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Archive for the ‘California Politics’ Category



KDL Pulls Even With DiFi! (Among Right-Wingers)

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

kdlKevin de Leon’s campaign for U.S. Senate against Dianne Feinstein began, and continues, as an assault from the left, as he charges that she’s too soft on President Trump and too weak on liberal issues.

So it’s more than a little ironic to note that the only voting cohorts where he’s competitive in the latest poll that shows Difi still stomping him is, wait for it — Republicans and, specifically, those who like Donald Trump.

Excuse us while we pause to build a stadium big enough to hold our laughter.

In the latest Reuters/Ipsos/UVA Center for Politics State Poll, de Leon is tied with Feinstein 20-21% among Republicans and 21-22% among likely voters who approve of Trump. Sadly for him, he trails Feinstein 44-24% among all likely voters and a whopping 58-26% among those who disapprove of Trump. And just for good measure, DiFi is crushing KDL 61-27% among Democrats and 40-20% among independents.

But hey, among the 36% of likely voters who approve of Trump, KDL is neck and neck with Feinstein. It’s among that pesky 63% of likely voters who disapprove of Trump that he’s sucking wind.

Why Feinstein Kept Sexual Assault Letter Secret

Monday, September 17th, 2018

difiwomenFour days before sending the FBI a confidential and anonymous #MeToo letter that has roiled the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein said in an interview that his confirmation was not a done deal.

“We’re not finished,” the California Democrat told at least half of us, in a 30- minute sit down at the Four Seasons Resort-The Biltmore in Santa Barbara on Sept. 9, that followed a talk to local Democratic women.

“Staff will be going through all of the transcripts, picking up things, underlining things, messages will be coming in, information will be given to the committee,” she added, in advance of a “markup” at this week’s meeting of the Judiciary Committee, on which she is the ranking Democrat. “Always is.”

Whether or not Feinstein, in mentioning new information and “messages coming in” was, consciously or unconsciously, referencing the startling, then-secret letter from Bay Area professor Christine Blasey Ford that charges Kavanaugh with sexual assault back in high school, the sudden furor over the allegations demonstrates that she was correct in assessing that Donald Trump’s Supreme Court appointment is not a fait accompli.

“From the outset, I have believed these allegations were extremely serious and bear heavily on Judge Kavanaugh,” Feinstein said a statement this Sunday, shortly after Ford herself made her charge public. “I hope the attacks and shaming of her will stop and this will be treated with the seriousness it deserves.”

The statement also made clear why she kept Ford’s letter confidential for weeks, an answer to attacks from across the political spectrum: her feminist belief that the choice to tell the story was Ford’s — not her own.

Christine-Blasey-Ford-648x381The mysterious letter. As majority Senate Republicans rushed to push through Trump’s nomination in time for the court session that begins Oct. 1, Ford on July 31 sent a letter to Feinstein, via Rep. Anna Eshoo, alleging that as a prep school student, a drunken Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed at a party, molested her and muffled her screams. She asked it be kept confidential. (CNN has published the text of the letter).

Despite the lurid details in her description, Ford said she wanted to keep the story private, fearing that she would be battered in a political brawl and he would be confirmed anyway. Feinstein reportedly told no one about the letter, except for a few aides, until September 12, when The Intercept news site reported the existence of the letter and said Feinstein refused to share it with Democratic colleagues.

That day Feinstein sent it to the FBI, and was promptly assailed on all sides: Republicans accused her of a cheap last-minute smear and Democrats protested her secrecy, while Beltway pundits ripped her and re-election foe, state Sen. Kevin de Leon, condemned her “lack of leadership.”

On Sunday, Sept. 16, for the first time, Ford went public, in an interview with the Washington Post: “I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” she said of Kavanaugh, who “categorically and unequivocally” denies the incident. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”

Ford’s attorney since has repeatedly given Feinstein shout-outs for respecting her client’s previous plea for secrecy, most notably on CNN , in the Post and in an interview with the NYT:

But Ms. Katz said that throughout August, Ms. Feinstein’s aides had checked back with Ms. Katz from time to time to see if Ms. Ford would go public. But Ms. Ford, fearing she would be attacked, wanted to remain private, and the senator respected her wishes, Ms. Katz said.

From the Post: Katz said she believes Feinstein honored Ford’s request to keep her allegation confidential, but “regrettably others did not.”

anitahillThe Year of the Woman. It’s worth noting that Feinstein was first elected in 1992, the “Year of the Woman” election following Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations during the historic Clarence Thomas Senate hearings.

In her Sunday statement, she explained the ethics of her decision not to surface Ford’s story herself: “It has always been Mrs. Ford’s decision whether to come forward publicly,” she said. “For any woman, sharing an experience involving sexual assault, particularly when it involves a politically connected man with influence, authority and power – is extraordinarily difficult.”

While Fox News and GOP senators may continue kvetching, we predict the condemnation of Democrats and even de Leon about the letter will end (Update. Okay, so we were half right: Feinstein’s Senate colleagues are now defending her, but de Leon is still on the attack, saying she screwed up by not finding unexplained ways and means “to devise a way to act on sensitive information …while maintaining appropriate confidentiality.”

All righty then: I hate this restaurant – the food’s bad and the portions are too small.

Here’s a Post story, published two days after our original post, summarizing the react to Difi’s actions to date.

Feinstein speaks. In the interview before the Ford story broke, DiFi discussed Kavanaugh and other political issues, as she:

–Pushed back against de Leon’s argument that she is too moderate to represent California in the Trump era, along with criticism that she apologized, instead of standing up for, anti-Kavanaugh protestors during the Judiciary Committee hearing: “You don’t do that in the Senate – you don’t turn it into a roughhouse.”

–Acknowledged that, “sure it hurt,” when the state Democratic Party executive board endorsed de Leon over her, but shrugged off suggestions that she is out of touch with its progressive wing: “We did pretty well in the primary,” in which she was the overwhelming winner in a crowded field, capturing 70 percent of Democratic votes, she said.

–Refused to answer whether Trump should be impeached, in contrast to de Leon, who has stated that impeachment should be pursued, even with Democrats in the congressional minority. “It’s for a future day, I’ll leave it at that,” she said, arguing that the Constitution is strong enough to withstand Trump: “Absolutely.”

kavanaugh–Defended as “very honorable people” Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski of Maine and Alaska, the two key, pro-choice Republicans whose votes are crucial to blocking Trump’s pick, while declining to speak on the record about her conversations with them: “It would be a very big thing for them to go against the party.”

–Agreed that Kavanaugh would be “a likely vote” to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion, adding, in effect, that Kavanaugh tried to dupe the Judiciary Committee by calling the landmark ruling “settled law,” but stopping short of stating that it was “decided correctly.”

–Criticized Kavanaugh for evading questions probing his views on executive power and whether or not a President is exempt from criminal prosecution: “He wasn’t going to step away from the President in any of his answers.”

–Denounced the constant storm of “chaos and unpredictability” in the Trump White House — “My God, how would I know what he would do tomorrow or next week?” – but also professed her confidence in key Administration members to manage it, specifically Secretary of Defense James Mattis. (We note with alarm that the Defense secretary is reportedly on the outs with Trump and may soon be replaced however).

–Expressed disappointment in Republican congressional colleagues who “seem so afraid to cross” Trump, but said she will continue efforts to work with GOP members on issues on which she believes bipartisan solutions are still possible, citing current discussions on immigration legislation.

A transcript of the interview is posted online here. A version of this post also is being published by the Santa Barbara Independent and at Newsmakers with Jerry Roberts.

Even Trump Resisters Prefer Feinstein to de León

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

diannecyclops2Democratic State Sen. Kevin de León, 51, has one argument in his race to unseat U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 85: she’s too old. Which is not an argument he can make because it’s ageist, tacky and crass.

So he disguises his case against the senior senator: “It’s time for a change,” “we need new leadership” and the kicker — “she’s too weak on President Donald Trump.”

Nevertheless, in the June 5 primary, Feinstein stomped de León amid a 35-candidate field, 44-12 percent. With nearly three million total votes, Feinstein won 70 percent of Democrats, carried every county, and triumphed in all 100 state legislative jurisdictions on the ballot, including de León’s own 24th Senate district.

Yet in its infinite wisdom – after DiFi had already demonstrated her appeal – 217 members of the California Democratic Party’s executive board overwhelmingly gave its endorsement to de León — a guy who lost his own district!

mcristanceA confederacy of dunces. And here’s how monumentally out of touch de León (and the wingnut CDP “e board”) really is:

In the most recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, among the 55% of likely voters who prefer that candidates push back against the Trump administration, Feinstein leads de León 62-25 percent.

In other words, those who most agree with de León’s campaign of resistance against the Trump regime would rather have the venerable Feinstein in the Senate doing the resisting.

So much for the collective mind of the armchair Marxists, Berniecrats, Sacramento hacks, county committee factotums, and sincere grassrooters who comprised the needed 60-plus percent majority of the 333-member “e-board” to hand de León an organizational victory that humiliated California’s most nationally influential Democrat — amid an election season with existential stakes for the anti-Trump party.

“The California Democratic Party’s executive board,” iconic political Democratic insider Willie Brown wrote of the vote in Oakland, “appears to be on a suicide mission.”

deleonnewFearless forecast. Termed-out this year, the 51-year-old de León remains influential in pay-to-play Capitol circles, an ambitious robo-pol with no immediate landing spot now positioning himself for the future with a cash-starved, long-shot Senate challenge.

As a practical matter, the Dems’ November 6 election pick will have little or no impact – or about as much as the party had when it snubbed Feinstein in the 1990 governor’s race primary after she voiced her support for the death penalty and got booed by delegates to the Democrats’ state party convention.

True, de León now may use the party’s formal seal of approval on campaign materials and also has access to lists and data for about 8.4 million registered Democrats. But unless felled by tsunami, quake, or medical emergency, DiFi will win a fifth full term,.

As a political matter, however, the action is still significant:

• For heavy breathers among the Beltway political press corps, whose grasp on California politics often revolves around hot expense-account restaurants, the Dem-on-Dem dissension fuels reportage about the party’s time-honored circular firing squad tendencies, a popular narrative of self-sabotage seized upon by pro-Trump media and spinners.

• For donors and campaign professionals, the saga serves as a distraction from California’s main political event ​— ​the battles for a half-dozen Republican congressional seats Democrats must flip in hopes of capturing the House as a bulwark against Trump’s absolute power; it also diverts Team Feinstein from the ceaseless Beltway battles where her prominent committee perches are consequential.

• For California voters, the episode offers new evidence of the historic weakness of parties in a state where individual media brands matter more than partisan organization. At a time when California’s Republican party moves ever closer to right-wing irrelevance, Democrats now tack hard leftward ​— ​while Feinstein, Jerry Brown, and both Clintons, not to mention battalions of pre–Proposition 187, pro-choice, moderate Republicans, have found the statewide political sweet spot is center-left or what we have labeled mas o menos liberalism,

rejected-rubber-stampWhy they did it. In defense of KDL: De León is a hero to some lefty Dems, for whom Feinstein’s anti-Trumpism lacks passion and who credit him for authoring the pro-immigrant “sanctuary state” law. Unlike Feinstein, de León also voices support for single-payer health insurance and impeachment now.

Daraka Larimore-Hall, state Democratic vice chair and local party chieftain, said, using the nickname initials favored by de León fans, “KDL embodies our values.”

Larimore-Hall chafes at the notion that he and his colleagues blundered with their endorsement, shrugging off the near-unanimous support Feinstein has from Democratic heavyweights, from Barack Obama to Senator Kamala Harris.

“It’s not the job of the party to act as a rubber stamp,” he said. “A lot has changed in California and in the world since the ’90s, and [Feinstein] has not changed with it.”

The Democrats seem undiminished in their commitment to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

A version of this post was previously published at Newsmaker With Jerry Roberts. No animals were injured in its production.

The GOP Ignored Our Advice and Lost Steve Schmidt

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

Flying_Pig“When pigs fly” is an adynaton, a way of saying that something will never happen. As in, Steve Schmidt – the savvy Republican strategist who guided campaigns for George W. Bush, Arnold Schwarzenegger and John McCain – will repudiate his membership in the GOP “when pigs fly.”

This just in: The swine are airborne.

Tuesday night, Schmidt let loose the following tweetstorm:

Steve-Schmidt29 years and nine months ago I registered to vote and became a member of The Republican Party which was founded in 1854 to oppose slavery and stand for the dignity of human life. Today I renounce my membership in the Republican Party. It is fully the party of Trump.

I have spent much of my life working in GOP politics. I have always believed that both parties were two of the most important institutions to the advancement of human freedom and dignity in the history of the world. Today the GOP has become a danger to our democracy and values.

This Independent voter will be aligned with the only party left in America that stands for what is right and decent and remains fidelitous to our Republic, objective truth, the rule of law and our Allies. That party is the Democratic Party.

millergoebbelsThe rise of neo-fascist authoritarianism, represented by the likes of Steven Miller and Kirstjen Nielsen, the yawning corruption of the likes of Scott Pruitt and Wilbur Ross, not to mention the kakistocracy created by President E. Molument Clause himself, finally was too much for Schmidt.

Trump’s family separation policy – which was so toxic he pretended to reverse it with an executive order on Thursday – was the final straw for Schmidt, whose one-time hunger for GOP victory led him to urge McCain to choose the vile and idiotic Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate.

This child separation policy is connected to the worst abuses of humanity in our history. It is connected by the same evil that separated families during slavery and dislocated tribes and broke up Native American families. It is immoral and must be repudiated. Our country is in trouble. Our politics are badly broken.

The first step to a season of renewal in our land is the absolute and utter repudiation of Trump and his vile enablers in the 2018 election by electing Democratic majorities.

richardpainterWill Schmidtism spread? He’s in good company, following in the footsteps of George Will, Jennifer Rubin, Richard Painter and many others who, according to an analysis of Gallup Poll data by Emory University’s Zachary Peskowitz for commentator E.J. Dionne, have caused the proportion of Americans who call themselves Republican to decline from 32.7 percent before the 2016 election to 28.6 percent in late May to mid-June.

As an electoral matter, there’s also preliminary evidence that Schmidt may be the tip of the spear in a mid-term movement of Actual Conservatives abandoning Trumpism and rooting for the other team, as Matt Lewis noted in the Daily Beast: 

As Trumpism becomes harder for Reagan conservatives to abide, an almost sacrilegious notion has begun to pop up on the right: For the good of conservatism (and America), Democrats must win the mid-terms…

These are not people who want to burn it all down for the sake of burning it all down, even if their strategy sounds something akin to the “We had to destroy the village in order to save it” trope. Instead, these are real-life conservatives who have reached the end of their ropes. And they are presenting perfectly rational reasons why electoral defeat might be the last best chance for purging the part of Reagan from its newfound Trumpist impulses. 

The goal is to force an awakening—a sort of defibrillation treatment–that might shock the GOP back to its senses.

calbuzzartLegend in our own minds. Alas, Schmidt would not be shedding his Republican Party persona if the national and California GOP had just taken the friendly advice Calbuzz offered in the wake of the disastrous 2010 general election in California in which Jerry (Gandalf) Brown stomped eMeg Whitman in the governor’s race.

Here’s part of what we said then (when registered Republicans still outnumbered independents in California):

We don’t want Republicans to become Democrats — we want Republicans to become relevant.

So that there is a vigorous contest of ideas in California politics. Right now, Republicans are so trapped in their ideological hall of mirrors that they have become a distorted caricature of themselves. They can thump their chests and win big attaboys at the California Republican Assembly convention. But they utterly fail to reflect the impulses of the vast majority of California voters who tend to be fiscally conservative and socially moderate.

Republicans believe in smaller government, lower taxes, reduced regulation, economic growth, individual freedom and law and order, to name a few GOP values.

They should continue to stand and fight for all of those. But they need to build all that into a platform that begins with a realistic growth agenda. Investments in roads, bridges, dams and/or levees, water projects, schools and universities, redevelopment projects, ports – all these things and more – are wholly consistent with their philosophical world view. Their fixation on opposing everything the Democrats propose is hurting them more than it is helping them.

Republicans could become leading advocates of an economic rebound strategy that relies on Silicon Valley innovation, green jobs, high-tech research and development. They could integrate this with increased exports for a growing agricultural sector and a healthy and expanding service economy.

They don’t have to continually serve the interests of the wealthiest 2% of California families – they can focus of the struggling middle class. And they need to remember that California is not Kentucky or Alaska or any other state where the so-called “tea party” is a big deal. In California, tea party ideology is a non-started,

In particular we suggested the California GOP (and the national Republican Party if they’d listen) should change their position on pathway to citizenship, get behind green jobs and environmental conservation, develop their political bench, re-calibrate their position on abortion and sound sensible not strident.

ElephantSadBottom line. Sadly, not only has the Republican Party not made itself relevant in California, it has doubled down on its irrational exuberance for wing-nut extremism, further driving away voters to the point where the latest data from the California Secretary of State show GOP registration is now 25.1 percent – not only trailing the Democrats’ 44.4 percent, but also the steadily increasing share of Californians self-identified as No Party Preference independents, now 25.5 percent.

And so, the GOP now has an implacable critic in Schmidt, who sees shame far beyond Trump himself. “The party of Lincoln, of Eisenhower, of Reagan, it’s dead,” he tweeted the other day. “And the people who killed it are Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and dozens of other complicit cowards.”

Hog aeronautics.

Ex-Insurance Boss Poizner Seeks Non-Partisan Re-do

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

poiznerWin or lose in November, Steve Poizner already has made history.

Poizner, a 61-year old Silicon Valley zillionaire, finished first in the June 5 balloting for Insurance Commissioner — the first political independent ever to qualify for election to state office in California.

His victory, with 42 percent in a four-candidate field, carries huge political significance, a groundbreaking achievement in an election that marked the decline of the once-mighty California Republican Party to third-place status in the state.

Pre-primary figures show GOP registration – 25.1 percent – not only trailing the Democrats’ 44.4 percent, but also the steadily increasing share of Californians self-identified as No Party Preference independents, now 25.5 percent.

LonelyElephantSound of his own drummer? Cue the sound of the late President Reagan whirling in his Simi Valley resting place.

“If I can pioneer this path of demonstrating that you can run as an independent and win, it will open the door for other people who don’t want to be partisan warriors, but just want to serve,” Poizner said in a telephone interview with Calbuzz. “And if I do, it’ll be a very disruptive thing, in a positive way.”

First, however, the new champion of non-partisan politics faces a big, awkward political obstacle: his own words and record as a slashing partisan Republican.

The back-story. Political enthusiasts will recognize Poizner as the correct answer to a California trivia question: Who is the only Republican not named Schwarzenegger elected to statewide office in the 21st century?

In 2006, he captured the same office he now seeks, when he campaigned for Insurance Commissioner as an old-school, moderate Republican, stomped a Democratic hack and then applied his entrepreneurial skills, honed while making a private sector fortune in GPS technology, to one term in office.

Four years later, he blundered. Badly.

poiznervpoiznerUnder the old party-line primary system, Poizner reinvented himself as a fierce right-wing warrior to campaign for governor. He bashed Republican rival Meg Whitman, the eventual GOP nominee, as squishy soft on immigration, demanded an end to education and health care benefits for “illegal aliens,” called for National Guard troops to patrol the Mexican border and even backed a controversial Arizona law requiring people to carry proof of citizenship or legal status.

Born-again on immigration Given the shift in California’s political dynamics — where a strong majority of voters believes undocumented immigrants should be provided a pathway to legal residence and even citizenship — it’s not surprising that Poizner has since  jettisoned his retrograde stance on immigration.

“I wish I had the 2010 campaign to do over again,” Poizner said, “because I no longer think my views (expressed then) on what to do with undocumented folks make any sense. And I regret it.”

johnkasich“The solution that I concur with is similar to (Ohio) Gov. (John) Kasich’s which is if you’re undocumented here in California then we should put you on a pathway to become documented. If you a dreamer, we should put you on a pathway to become a citizen. That’s what I believe.”

Was his decision to run as an independent a rejection of the Republican Party? Calbuzz asked him.

“No,” Poizner said. “Do you feel fully in tune with the Republican Party still?” we asked.

“I wouldn’t say that necessarily,” he said. “I personally don’t have any interest in partisan battles. Not where I am right now. I am interested in being a problem solver for California. I think it would be really great if California had a super strong two-party system. We don’t. We have a monopoly going on there. I think offering more viable choices to voters would be a great thing.”

He said he doesn’t really have a problem with the Republican Party — whose voters he’ll need if he hopes to win in November — but partisanship is just not his thing right now. When push comes to shove, it sounds to us like Poizner is at heart a Kasich Republican (he worked to elect him president in 2016) masquerading, posing, functioning — for now — as an independent.

ricardolaraAnd in this corner. Alas for Poizner, his 2010 harbinger of Trump performance will be recycled incessantly by general election foe and Democratic state Senator Ricardo Lara of Long Beach, seeking to make history himself, as California’s first openly gay statewide office holder.

“I’m glad he repents what he said,” a poker-faced Lara recently told political writer Joe Garafoli. “It’s an important part of his coming to terms with the new political reality.”

While disowning his own right-wing adventurism, Poizner remains mindful that he can’t win as an independent without attracting Republicans, no matter how toxic the Trump and GOP brands are in California, along with NPPs and moderate Democrats, as well.

Thus he conspicuously tap dances around questions seeking his views about the current occupant of the White House.

After Poizner outlined his affinity for Kasich, Calbuzz asked: ”So you don’t really have a problem with the Republican Party – you have a problem with Trumpism?”

“I wouldn’t put it that way,” Poizner replied. “I have a problem with all the problems that aren’t getting solved in California. I wouldn’t put the burden of being responsible for all those problems on one party of the other. Or one person or the other.”

Bottom line. As a practical matter, immigration and most other hot button issues have little to do with being Insurance Commissioner, a low-profile but powerful autonomous gig overseeing 1,400 employees, a $250 million budget and a $300 billion insurance sector, the fifth largest insurance market in the world.

So despite his historic quest, Poizner cautiously focuses on specific and technical aspects of the job, desperate to avoid involvement in the bitter tribal and cultural wars Trump has ignited across the nation.

Which is why he argues: “There’s no room for partisan politics at the Department of Insurance.”

Unless you’re a partisan.