Archive for the ‘Ken Khachigian’ Category



Swap Meet: Greasy Poll, eMeg Patrol, GOPer Trolls

Saturday, September 5th, 2009

oilrigMargin of error: The oil company based in Houston that is trying to win a lease for drilling in state waters off the coast of Santa Barbara is e-blasting an alleged summary of poll results about the controversial project, providing a case study of how scientific public opinion surveys can be manipulated for political purposes.

Days after Calbuzz examined the misuse of polling data, both on our site and in the L.A. Times, Plains Exploration & Production Co. (PXP) is circulating a memo titled “Highlights from Statewide Poll,” which claims – surprise, surprise — that two-thirds of California votpxpers favor their proposed Tranquillon Ridge project. The sheet consists of a series of bullet points, all of them purporting to show statewide support for the project among some genus or species of Californian.

PXP said the survey was done by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates — a polling firm for which we have high regard but which does a lot of work for advocates and candidates with clear-cut agendas. Our request for the oil company to send us the actual survey results, questions and cross-tabs was unsuccessful, as were those of Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, Pedro-Navawho’s led the legislative fight to defeat the project last month.

Nava is putting out a daily press release demanding PXP cough up the data, and sarcastically asking if they asked a series of slanted questions that would favor the anti-drilling position: “I intend to ask a question every day until I get some answers,” Nava told us. “It’s obvious they don’t intend to release it – they intend to continue to mislead us.” Calbuzz sez: Free the Secret PXP Poll – and All Political Prisoners!

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Oleaginous update: The proposal to authorize the T-Ridge lease, which was earlier rejected by the State Lands Commission, has been resurrected by Assembly minority leader Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, Nava told us, using a “gut and amend” maneuver to dump the substance of an energy bill and insert the PXP project language previously voted down in the Assembly.

Lots of subplots on this one, including the fact that fingers were pointed at Blakeslee  last month when Capitol Weekly disclosed that the Assembly vote on the PXP measure had been expunged from the record. Blakeslee, who denied it, nonetheless sure had a motive: he represents a coastal area but voted in favor of the lease. If he, as expected, goes after the Senate seat now held by Abel Maldonado, who opposed the offshore project, he’d represent even more coastal constituents.

Calbuzz has a hunch that the endgame of all of this will be a PXP-sponsored ballot initiative seeking to circumvent the Legislature and win voter approval for T-Ridge. The strategy would run some risk, however, as it could also trigger support for proposals to impose a severance tax on companies extracting oil in California, the only state that doesn’t have such a levy.

megyoutubeSteve (doesn’t) Heart eMeg: Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, whose team rolls out an average of 316 press releases a day bashing GOP guv rival Meg Whitman, may finally have gained some traction with one of his attacks.  It’s a You Tube spoof of the “Love Boat” which skewers Her Megness for some gushy comments she made about Van Jones, the former Oakland lefty who’s become Obama’s green jobs adviser – and is now in the free-fire zone over at Fox News.

If you haven’t seen the video, it’s pretty damn funny and you can watch it here. Chronicler Joe Garofoli has the play-by-play of the Stevie Wonder-eMeg exchange on the issue here, including Team Whitman’s Friday statement, which tries to make the whole thing go away. The defensive tone, the length and detail of it, however, shows that Poizner has stung her by highlighting associations with lefties for the edification of conservative GOP voters. Only 276 days until the primary!

More on eMeg: Whitman’s 493-second encounter with reporters in Santa Barbara Tuesday  smoked out some interesting new nuggets (block that metaphor!) about her views on key issues, demonstrating why it actually matters that All Right-Thinking Journos in California keep pressing her campaign for interviews, avails and accessibility.  Examples:

1-When Calbuzz asked her about offshore oil drilling, she disclosed that she’s changed her position since the beginning of the campaign:

“I would say that when I started this process, I was against offshore oil drilling and then I began to understand deeply the new technology that is available to extract oil from existing wells – slant drilling and other things and I think we ought to look at this very carefully because there’s no question that the resources off the coast of California and other parts of the country can help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil…I don’t think it’s sending a bad (environmental) signal. You have to look at the situation in which we find ourselves…We have to say times have changed and we’ve got to look at this again.”

2-When Susan Rose, Calbuzz correspondent on women’s issues, asked her about abortion rights, eMeg filled in some blanks, both on her position and on her perspective of how it may affect her among pro-life GOP voters:

“I am pro choice…I’m not for late term abortion or partial birth abortion and I did vote ‘yes’ on the parental notification proposition that went on the ballot. And I don’t want to take choice away from women…(Her position) will help in some sectors and it will not be helpful in others… (P)eople will know my positions on the social issues and if they are single issue voters and I don’t agree, they won’t be for me but hopefully they will put the whole package together and say ‘got it.’”

3-When Mark Mason (CB handle: “Planet Santa Barbara”) asked why voters would think she’d do a better job than Arnold Schwarzenegger, who made similar promises, she expounded on the differences between them:

“The governor has done a number of good things. Workman’s compensation…I’m a fan of Proposition 11, the redistricting (measure) but I will say that the results – unemployment, infrastructure, the health of the economy, are not good and the governor has to be accountable for the results…The biggest difference …is my business experience.”

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eMeg fun factoids: She’s a Leo and the youngest of three kids (which explains a lot, as all astrological students of birth order know); her mother served four years with the Red Cross in New Guinea during WWII (“she knew where the need was greatest”); she was a high school jock (tennis, swimming, soccer); Princeton ’73 (fourth class in history with women in it); came to California when her neurosurgeon husband had to choose between Harvard and UCSF for a residency (“your mother lives in Boston, we should go to California”); her favorite Hasbro toy while working there was Mr. Potato Head (NOT  Barney or Teletubbies, she pointed out).

But what about the little guy? In recent months Jerry Brown has been putting on a clinic on how to align his public duties as Attorney General with his political aspiration to be governor again, getting his fingerprints on  high-profile cases from Anna Nicole to Michael, all the while attacking international drug rings, sleazy investment firms and consumer scams of every persuasion –- not to mention pushing to include climate-change impact statements as a requirement for new developments.

govjerrybrownNow Brown is taking aim at the mother lode of populist outrage, launching an investigation of Health Management Organizations, in which he promises to probe how HMOs “review and pay insurance claims submitted by doctors, hospitals and other medical providers” amid reports that the state’s top five insurance provides are denying nearly 40 percent of claims.

“These high denial rates suggest a system that is dysfunctional (ed. note – ya think?),” Brown said in statement put out by the AG’s press office, “and the public is entitled to know whether wrongful business practices are involved.” Cue it up, Omar: “In-DEED.”

Three-dot Republicanism: Here’s how Whitman is playing among right-wingersTonyStricklandBball

Latest sign that the quixotic crusade to ban independent, decline-to-state voters from GOP primaries is in trouble comes from Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark. Taliban Tony is the real, hardcore deal, a drown-it-in-the-bathtub movement conservative who made his bones playing Ronald Reagan in his 4th grade class debate in 1980  and came up through the ranks serving as squire to Skinflint Tom McClintock;  Timm Herdt reports that Strickland turned thumbs down on the no-indies rule, which can’t be good news foken-khachigian-copyr Flashreporter Jon Fleischman, sponsor of the plan…

Hell freezes over: Ken Khachigian, the squish-squishing senior statesman of California Republicanism, caught giving advice to Barack Obama.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Fishwrap: Squishy, Dishy, Always Fishy

Friday, April 17th, 2009

When Prop. 1A hit man Peter Foy opened a can of whupass on wannabe governors Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman this week, his cruelest cut was calling them “squishy” on taxes.

The charge leveled by the GOP Ventura County supe, who’s toying with a run against the two objects of his ire, resurrected one of the most heinous ad hominem labels one Republican can tag on another. While using the adjectival “squishy” is, well, a little bit squishy, calling someone a “squish” is the GOP equivalent of trash talking someone’s mother in gangsta circles.

In a wide-ranging investigation including a couple of Google searches, multiple emails and an actual long distance phone call, the Calbuzz Linguistic Desk spared no expense in its effort to shed light on the origin and usage of the term.

“Very good question,” said Ken Khachigian, California’s dean of Republican wordsmiths. “I can’t honestly recall when it entered my vocabulary, though I’m sure I’ve used it frequently.”

Khachigian, who made his bones working in Dick Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign, added that “using the word ‘squish’ is almost always in the context of questioning someone’s level of commitment or strength.”

Wiktionary defines a squish as a “political moderate (derogatory term used by conservative activists in the 1980s),” while conservative think tanker and journalist Amy Ridenour blogged this recollection on the web site of the National Center for Public Policy Research:

“’Squish’ was in frequent use in the College Republican National Committee office when I worked there in 1981 and elsewhere in conservative circles during the era. There was a much firmer line of demarcation back then within the GOP between conservatives and moderates (ed: that’s because there still were GOP moderates in 1981)

“Examples of prominent (perceived) ‘squishes’ circa 1981: Vice President George H.W. Bush, James Baker III,” Ridenour wrote. “I recall Baker being seen as the invisible hand behind many, many a squishie plot.”

In advance of the 2006 mid-term elections, a top (George W.) Bushman in the Justice Department used the phrase to ding Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., in an email that argued against extending campaign aid to the congressman’s re-election effort; the email was uncovered in one of L.A. Dem Rep. Henry Waxman’s probes of political chicanery at the Bush White House.

“My two cents,” Roveian hatchet man Kyle Sampson wrote at the time, “I wouldn’t choose a sort of weird, maverick squish . . . to team up with.”

But senior statesman Khachigian traces the possible derivation of squish much further back, at least to his first Nixon campaign: “Your younger readers won’t have any connection with one possible progenitor of the word, but back in the ’68 presidential race (yes, I was there), Ted Agnew accused Hubert Humphrey of being ‘squishy soft on communism.’”

Update: An email early Friday from William Safire, political lexicographer, famed columnist and ex-Nixon speech writer, buttresses Khachigian’s theorem: “It was popularized by Vice President Agnew in the 1970 mid-term elections as ‘squishy soft,” Safire says . . .

You can only pick one, Gavin: Scrolling through Gavin Newsom’s web site the other day put us in mind of the famous New Yorker cartoon in which an exasperated Charles Dickens sits in the office of his editor, who tells him: “I wish you would make up your mind, Mr. Dickens. Was it the best of times or was it the worst of times? It could scarcely be both.”

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Newsom’s version: “Mayor Newsom has organized an exploratory committee for Governor as an initial and technical requirement to begin organizing a potential campaign. Mayor Newsom has organized an exploratory committee so he can make the decision about a campaign for governor from a position of knowledge and strength.”

Brown outtakes, Take 1: At one point in Calbuzz’s recent interview with Jerry Brown, he spoke wistfully about maybe settling down on “a nice ranch that’s been in the family” for generations, near Colusa. So we asked him why the hell, at the age of 71, didn’t he just pack it in and kick back there with the lovely Lady Anne.

“That’s a good question,” he answered, before a rare pause. “You know something, and the more you do it, the better you get at it, and you derive a certain pleasure from it.” . . .

That’s -30-: Ex-Sacbeeman, the Rev. Jim Richardson, has started a blog for folks to leave their memories of the late, great LA Timesman Jerry Gillam. The blog is here if you want to leave a comment. Or you can email your recollections and photos for posting to Jim at revjimr@yahoo.com

What’s True and False in "Frost-Nixon"

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

By Jerry Roberts

“Frost-Nixon,” the hit movie about Big Dick Nixon’s famous post-Watergate TV interviews, won an Academy Award nomination for Best Motion Picture of the Year.

Ken Khachigian is glad it’s not up for Best Documentary Feature.

California’s top-ranked Republican strategist (and All-World UCSB alum) Khachigian was a longtime aide to Nixon and chief researcher for his 1977 television confrontation with British talk-show host David Frost. Portrayed in “Frost-Nixon” by Gabriel Jarret, and an informal adviser on the film, Khachigian has a good news-bad news take on it.

“It’s great entertainment,” he told me. “Having said that, it’s not great history.”

Khachigian graduated in 1966 as Gaucho student body president, then joined Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign and the White House communications staff at Pat Buchanan’s urging. After Nixon resigned in 1974, he was one of four key aides to join him in San Clemente (Diane Sawyer was most notable among the others). He worked closely with Nixon, first on a memoir and, after Frost ponied up $1 million for the first post-presidency interviews, preparing for 28 hours of taping. “We put together 25 briefing books, and I spent dozens of hours prepping him,” he said.

Frost’s interviews with Nixon were of national interest because Gerald Ford’s pardon after the resignation provided a free legal pass – not only for the White House-sponsored 1972 break-in at Democratic national headquarters, but also for other alleged high crimes and misdemeanors, short-handed by the media as The Watergate Scandal, disclosed as the burglary cover-up unspooled. Millions wanted Nixon held to account, and Frost got the first, best chance to do the job. “Frost-Nixon,” however, overreaches in how effectively he performed: In reality, Frost scored points against the ex-president, but nowhere near the knock-out of the movie.

The climax of the film (Spoiler Alert), in fact, substantively distorts the historical record. The money shot comes when Frank Langella, whose performance won him a best actor Oscar nomination, is cross-examined by Frost, played by Michael Sheen, who presses for some justification for the break-in at the Watergate complex.

“When the president does it, it’s not illegal,” a harried Nixon-Langhella blurts. As big screen drama, it’s a great moment; as history, not so much.

As Khachigian recalled, Nixon said those words – but not in connection with the break-in. Instead, the comment came amid a colloquy with Frost about the [Houston] Huston Plan, a secret White House wiretap operation aimed at officials suspected of leaking national security information. Legally, Nixon’s claim that as a policy matter he, as a wartime president, had authority to order wiretaps is a broad, if familiar, view of executive power (See: Bush, George W.) – but far from an admission of guilt, or even responsibility, for a felony crime.
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Khachigian remembers the real drama about Watergate questions and answers well. As accurately shown in the film, Frost badgered Nixon about the issue, so chief of staff Jack Brennan interrupted taping. While Brennan met with Frost to insist that he ease up on “the Perry Mason deal,” Khachigian said, he went in alone with the ex-president.

“Frost had been pushing and the old man was getting his back to the wall,” he recalled. “I went in to see him and he said, ‘Ken, they want me to admit to everything, to just grovel.’ He was thinking out loud and I said, ‘whatever you do, you have to do in such a way that survives history, and survives being on video. If you say you lied, (or) you committed a crime, (or) you committed an impeachable offense, it will be on the video forever, so choose your words carefully.”

A few minutes later, a composed Nixon re-emerged and uttered his famous, modified limited hang-out (CQ. Palmer: those four words a famous Watergate reference), as close to taking responsibility for the break-in as he ever came: “I let the country down.”

“The old man always had it in his head how to handle this,” Khachigian said. “He was thinking through for a matter of weeks the words he would say that would put Watergate behind him. He had the staff going back and forth about what to do, never revealing what he would do.”

At least two other big moments in the movie are simply fantasy. The first comes when a surprised Frost gets a call in his hotel room from Nixon, who delivers a terrific drunken rant. In the final scene, Frost drops off as a gift a new pair of Italian loafers, a fashion choice that Nixon earlier chides Frost for wearing.

“That was pure horseshit,” Khachigian said, adding that he pointed out factual flaws in the script to Peter Morgan, the “lefty Brit” writer. Morgan’s reply: “Hey, it’s entertainment.”