rapped Meg with the back of his hand,  implicitly defending his record against her constant refrain that she as governor would make California “golden again.”

“I happen to disagree with Meg a little bit,” the governor said. “California is going to be a golden state once again? California is a golden state!”

Bottom line: eMeg should have listened to Calbuzz and played the gender card. Everything leading up to that moment was all about how it’s time for a woman. Instead, she spun gold into straw.

The mistress of swag: Before the fun started, the Calbuzz Department of Consumer Affairs and Worthless Tchotchke Collections was privileged to receive an extraordinary guided tour of the exhibit hall where conference sponsors and vendors were hawking their wares.

Our guide, a prominent MSM reporter whose name is withheld to avoid embarrassing her family, led us on an expedition that netted products ranging from hand sanitizers, body lotions and KY “intensity cream” samples to miniature flashlights from SoCal Edison, cardio stent stress squeeze balls and countless varieties of health bars from a host of fruit and nut manufacturers.

Best score: A package of postcards trumpeting all 125 careers that Barbie has engaged in over the years of her existence, including TV newswoman Barbie.