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Archive for the ‘Negative Campaigning’ Category



California Voters Turn Back the Angry Red Tide

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Republicans seized control of the House of Representatives, pounding Democrats in states throughout the South, Midwest and Northeast, but the raging red wave that swept across the country crashed against the Sierra Nevada and washed back, as California voters rejected Meg Whitman for governor and Carly Fiorina for U.S. Senate.

The crushing victories of Democrats Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer in the nation’s largest and most diverse state –with an electorate that is increasingly younger, more Latino and more non-partisan — represented a counterpoint to the Beltway notion that America is in the throes of a massive and structural shift to the ideological right.

As of midnight, when Calbuzz first posted this report based on exit polling and partial vote counts, neither Whitman nor Fiorina had yet conceded. But as Brown told his supporters at the Fox Theater in Oakland: “They haven’t got all the votes in yet but hell, it’s good enough for government work. So it looks like I’m going back again.” (Whitman conceded a few minutes after midnight.)

Despite the most expensive race ever run in any state, Whitman, 54, the former CEO of eBay with the platinum resume and gold-plated consultancy was unable to overcome a crusty, former two-term governor who, at 72, will be twice the age he was when first elected in 1974.  At the last accounting, eMeg had spent more than $160 million, including $142 million of her own fortune, while Krusty the General had raised $32 million, supplemented by $25 million spent on his behalf by labor and other Democratic interests.

With his bare-bones staff and his flinty resolve not to start spending money until after Labor Day, Brown accomplished the one political challenge that eluded his father, the late Edmund G. “Pat” Brown — a third term. Pat Brown lost an attempt for a third term to a political newcomer in 1966: Ronald Reagan. (Term limits were adopted after Jerry Brown had already served twice.)

Brown’s “knowledge and know-how to get California working again” proved a compelling argument to voters who saw in the Attorney General and former mayor of Oakland, a candidate with both a hard head and a soft heart. Whitman, who fired her illegal immigrant housekeeper and ran a relentless barrage of negative ads against her opponents, was seen as hard-headed but hard-hearted, too.

Speaking to supporters Tuesday night before Whitman had conceded, Brown talked about the impulses, honed in his long-ago training to be a Jesuit priest and his study of theology, that drives him back to Sacramento.

“I take as my challenge forging a common purpose, but a common purpose based not just on compromise but on a vision of what California can be . . . We’re all God’s children and while I’m really into this politics thing I still carry with me my sense of kind of that missionary zeal to transform the world and that’s always been a part of what I do,” he said. “So I understand the political part but I also understand what it’s all about – the vision. And I’m hoping and I’m praying that this breakdown that’s gone on for so many years in the state capital and we’re watching it in Washington – that the breakdown paves the way for a breakthrough.”

And Fiorina, 56, who clutched as tightly as she could to the same policies and politics that carried conservative Republicans to victory in smaller states, was unable to dislodge 69-year-old Boxer, one of the most durable liberals in the Senate.

“The Giants beat the Texas Rangers and we beat the Texas polluters tonight,” Boxer told her supporters as she claimed victory before the final votes were tallied.

Certainly, the elevation of Tea Party favorites like Senator-elect Rand Paul in Kentucky – who said we are “enslaved by debt” and will have the singular power to plunge the world economy into darkness by filibustering raising of the U.S. debt ceiling limit – is a resounding victory for the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

But the anger propelling the Tea Party is less a positive vote for any Republican agenda than it is a vote to punish President Obama and the Democrats for the perceived failure to bring about the change they promised in 2008. It’s a vote to “just say no.”

Whether the new members of Congress and the Senate — which remains under Democratic control — will be rewarded for obstructionism or not remains uncertain. But as they seek re-election, Obama and the Democrats will now have the recalcitrant Republicans to blame for gridlock in Washington – an argument that Bill Clinton and his party made in 1996 with considerable success after their losses two years earlier.

The biggest loser among California Democrats, of course, is soon-to-be-former Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, who oversaw a crushing defeat that cost her the leadership mantle she had historically claimed in another mid-term just four years ago. Along with her, House committee chairs like Representatives Howard Berman and Henry Waxman were reduced to minority status by the Republican sweep that rolled through other states.

On the other hand, Southern California Republican Congressmen Darrell Issa, Buck McKeon and Jerry Lewis are in line to become chairmen of powerful committees in the House under speaker-presumptive John Boehner of Ohio. Issa, the conservative car-alarm magnate who lost the GOP nomination for Senate in 1998 and who has dedicated himself to opposing Obama and his policies, was all over TV Tuesday night promising a new era in Congress.

The weepy Boehner along with Eric Cantor of Virginia, Issa and other triumphant Republicans spoke over and over Tuesday night about “the message sent by the American people.” Apparently Californians, who represent one-eighth of the nation’s population, aren’t included among the American people.

Democrats in California and their progressive allies also won two important victories by rejecting Prop. 23,  which would have overturned the state’s ground-breaking law to roll black greenhouse gas emissions and by approving Prop. 25, which will reduce to a majority, from two-thirds,  the vote required in the Legislature to approve the California budget. These represented huge political statements by the voters on behalf of the environment and in favor of streamlining the budget process in Sacramento.

As expected, Prop. 19, the measure to legalize personal use of marijuana, went up in smoke.

Although Democrats and their progressive allies did not carry every office or measure,  the Brown win at the top of the ticket, which came despite high unemployment and despair about the direction of the state, suggested that voters have grown tired, at least for now, of divided government in Sacramento as they rejected Whitman’s mirror-image candidacy of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s just four years ago.

[Updated 7:30 am] The only Republican statewide candidate who appeared to have a chance for victory early Wednesday morning was Steve Cooley who was slightly behind Kamala Harris in the race for Attorney General. Gavin Newsom was well ahead of Abel Maldonado in the race for Lieutenant Governor; Debra Bowen was crushing Damon Dunn in the race for Secretary of State; John Chiang was way ahead of Tony Strickland in the race for Controller; Bill Lockyer was cruising to victory over Mimi Walters in the race for Treasurer, and Dave Jones was crushing Mike Villines in the race for Insurance Commissioner.

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.

Babs Goes Negative (Big Time) on Carly; Flack Notes

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Barbara Boxer unleashed a forceful attack on Carly Fiorina on Thursday – a purely negative ad noting that, as CEO of Hewlett-Packard, the Republican nominee for Senate laid off 30,000 workers, shipped jobs to China, tripled her own salary, bought a million-dollar yacht and five corporate jets.

Kaboom. That’s nasty. Especially because the charges are based in fact and the star of the ad is Hurricane Carly herself, defending the “massive layoffs” she implemented at H-P. And the kicker slogan is killer: “Carly Fiorina – outsourcing jobs, out for herself.”

You can’t get too much more negative than that, unless you were to accuse her of personally stealing Christmas from the crippled children of jobless workers.

But as Calbuzz always says: an election is not a tea party. Negative is fair, if it’s true.

And the Babs campaign backed up the charges in the ad with clips, like this quote from Fiorina from Information Week 10/16/06:

When we combined the R&D budgets of HP and Compaq, we didn’t have to have two R&D teams working on industry standard servers, for instance.  We could have one. That’s why the merger was such a great idea.  We could decrease the cost structure by billions and billions of dollars.  In the course of my time there, we laid off over 30,000 people.  That’s why I understand where the anger came from.

Fiorina’s head didn’t exactly explode. But her spokeshuman called the ad “baseless, personal and deceptive” and the campaign sent out a letter to supporters seeking urgent contributions to respond. Said the appeal:  “I need your help to set the record straight. Your immediate donation will help our campaign get up on the airwaves to hold Boxer accountable for her abysmal record.”

For reporters, the Fiorina campaign sent out an exhaustive “fact check” e-mail arguing:

1. During Fiorina’s tenure as CEO, H-P’s workforce increased to more than 145,000 from 84,400.
2. After she left, CEO Mark Hurd laid off another 40,000 workers.
3. While she was CEO, H-P’s revenues grew to $86.7 billion from $42.4 billion.
4. H-P is a stronger company today because of what Fiorina did as CEO.
5. Boxer has taken large campaign contributions from companies that shipped jobs overseas.

All of which raises the question, “So what?” Because the charge – backed up by Fiorina’s own statement – is that she laid off 30,000 workers. And she shipped jobs to China, etc.

Boxer campaign manager Rose Kapolczynski would not tell Calbuzz how much money they’re putting behind the ad, which is scheduled to run in markets throughout the state. “The Outsourcing ad is in rotation with the Made in America ad.  We’ll run them together for as long as needed to reach our target audience,” Rose said.

With the increased stakes in controlling the U.S. Senate from the Tea Party victory of anti-masturbation advocate Christine O’Donnell in the Delaware Republican Primary, our guess is the Boxer hit on Fiorina will get some serious air time. At least until the Fiorina-would-overturn-Roe v Wade ad comes up in rotation.

Fun with flacks: Along with toll taker and industrial paint drying time assessor, the most boring job in the world has got to be working as a spokeshuman for Meg Whitman, and we mean that in the nicest possible way, and with no offense intended to the Volcanic Pompei, Million Dollar Mary Anne or Dependable Darrel.

But really: day after day after day rolling out the heaavvy robo-recitations of “she is endorsing Meg because she believes Meg is the best person to create jobs and fight for every area of the state” and “this is the latest example of problems Jerry Brown is having shoring up his base” and “adoring crowds of Indio residents, delirious with joy, rended their hearts and their garments as they greeted Meg with chants of “Meg’s Plan! Meg’s Plan! Meg’s Plan!” Sheesh.

Which is why Calbuzz was so pleased by one of the dozen or so daily missives from Meg Com that landed in our mail box Thursday, linking to a video which not only contained humor (!) and a light touch (!!) – but also bore unmistakable signs of irony (!!!) as well.

Sent out by Andrea Jones Rivera, deputy under assistant junior vice president for eMeg’s  “Media Memo,” it made the quite piquant observation that Jerry Brown’s latest ad – in which he boasts “I’m not going to give you any phony plans or snappy slogans” – is actually jam-packed full of focus group-friendly, time tested hoary platitudes:

It won’t take playing the soundtrack backwards and at half speed to see that the same ad where he decries “snappy slogans” has 7 of them by our count. Take a look for yourself.

Snappy Slogans in Jerry’s new ad (7)
· tough decisions
· live within our means
· power from the state capital and move it down to the local level
· closer to the people
· no new taxes without voter approval
· pull together
· As Californians first.

Well done, Amusing Andrea – more like that. And tell the rest of that crowd  in the communications shop to lighten up a little, too, willya?

Speaking of flack humor: Pretty good mash-up tweaking Meg by Jerry Kid’s.

Brown’s New Ads: Gandalf Strikes Back at eMegoth

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Our first reaction upon seeing Jerry Brown’s new 15-second ad-lets was to have our attorneys, Dewey, Cheatem & Howe,  draft a sharply worded cease and desist letter complaining about his rip-off of our Pinocchi-Meg icon:

Dear Attorney General Brown,

We are the proprietors of all copyright in an artistic work entitled “Calbuzz” and have reserved all rights in said work. It has come to our attention that your work entitled “15 second campaign ad” is substantially similar to our copyrighted work. Permission was neither asked nor granted to reproduce our work and your work therefore constitutes infringement of our rights.

Before paying our shysters the eight-hundred-twenty-five bucks they wanted for writing the thing, however, we conducted a wide-ranging, 10-minute investigation of the internets which revealed we weren’t exactly the first to come up with this whole nasal erection thing.

The Real Deal

The use of Pinocchio in political ads dates back at least to the 1988 New Jersey governor’s race, when both candidates put up an ad morphing the other into the little wooden boy, and it’s been put to considerable use since then in races from Georgia to Wisconsin and all points in between (not to mention serving as the visual premise for the WaPo fact checker feature, online sales of Bill Clinton watches and Irish bread and the subject of at least one very nasty corporate lawsuit).

At the moment, however, Brown is much less interested in whether his new ads are terribly original (one fresh touch: the little hat flying onto eMeg’s head) than in whether they do the job for which they’re intended: stop the bleeding, some of it self-inflicted, he suffered in the first major media clash  of the governor’s race.

Brown went up on Labor Day with a pretty mediocre positive spot idealizing his record in his first turn as governor. Whatever else it did, the ad left eMeg a big opening for a counter-punch, which she delivered in the form of the now famous Bubba-disses-Jerry 30-second spot that’s been the sole focus of the campaign since last Friday.

Having now secured Clinton’s endorsement (if only after his empty-both-barrels-into-the-feet weekend performance) Brown with his bookend spots now seeks to  a) contain whatever residual damage was caused by Meg’s most recent attack, and b) move voters’ attention off his centuries-long record and  back to examining eMeg’s integrity and bona fides for the job.

As a political matter, it’s the right play but a strictly tactical move. The larger problem for Brown remains two-fold.

First, the campaign needs to position him as a future-oriented candidate who’s living, more or less, in the here and now, instead of some historic geezer who exists in grainy old black and white footage from the days when Walter Mondale was a strapping youth.

So far, voters have mostly heard about what Brown did back in the Jimmy Carter era, this at a time when half of California’s population wasn’t even born until the end of Reagan’s second term.

Second, Brown needs to find a sustained way of making Whitman seem too threatening to voters who are shopping for change at a time when recession grips California and the state’s government is utterly dysfunctional.

So far Whitman has done a better job of portraying Brown as tired-old more-of-the-same labor hack than he has done of painting her as a corporate tool who wants to go to Sacramento to screw the middle class and benefit her cronies in the board room. These are the competing narratives that define the ground on which the election will be won or lost.

What was he thinking, Chapter II: Amid all the coverage in recent days of Brown’s Lewinsky meltdown, Steve Harmon reported some interesting stuff that no one else had.

Harmon interviewed Calbuzzer cowboy libertarian Patrick Dorinson, who used to work for Brown back in the day, when Gandalf was chairman of the state Democratic party, and who offered some personal insights about why Krusty decided to indulge his logorrhea with some nitwit one-liners about Clinton.

Brown, he said, “starts to get that flow of consciousness going, which can be good in that you get what he wants to tell you. The problem is he doesn’t know when to stop.”

Dorinson said he thought Brown’s line  — “I did not have taxes with this state” — was “clever. It was a very interesting twist of a phrase if you look at it from a satirist’s or blogger’s point of view. But you’re not running for chief blogger. Once you make a mistake like that, it’s hard to pull back.

“Sometimes he thinks what he says is funny to him and the circle he’s with. But you’re in the middle of a battle when people’s opinions are being formed.”

That sounds pretty close to it.

Media Cowardice: Let’s assume, for the moment, that the California Teachers Association ad that says Meg Whitman would cut education funding by $7 billion is wrong. It’s a made-up number the CTA cooked, based on comments Whitman has made about how much she’d cut the budget.

It’s a matter of conjecture, really. But one that cuts so sharply into voters’ perceptions that Whitman has pulled out all the stops to get the ad off the air – threatening to sue stations for libel and slander. “The spot is a lie,” wrote Whitman campaign attorney Thomas W. Hiltachk. “As you know, your station can be held liable for slanderous or libelous statements made by a non-candidate sponsor of political advertising.”

This is ridiculous. Whitman is a public figure so libeling or slandering her is really difficult and last time we checked, even the CTA has the right to buy an ad broadcasting its opinion, even if it defames Whitman.

Of course, Whitman’s ad saying Jerry Brown raised taxes is just as “demonstrably false” (to use the Whitman campaign’s words) as they believe the CTA ad is. Are they pulling down their ad? No way.

What’s outrageous is that, according to the LA Times, “Time Warner and Comcast cable, and broadcast stations (LA), KNTV(SF), KABC (LA), KTTV (LA) have pulled the ads from the air. A number of other stations are also considering pulling the ads.”

What gutless, two-faced, chicken-livered yellow bellies. If all you have to do is assert that an ad is “demonstrably false,” half the political ads in America would never be allowed to air.

Apparently Meg will push around anybody she can, and her eagerness to use her millions to bully news organizations with the best lawyers money can buy seems like just the latest glimpse of a troublesome personality that thinks shoving underlings around her office is business as usual.

Next move: Watch for Brown’s lawyers to threaten to sue broadcast stations that carry any ad that says he raised taxes. The California Department of Finance has proved this is not true, so why not use eMeg’s tactics?

Q: Will Jerry’s Mea Culpa Hose Down Bill? A: Yes

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Update 1:15 pm: In a statement to the LA Times, Bill Clinton today endorsed Jerry Brown for governor saying he and Brown had patched up their differences from the 1992 presidential race and that Meg Whitman’s using his attack on Brown is misleading.

“I strongly support Jerry Brown for governor because I believe he was a fine mayor of Oakland, he’s been a very good attorney general, and he would be an excellent governor at a time when California needs his creativity and fiscal prudence,” Clinton said in a statement to the Times. If Clinton mentioned what he thought of Brown’s previous two terms as governor, it was not reported.

“Clinton agreed that the [Whitman] ad was misleading, and said his claim was based on an erroneous report,” the Times reported. And they quoted Clinton further saying: “Moreover, the tough campaign we fought 18 years ago is not relevant to the choice facing Californians today. Jerry and I put that behind us a long time ago.”

Clinton also endorsed Gavin Newsom for lieutenant governor “because of his strong support for Hillary in the 2008 primary season and because of his impressive record of innovation and accomplishment.”

Later on Tuesday, Brown issued the following statement:

“I am deeply honored to have been endorsed by former President Bill Clinton, who, after his accomplishment-rich presidency, continues to demonstrate his commitment to bettering our state, our nation, and our world, each and every day.”

For the record, the headline on this piece, before we saw the Times posting (congrats to Seema Meta who had it up online at 12:27 pm) read: “Will Jerry’s Mea Culpa Be Enough to Hose Down Bill?”

Our report as originally posted:

Calbuzz hears that right up to the moment on Sunday when Jerry Brown lost his marbles and his self control and went negative on Bill Clinton Krusty was really, really, really close to a deal for the  popular former president to do something very helpful for Brown’s campaign for governor.

Despite the bad blood between these two monumental egos, Clinton apparently had been persuaded – likely with assists from California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton and San Francisco Mayor and Lite Gov candidate Gavin Newsom – that defeating Meg Whitman and electing Democrats should be Clinton’s priority.

Even if it meant helping Brown, whose self-important primary challenge was a relentless thorn in Clinton’s  side during the 1992 presidential campaign; the memorable primary battle between the two resurfaced last week, when Team Whitman made Clinton the start of a new ad using an 18-year-old presidential debate clip where Bill says Jerry is a taxer and a liar — based on a CNN report which the original author now admits was wrong.

But something about Clinton seems to turn Brown into a raving lunatic and so on Sunday, in a couple of cheap, throwaway lines, he insulted Clinton as a liar and dredged up the Monica Lewinsky affair by quipping:  “I did not have taxes with this state.” How stupid is that? Anyway – That’s our job!

It’s also worth noting that the Calbuzz archive will prove that we had already warned him that everything is on the record in the 21st Century which he, in his digital dotage, seemed to have forgotten, or maybe never knew.

Recognizing that Brown had stepped in a pile of his own…making, his campaign called a quickie  press conference on Monday to try to clean up the mess. “Bill Clinton was an excellent president. It was wrong for me to joke about an incident from many years ago, and I’m sorry . . . I’ve made my share of mistakes, and my inappropriate joke about President Clinton is one of them. But from me you’ll always get the truth.”*

Whether his mea maxima culpa will be enough to assuage Clinton, we can’t predict. Better, we thought, Brown should have flown to New York, put on a blue dress, assumed the penitential position and . . . begged Clinton for forgiveness.

Brown’s people say he called Clinton and got as far as the senior staffer they’ve been talking to about Clinton’s participation in the California campaign.  Apparently, Brown doesn’t have the juice to get a call through to Clinton himself.  How sad is that? Still, Brown’s peeps say, plans for Clinton to campaign in California (for  Barbara Boxer, for Brown, for the ticket or all of the above, we don’t know) are still a go.

If Clinton does  lift a finger to help Brown it will be because he is, despite everything, a hard-nosed political pragmatist who, for a lot of reasons, doesn’t want a billionaire female Republican governor of California hovering over national politics for the next eight years. (Can you say President Hillary Clinton? Reapportionment? Meet the Press? )

And because he wants to help Boxer, a longtime ally whose daughter Nicole was married to Hillary’s brother Tony Rodham from 1994-2000. Also, Clinton would want to help Newsom, who was a prominent supporter of Hillary’s in the 2008 presidential campaign.

Meanwhile, Team Whitman — gloating over the great reviews their ad is getting –  ignores the fact that Brooks Jackson, the former CNN reporter on whom Clinton was relying when he made his charge against Brown, has since acknowledged he was wrong. Instead, they’re clinging to Jackson’s argument that his report was essentially “valid.”

“As I said then, rising taxes in Brown’s early years helped bring about a tax revolt. It came in the form of Proposition 13” Jackson wrote. But in this context, that’s misleading. Those “rising taxes” were the result of inflation in the housing market – not Brown’s tax policies. By trying now to make it look like his original report had merit, Jackson has given Whitman an excuse to perpetuate her lie.

Yes, Brown vehemently opposed Proposition 13 – as did eMeg campaign chairman Pete Wilson and most other people in public office. And once it was passed, he implemented it with relish and allowed state spending to increase, spending down a big surplus, to make up for billions in funding lost by cities, counties and schools.

Despite that, Brown’s spending as governor – adjusted for inflation and population, as economists do when comparing dollars in and out over time – were actually lower than his predecessor, Ronald Reagan. The Associated Press has a story detailing that fact.

As if any of these facts matter.

*Inquiring Jesuits want to know: Brown’s comments about Clinton on Sunday – and his effort on Monday to wave them off as a joke – got us thinking about Michael Kinsley’s famous formulation that “a ‘gaffe’ is the opposite of a lie – it’s when a politician tells the truth.”

Putting aside the Lewinsky portion of Brown’s bonehead remarks, it seems to us that the more serious part of his statement on Sunday came when he said, “I mean Clinton’s a nice guy, but who ever said he always told the truth?”  Those words call into question the former president’s fundamental honesty.

Brown never directly addressed that comment during his damage control press conference, when he apologized only for his “inappropriate joke.”

Instead, Brown simply concluded by saying, “But from me you’ll always get the truth.”

Which raises the question: Was Brown “always” telling the truth on Sunday, when he said that Clinton had problems telling the truth? Or was that just a gaffe?