Archive for the ‘Willie Brown’ Category

Senate Sniper: Babs, Carly, Mobsters & Malfeasants

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

The two faces of Babs: Not since the Port Huron Statement was drafted  has there been as big a collection of left-wingers as that which gathered in San Francisco Wednesday to dedicate a train station.

Led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a parade of libs that included, but was not limited to, Barbara Boxer, Willie Brown, Gavin Newsom and George Miller offered a surfeit of mutual encomiums and plaudits on the occasion of the groundbreaking of the new regional Transbay Transit Center, being built in part with federal stimulus funds.

The presence at the festivities of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who is technically, um, a Republican, however, appeared not only to have put a damper on blatant partisan rhetoric, but also to have led to one of the most astonishing, man-bites-dog statements in the history of politics, straight from the maw of the Junior Senator from California, who was heard to say:

Lord knows we need to work across party lines, particularly in times like these.

Lord knows indeed.

Stop the presses, Maude: Barbara Boxer, the original tax loving, tree hugging, nuke hating, latte sipping, Chablis sucking, Marin County peacock feather hot tubbing scourge of oil companies, warmongers and Republicans of every stripe actually endorsed bipartisanship.

Bring on the Calbuzz fainting couch.

But wait: Just when we feared Babs might lose her lifetime senior citizen SDS honorary membership card, we were relieved to receive a copy of the latest e-blast fundraising pitch from her leadership PAC.

On behalf of Dems running in three open Senate seats, Boxer writes:

If we don’t hold on to these three Democratic seats, Republicans will increase their efforts to bring our legislative agenda to a standstill. That means more breaks for big corporations, more roll-backs of environmental protections, and few people fighting for American consumers.

Lord knows.

Just askin’: One of the three worthies that Babs is tin cupping for (the other two are Dick Blumenthal in Connecticut and Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania) is Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois state Treasurer, who’s seeking Barack Obama’s old seat.

Alexi Giannoulias? Really?

At a time when congressional Dems across the nation are trying to out-run the ethical cloud hanging over longtime New York Rep. Charlie Rangel, and when Boxer is already being slapped around by Republican rival Carly Fiorina for her relationship with Rep. Maxine Waters, who’s also facing House ethics charges, does Babs really want to be shaking people down for  Giannoulias, scion of Chicago’s scandal-ridden Broadway Bank?

In her fundraising e-mail, Boxer calls Giannoulias an “excellent progressive candidate” who “is known as a people’s champion.”

Well, but…

In Chicago, Giannoulias is also known as the guy who, as senior loan officer, oversaw $20 million in loans to two convicted mobsters from his family’s bank, which also lent another $22.5 million to now-convicted political fixer Tony Rezko, a few months after Giannoulias left his post.

We’re just sayin’.

On the other hand: The hits just keep comin’ for Hurricane Carly’s fine stewardship of HP. Now she’s been named to the Top 20 “all-time malfeasants” list of business execs who got away with murder outrageous corporate parachutes.

Not Really: Some time around 11 am on Wednesday, Jerry Brown tweeted: “Take a look at this picture of me with the godfather of soul, James Brown: http://bit.ly/bqtFmO.”

Which led to a Flickr page with this shot of Jerry Brown and James Brown and this notation: “The photo was taken 7 hours ago using a Canon MF 4320-4350.” But we don’t think so, since James Brown DIED on Christmas Day in 2006, which would mean Jerry would have been posing with a really live looking mummy which we are not aware of. Memo to Jerry: You look old enough already; don’t pose with dead guys.

Whitmanopoly: HT to Roy Rivenburg, former humor writer for the By God LATimes (who knew they EVER had any humor there?) who has come up with a great new board game: Whitmanopoly, California’s Election Buying Game, which demonstrates a keen nose for the news and eye for the absurd.  All this lifted directly from Roy’s site, notthelatimes.com:


PREPARATION: Meg Whitman starts the game with $150 million. Jerry Brown gets $20 million and an autographed poster of Linda Ronstadt.

TOKENS: Brown travels around the board with a 1974 Plymouth. Whitman commandeers a wheelbarrow of cash.

SCANDAL: When a player lands on SCANDAL, he or she is caught in an orgy with Lindsay Lohan, Mel Gibson and the city manager of Bell, and is sent to BAD PRESS. Do not pass DOUGH, do not collect campaign donations.

INCOME TAX: If a player lands on this space, he or she must propose a 20% tax hike to erase California’s budget deficit. The player then automatically loses the election and the game is over. The same thing happens when a player lands on BUDGET AX and proposes drastic cuts to popular programs.

BORDER SECURITY: When a player lands here, he must take a stand on illegal immigration, inevitably alienating a large bloc of voters and losing one turn. Exception: Whitman may take both sides on the issue, one in her English TV ads and another in Spanish-language spots.

BUYING VOTES: Instead of houses and hotels, players who land on a community buy radio and TV ads, skywriting messages and attack mailers. Or they can hire Leonardo DiCaprio to plant ballot instructions in voters’ minds. If both players land on the same space, a televised debate is held. However, the candidates must speak only in vague generalities and discuss inconsequential issues such as who should replace Ellen on “American Idol” and whether Comic-Con should move from San Diego to Anaheim.

DOUGH: Each time a player’s token passes DOUGH, he or she receives new campaign donations. Whitman writes herself a check for any amount. Brown holds a Hollywood fundraiser (costing him one turn), or instantly collects $1 million by kowtowing to public-employee unions.

There’s so much more at Roy’s site.

Humpday: What Sarah & eMeg Have in Common

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

palin winkThere’s always a local angle: Amid the all the media frippery about Sarah Palin’s new cash cow memoir, Calbuzz has been desperately searching our beat for any bit of trivia to let us horn in on Sarahmania. Finally, our Betamax, Eight Track Tape and Historic Video Research Department unearthed from the vault a classic bit of on-air political combat featuring a key player  in California’s race for governor.

Tucker Bounds, who currently serves as Meg Whitman’s deputy campaign manager for communications, in 2008 was signed on to the “McCain for President” effort, which at one point dispatched him to defend Palin on CNN in an appearance that quickly became a You Tube classic.

Just four days before, what your political writers like to call your Republican Standard Bearer had picked the then-obscure Alaska governor as his running mate, and the first wave of white-hot media scrutiny was still focused on her, um, credentials as a potential Commander in Chief. CNN’s Campbell Brown greeted Bounds with a ferocious assault, demanding he support the McCain camp’s argument that Palin was far more qualified for executive office than Barack Obama.brown bounds

When Bounds cited Palin’s alleged experience leading the Alaska National Guard, it was on. Brown spent the next several minutes ripping his face off, repeatedly taunting him to name a single action Palin had taken in that role that remotely qualified her to be president. Without a shred of supporting evidence for his claim, Bounds gamely hung in through the rest of the “interview,” but when it was over, McCain’s furious handlers abruptly canceled the candidate’s long-scheduled appearance with Larry King as retribution for Brown’s slashing performance.

Next up: Having established Palin’s national security cred with the Alaska National Guard, Bounds qualifies Whitman for national duty by noting that  countless armies of toy soldiers have been bought and sold on eBay.

Palin Redux: We saw only snippets of Palin’s long-awaited appearance on Oprah (slight digression: we hadn’t caught sight of O. since the inauguration and she appears in recent months to have been seriously working out with the knife and the fork) but that was plenty.

oprah.0.0.0x0.360x381Putting aside her utter lack of self-awareness and full-blown case of narcissistic personality disorder, the fact that she’s making MILLIONS OF DOLLARS with her inane book set off a round of Calbuzz tooth-gnashing that cracked a couple of old amalgam crowns dating back to the ’80s.

Among the commentariat, Alessandra Stanley’s account in the Times seemed to best capture the excruciating experience of watching Palin’s insufferable, self-absorbed mugging and posing:

On the show Ms. Winfrey treated Ms. Palin the way she handled former child star and self-described incest victim Mackenzie Phillips — with guarded civility and thinly veiled skepticism.

When Ms. Winfrey asked about her daughter’s ex-boyfriend, Levi Johnston, who has been saying unflattering things about Ms. Palin and may be shopping a book of his own, Ms. Palin tried, and failed, to stay on message. She began by saying that “national television is not the place” to air grievances against the father of her first grandchild, then proceeded to call him “Ricky Hollywood” and say that his plans to pose for Playgirl magazine amounted to “aspiring porn.”

When Ms. Winfrey asked if she would invite Mr. Johnston to Thanksgiving, Ms. Palin gave one of her trademark wandering answers: “You know, that’s a great question,” Ms. Palin said. “And it’s lovely to think that he would ever even consider such a thing.”

As for Johnston & Johnson, Levi is The Man in producing this week’s sign the end of civilization is near here.

It’s Willie’s williebrownspeakingWorld, the rest of us just live in it: Speaking of world-class egomaniacs, Willie Brown offered a defining look into his political soul in his Sunday offering for the Chron (still running in the news pages for reasons that remain unfathomable).

Defending Speaker and home girl Nancy Pelosi against criticisms that she ceded too much to conservative Democrats (including passage of the strongly anti-abortion Stupak Amendment) in moving health care reform through the House, the Ayatollah opined:

Nancy knows that the first thing on every Democratic House member’s mind is getting re-elected. In turn, as speaker, her first and foremost job is to ensure they get re-elected.

She also knows that the most important vote they cast once they are re-elected will be to keep her as speaker.

And if that means letting them be a Republican now and then, so be it.

Ah-ha. Forget a strong public option, abortion rights and cost containment, what really matters is who gets to wear the crown. Got it.


These are the good old days: Bill Watkins, California’s sharpest  economist and FOC (Friend of Calbuzz) has moved his formidable financial forecast operation south, from UC Santa Barbara to the campus of California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.

There, his newly ensconced Center for Economic Research and Forecasting has just delivered a doozy of a downer prognosis for the state, which translates from econo-speak to: grim, grim, grim.

Among the more striking features of the report is the vehemence of its criticism of state government amid the painful recession:

California’s economy –burdened by endless budget deficits, high taxation, declining spending, onerous regulation, and what seems to be a generalized lack of concern about the economy – continues to underperform the United States economy in every measure. It is amazing to us to watch the political class during this business cycle.

The political problems with Sacramento have become too obvious to ignore, hence, the various proposals to change state government. The economic problems are apparently not so obvious. They continue to be ignored. There seems to be a consensus that California will bounce back, ‘just as we always have.’ We don’t believe California will bounce back without a positive effort…

Balancing California’s budget over the long run would be a good initial step in a positive effort to encourage growth. As it is, the State will face another budget crisis this winter. Based on past performance it is a safe bet that they will not provide a permanent solution that is consistent with long-term economic growth.

Yeah, but other than that they’re doing a helluva job up there, no?

Why DiFi Always Does the Dance of the Seven Veils

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

veil dancer 1914On the morning of Monday, Nov. 27, 1978,  Board of Supervisors President Dianne Feinstein walked into the shabby, cramped press room of San Francisco City Hall to check in with beat reporters from the daily papers.

Recently widowed, Feinstein had returned to work that morning after a rejuvenating vacation, so she dropped in to schmooze and catch up on the latest political gossip. The talk was mostly about the Rev. Jim Jones, a former city housing commissioner, who had gone mad and led his flock in a mass suicide in Guyana days before.

One of three reporters in the room was K. Connie Kang, staff writer for the Examiner  who later moved to the L.A. Times, and who asked Feinstein if she planned to make a third run for mayor, in the upcoming 1979 election. Feinstein, who had lost two mayoral bids and privately decided to get out politics, replied, “No, not this time.”

A little more than an hour later, she became the acting mayor of San Francisco, as she announced to the world that former supervisor Dan White had just assassinated Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. No one knew it at the time but, amid the horror and tragedy of that day, Feinstein’s political career had been resurrected, as she spent the next three decades climbing the ladder to the national prominence she’s reached today.

Since that day, Feinstein has often described herself as “fatalistic” about politics, with its uncertainties and unpredictability. Her attitude is summed in a maxim — “You never say never” — which she’s repeated countless times since in discussing her future in politics.

Amid yet another new round of speculation about Dianne-for-Governor 2010 scenarios, peddled on scant evidence by Beltway political writers and longtime ally Willie Brown, the mantra helps explain why she consistently refuses to rule out the possibility once and for aldianneworried2l. That she also enjoys the spotlight of being viewed as a potential savior for the party and the state makes her not much different than any other politician.

We made the case of why it makes no sense for Feinstein to run for governor on the day Calbuzz launched eight months ago, and we’ve seen and heard nothing in the meantime to change our minds.

The Senior Senator from California, whose demand for staffing detail over any big decision is the stuff of legend -– she once demanded proof when an aide said in a memo that Thomas Jefferson had written the Declaration of Independence -– and there’s been no sign of the endless conference calls and exhaustive should-I-or-shouldn’t-I meetings that would inevitably surface if she were seriously considering a run.

Back in May, veteran Chronicle Washington reporter and longtime Dianne watcher Carolyn Lochhead cornered the Senator about the governor’s race and got the most definitive comment from her to date on the subject:

Feinstein, 75, said she is tired of being asked everywhere she goes whether she will run. She has not ruled it out, but when asked if it is fair to say a bid is ‘very unlikely,’ she said, ‘Correct.’

(For the record, since that interview, Difi celebrated another birthday, keeping her five years ahead of Jerry Brown in the age department).

The latest round of over-heated bloviating about Feinstein-for-governor got started last Thursday, when an enterprising Murky News reporter wrote a piece under the headline “Feinstein Still Pondering Calif. Gubernatorial Bid.” It included a couple quotes picked up from an AP version, and got widespread pickup with its headline use of “pondering,” a word that did not appear in the text of the article. The piece itself tortured two dull quotes into the framework of a yarn suggesting a run is under active consideration, however:

“What does affect (a decision about running) is watching to see what precise programs are put forward by various candidates to handle what is a very serious structural budget deficit in this state,” Feinstein said. “It’s of major consequence and California is in considerable distress, and there have to be reforms…

Feinstein has a prestigious assignment as chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. When asked if she had the patience to deal with a state Legislature that has often been described as dysfunctional, she replied: “That’s a very good question. It shall be unanswered for the moment.”

From there it was off to the races.

On Friday Politico recycled the AP quotes with an item headlined “Governor Di-Fi?” while Chris Cillizza, the Washpost’s resident political junkie, the same day used the comments in his blog, “The Fix,” to report that Feinstein is “still mulling a run.” He revisited the subject Monday, citing a bum L.A.Times poll question (see our analysis) about whether Democrats are satisfied with a Jerry Brown-only primary field (it’s worth noting that the estimable Cathleen Decker did NOT mention the ginned-up finding in her overall poll story on Sunday) to buttress the possibility.

williebrownspeakingBy then Willie Brown had added fuel to the fire with his Sunday column, again without advancing the ball beyond the AP’s quotes. That newbie journalist Brown is leading the charge is not a big surprise –- he’s been a reliable ally of Feinstein’s since he was the only elected official to back her very first race in 1969 (with the notable exception of 1975, when he backed even closer ally George Moscone for mayor against her); coincidentally a Feinstein governorship would return Willie Brown to the limelight, the only place he likes better than the Brioni section of Wilkes Bashford’s clothing store.

Calbuzz meanwhile stands pat in the 2010 sweepstakes with our launch piece thesis. If anyone feels strongly to the contrary, and is eager to part with some cash, we know a couple guys who are taking bets.

Press Clips: We’re All Journalists Now (Even Willie)

Friday, November 6th, 2009

028-956Speaking of New Media: If there was any remaining doubt that everyone is a journalist in the age of new media, Willie Brown erased it once and for all during his welcoming comments at his big election day Breakfast Club event in San Francisco Tuesday.

Brown, who previously held such exalted positions as Speaker of the Assembly and Lord Mayor of San Francisco, since retiring from politics has added a lofty new title: Item-Grubbing Columnist.

Plugging his weekly Sunday Chronicle offering, which features such hoary journalistic standbys as amateur commentating on the local NFL franchises, political rumor-mongering of the highest order and exclusive interviews with cab drivers, Brown issued this shameless call to his audience of 800 potential sources: “Send me your items,” he said, “I promise I won’t check them out.”

hiltzikLAT keeps the crown: For the second week in a row, the by-God L.A. Times newsroom keeps possession of the coveted Calbuzz Little Pulitzer for Investigative Punditry. Honors this time go to business columnist Michael Hiltzik, for “Carly Fiorina’s Senate campaign an uninspiring product launch,” an elegant, superb filleting of the newly-minted political candidate. Citing Hurricane Carly’s contortions in explaining why she didn’t bother to vote in three-quarters of the state’s elections this decade, Hiltzik notes that:

Fiorina explained that this was because ‘I felt disconnected from the decisions made in Washington and, to be honest, really didn’t think my vote mattered because I didn’t have a direct line of sight from my vote to a result.’

Yet during her reign at Hewlett-Packard, according to public records, her corporation spent $4.7 million to lobby Congress and donated more than $390,000 to political candidates through its political action committee. Fiorina and her husband, Frank, a former AT&T executive, have made more than $100,000 in political donations personally since 2000.

That suggests not that Fiorina ‘felt disconnected’ from what was going on in Washington, but rather that she understood all too well that in politics, money talks. Why bother to vote when you can get what you need with greenbacks.”


Block that mid-term: iCarly’s anti-climactic formal announcement drew a fair amount of national attention, in large part because the GOP Senate primary between her and the indefatigable Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Red Meat, aligns with the political meme of the moment, in which GOP establishment types are besieged by hordes of tea bagging, death paneling, grassrooting, conservative “populists.”

The narrative line achieved break-through status in the endlessly analyzed special election for New York’s 23rd congressional district, where big mouth, big ego national names like Sarah Palin and Dick Armey drove the moderate Republican nominee from the race in favor of a third party conservative candidate, managing in the process to hand the district to a Democrat for the first time in a century.

The internal feud dynamic was examined most intelligently and comprehensively over at Politico, which also reported with a straight face how bumbling Republican blowhards were shamelessly spinning that they scored a great victory by losing the seat.

The snatching-defeat-from-the-jaws-of- victory frame was deftly handled by NYT satirist Gail Collins, as Jon Stewart exceeded his own high standards, moderating a dead-on parody panel of self-important cable news political analysts chopping it over the mid-terms, which featured usual suspects Sam Bee, Aasif Mandvi and John Oliver.

matierandrossGavin, we hardly knew ye: Chronicle scoop artists Phil Matier and Andy Ross had a dandy excloo with their report that Gavin Newsom pulled his own version of a Mark Sanford, mysteriously slipping out of  town on an unplanned trip, making his own travel arrangements and not bothering to let his staff in on the details.

Unlike Sanford, the wingnut governor of South Carolina who went underground for a few days to visit his Argentine paramour, Newsom was headed for a rendezvous with his wife and child, but his conduct in the matter was erratic enough to force his flack to peddle a wheeze about Hizhonner feeling fluish when reporters asked why he skipped Willie Brown’s aforementioned bash.

Prince Gavin’s abrupt withdrawal from the gov’s race drew full Chronicler attention, including columnist Chuck Nevius’s exploration of Gavin’s psyche and Cliff Staton’s compare and contrast op-ed measuring Newsom’s stumblebum performance in his truncated campaign unfavorably against that of Dianne Feinstein, the last S.F. alcalde to run for governor.

Margin of error: Capitol Weekly, bouncing back from their last, disastrous venture in the world of polling,  published a new poll showing  Meg Whitman in a commanding position in the GOP race for governor with 37% (including leaners), compared to 15% for Tom Campbell and 6% for Steve Poizner.

While still wobbly, it’s the first survey we’ve seen by Cap Weekly’s Republican pollster, Adam Probolsky,  that  isn’t some push-poll, mash-up with whack-a-doodle numbers.

One big problem: In reporting that  “Former eBay executive Meg Whitman has opened up a wide lead in the Republican race for governor, according to the latest Capitol Weekly/Probolsky Research poll,” they compared their new numbers to the most recent Field Poll (which showed Whitman 22, Campbell 20 and Poizner 9) — instead of matching the new numbers to their own previous, badly flawed, poll (which had the race Campbell 13, Whitman 10 and Poizner 8).

But you can’t do that – not unless you’ve demonstrated that your polling is in league with the Field Poll for accuracy and reliability.

That said, props to Cap Weekly for recognizing that their previous effort with Probolsky was little more than crapchurn* fodder. The new  survey still lacks adequate explanation of its methodology: it took us a bunch of emails and digging to figure out the survey was a random sample of registered voters, screened for participation, and based on a 2010 primary turnout model that projects 46% men, 54% women, 47% Democrats, 36% Republicans, 15% DTS, 69% whites, 12% Latinos and – a number we think is too low – 53% voters age 55 and older.

Whether that’s the right model for June 2010 or not, at least it’s transparent. We don’t even mind that Capitol Weekly asked a few push questions designed to see how vulnerable the candidates are to various negatives. You can read about them here.

One intriguing finding: 29% of men age 55 and older said they’d be more likely to vote for Jerry Brown knowing that at 72, he’d be California’s oldest governor ever elected, compared to 15% of men who said this would make them less likely to vote for Brown. But among women 55 and older, 19% would be more likely to vote for the geezer and 27% would be less likely.

* Crapchurn – Calbuzzspeak for the continuous stream of meaningless, speculative and/or irrelevant alleged factoids and factillae, thrust upon a long-suffering public by MSM and  online analysts alike.


Short takes: CoCo Times columnist Dan Borenstein deserves a medal for  unrelenting perseverance in pounding away at the public employee pension story; time after time, Borenstein piles fact upon fact in exposing the distressing framework and figures of cushy pension deals in the local government jurisdictions served by his paper…Weintraub watch: Extra, Extra – NYT columnist discovers Jerry Brown! Next Sunday: A trenchant meditation on the Golden Gate Bridge…Thanks to the redoubtable George Foulsham for pointing us to “Buy One Anyway,” Slate TV’s take-off  of those soft-focus, heal-the-world TV donation pitches, with scrap heap newspaper persons the objects of maudlin charity and pity. Life in imitation of art.

Jerry Brown’s New Pitch: “Optimism of the Will”

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

jerryinterview(Updated 4:45 pm) Declaring that he’s “not a candidate – yet,” Jerry Brown tried out a potential new theme for his soon-to-come campaign for governor Tuesday:

“Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will,” he told a crowd of more than 800 at an Election Day breakfast in San Francisco. “It may look bad today, but help is on the way.”

While not exactly an ideal kicker  for a 30-second TV spot, Brown’s Hegelian synthesis seemed to be an in-progress effort to craft a message that could attract disenchanted and alienated voters living through hard times, by combining a hard-headed analysis of the truly dire problems of California with a soft-hearted appeal to optimism and the state’s historic belief in hope for the future.

“I as much as anyone love to wallow in doom and gloom,” he acknowledged, tempering that tendency with rhetoric about California as “a state of imagination” and call for “some enthusiasm to get it done” during tough times.

Brown propounded his notion at a packed-to-the-rafters event tossed by former Assembly Speaker and SF Mayor Willie Brown at the Moscone Center, which also featured Governor Schwarzmuscle and Republican wannabe governors Tom Campbell and Steve Poizner.

The only gubernatorial contender not in attendance was…wait for it…Meg Whitman, who kept intact her Joe DiMaggio-length streak of avoiding all contact with other candidates, having begged off from the breakfast nearly four months ago.

“Her office called and said she would be in the East – and that was an invitation extended in July,” said Willie. “She must have a helluva’ calendar.”

With Gavin Newsom’s sudden withdrawal from the governor’s race (he missed the breakfast reportedly because he has the flu — “don’t know if it’s swine,” Willie said) having cleared the primary field for Jerry Brown, the attorney general was the star of the show, as reporters gathered around him on his arrival, to the detriment of Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who was just starting to speak.

“I’m not a candidate,” Brown said at the beginning of his speech, pausing a beat and then adding, “Yet.” He said there was “no reason to get in too soon” because he is not “one of the more obscure personalities.”

“I don’t want to be coy,” he insisted, “I am raising as much money as I can.”

Reporters asked Brown about the recent controversy involving press secretary Scott Gerber, who resigned Monday following disclosures that he had secretly taped conversations with reporters. In resigning, Gerber issued a statement saying that he and he alone was responsible for and aware of the taping. Whether or not his resignation and mea culpa put the matter to rest remains to be seen; Brown, however, made it clear he believes it is already old news.

“Everything has been pretty well delineated,” he said, adding that “no confidential communications” were recorded.

IMG_2110(Willie Brown — dressed in light plaid Brioni and plum accents — slyly referred to the issue in his welcoming remarks to those at the breakfast: “Welcome to the breakfast club,” he said. “Please be advised that I am recording everything we are doing here today”).

Crusty the General Brown shrugged off suggestions, made by our friends over at Calitics among others, that the lack of a primary opponent would be disadvantageous to him and the party in preventing a robust debate and denying him an opportunity to sharpen his arguments and campaign pitch.

“Well, I appreciate their solicitude.  It comes as a change from earlier recommendations in that quarter,” he said. “But whether or not we would be better with a nice bitter primary…would (it) be better for your moral character or better your political standing? It’s always better to take on adversity with a good spirit. But it doesn’t always (translate) to electoral victories.”

But wouldn’t he benefit from going through a primary? “Do you know how many primaries I’ve been in?” he asked. Willie Brown also laughed off the notion that a non-contested primary is a problem:

“I have never in my life felt as a candidate that I would benefit from competition,” he told Calbuzz.

karzai Later, speaking to the breakfast crowd, the onetime  “Ayatolla of the Legislature” held up Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai as a politician to emulate because he was able to clear the field and confirm himself.

“I think that’s what Jerry Brown is trying to do,” Willie said, laughing.

He introduced Campbell joking that, when he called him to invite him to the event, “He was in Dinuba, at a Denny’s, talking to an audience of one.”

Campbell got off the best one-liners in a speech he prepared for the event listing the 25 biggest whoppers he’s come to understand in his two decades in public office and 16 months in this campaign. The best of them were zingers at his opponents, but because they’re so inside, most of the audience didn’t seem to get them:

IMG_2118Aimed at Poizner: “Cut taxes and government revenue will automatically rise. (The logical corollary is that government will generate most revenue at a tax rate of zero.)”

Aimed at Whitman: “It’s really better not to have government experience if you’re running for public office.”

Aimed at Brown: “You can raise seven million dollars without really deciding to run for governor.”

Poizner, looking like the Silicon Valley multi-millionaire that he is in his open-collared blue shirt and blue-gray suit, introduced himself to the San Francisco audience and described his background volunteering in the public schools. (Calbuzz knows this not because we heard the speech but because Poizner’s very competent media guy, Jarrod Agen, sent out a quickie partial transcript.)

His closing pitch: “I’m an engineer. I’m an entrepreneur. I’m a problem solver. And I want to get together with teachers and educators and business folks, folks from across the political spectrum. California is in a huge crisis right now and it’s time for all of us to get together and implement some common sense solutions like I’m describing here so we can get not only the public schools  back on track, so that we can get California back on track.”

Gov. Schwarzenegger, who said he came to the event because “you never turn down Willie,” spoke for a few minutes and then announced: “I’m excited about this audience because I’ve been standing up here four minutes and no one has yet screamed out ‘Kiss my gay ass'” — a reference to Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, who yelled that remark at Schwarzenegger during a recent Democratic gathering at which the governor made an appearance.