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Posts Tagged ‘Brooks Jackson’



The Death of Truth II; Meg’s Big Decision; Bill 4 Jerry

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

You see an ad on TV in which a candidate or someone else says flatly, “______ (my opponent) raised taxes.” And you say to yourself, “Gee, that must be true or they wouldn’t allow it on TV.”

Wrong. Under the Federal Communications Act, which governs broadcast stations (because the airwaves, allegedly at least, belong to the people), candidates may lie with impunity.

In fact, the law “requires broadcasters who run candidate ads to show them uncensored, even if the broadcasters believe their content to be offensive or false,” as Brooks Jackson, explained in the best primer on the issue on the web.

Ironically, that’s the same Brooks Jackson, formerly of CNN, whose erroneous report is the evidence Bill Clinton is referring to in the Meg Whitman ad that falsely accuses Jerry Brown of raising taxes when he was governor. (Clinton, btw, has since denounced the ad.)

The First Amendment, which we all remember says “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech,” makes it really difficult for anyone to craft legislation allowing any third party to adjudicate what is and is not “true” or “factual” in political speech.

All a candidate has to do is show a picture in the ad of himself or herself and have a statement saying he or she approved the ad. And they can lie away, which they often do. (For further discussion of this phenomenon see “The Death of Truth: eMeg and the Politics of Lying.”)

Which is why, according to Brown’s mouth organ The Sterling of Clifford, “Most people assume what they see in political ads is not true. People see a commercial and they go to whatever news source they trust to confirm or reject what they just heard.”

This is not the same in commercial speech, which is where the confusion comes in.

Ford cannot run an ad saying its latest car will get 100 miles to the gallon if that’s not a fact. If a commercial product makes a claim that’s not substantiated by facts or is not a subjective observation like “It’s Amazing!” then the ad can be censored by the TV station or network and the sponsor may be liable for damages.

A candidate’s right to lie in commercials, however, does not necessarily extend to political committees and other political players besides candidates themselves. That’s because when broadcast stations run ads from committees making charges, they may be held liable if the person skewered decides to sue for libel or slander.

Now, for a public figure to win a libel or slander suit is really, really, really hard because he or she has to show that the person or entity being sued knew the facts were wrong and broadcast them anyway with malicious intention. The standard is deliberately difficult for public figures in order to encourage robust public debate without fear of being charged with false defamation.

So, Calbuzzers, when you see an ad on TV, check to see who paid for it at the end. If it was put up by a candidate, no one had to say whether it was true or not before it was broadcast. That’s why newspapers, online sites, radio and TV reporters pay attention to what’s in those political ads. They’re the only ones who can tell you whether they’re based on truth or falsehood.

Department of Dumb Ideas: Regular readers of Calbuzz know that we have nothing but respect and affection for our friend George Skelton at the ByGodLA Times (he’s got even more institutional memory than we do!). But his piece arguing that Jerry Brown should pledge to serve only one term suggested that George is desperately seeking fresh material about the current state of politics, even if he has to resort to what he knows is a bonehead idea. Which, he acknowledged by saying: “I don’t know of anyone else who thinks it’s a good idea.” You got that right, George. Unless Krusty — should he happen to beat eMeg — wants to start out his third term as the lamest duck ever to sit in the horseshoe’s back office.

Yes, no, maybe so: Meg Whitman kept bobbing and weaving on Proposition 23 Monday, telling the Sacramento Bee editorial board she was pretty sure she’d be making her stance on the most high-profile measure on the November ballot clear any day now.

When asked about Proposition 23, which would suspend the state’s global warming law AB 32, Whitman said she would release a list of her proposition positions at the end of this week or at the start of next week.

Or maybe whenever the eMeg Empire marketing department gets around to telling her what she thinks.

Whitman has been all over the lot on the out-of-state-oil-company-financed measure, aimed at blocking California’s landmark legislation; she’s variously bashed AB32 as “a job killer,” said she favored suspending it for one year instead of indefinitely and just completely dithered on the matter, as she did with the Bee ed board.

A few hours before her latest procrastination, Brown, who opposes Prop. 23, stepped up the pressure on eMeg at a campaign stop with green industry types at a SoCal solar company:

Meg Whitman wants to have it both ways. She wants credit for supporting the environment and green jobs, but she won’t do what is necessary to support this vital industry. We need a governor who will do what is right, not a governor who doesn’t know what is right.

When she finally does get around to taking a position, we’ll be surprised if Whitman comes out in favor of Prop. 23.

Despite efforts to pressure her from the right she simply has nothing to gain by backing the measure. The election between her and Brown will be decided among independents, who strongly favor AB32; sure, the right-wingers will be grumpy if she doesn’t support their who-really-knows-if-global-warming-is really-real  proposal, but what else are they going to do – write in Chuck DeVore?

Bill Brushes Off Jerry’s Gaffe: In an interview with Yahoo! News and the Huffington Post, Bubba said all’s good between him and Jerry Brown and that he understands why the old man made his stupid joke about not having taxes with this state. Also: “Unbelievable,” Clinton said. “Meg Whitman made me a household face again and my younger self, too, which I’m very grateful for.”

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?

Jerry Blows His Only Play, Turns on Clinton

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Updated 8 am: In our original post, Calbuzz set out what we thought was Jerry Brown’s best option for dealing with Meg Whitman’s new killer ad.

Brown then turned around and did the one, ridiculous thing it never occurred to us he could be dumb enough to do: Pick a new fight with Clinton, as shown on this video clip reported by Time’s Mark Halperin and ABC’s Jonathan Karl.

Unbelievable. Good luck with getting help from the Clintons now, Gandalf.

(For the record, at 8 am, we also updated the hed on this post, which originally read: “Jerry’s Only Play: Get Clinton to Attack Brooks Jackson”).

Fueled by 5-Hour Energy Berry Flavor shots, Calbuzz spent an edgy, sleepless weekend closely monitoring short-wave radio reports about the blazing fusillades of budget facts and figures the rival campaigns for governor exchanged over Meg Whitman’s latest ad attack on Jerry Brown.

The ad features a short clip from a contentious April 1992 Democratic presidential primary debate between Brown and Bill Clinton, during which Bubba cited CNN to charge that a) Krusty raised taxes as California governor and b) lied about his record in doing so.

As we forecast on Friday, shortly after Team Whitman first aired the tough spot, the truthiness of its allegations would be found in weighing the conflicting evidence presented by Brown’s campaign and Brooks Jackson, the former CNN reporter who now runs factcheck.org at the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Whitman’s (and Clinton’s) evidence is a report by CNN’s Brooks Jackson; Brown’s claim that taxes were cut by about $16 billion during his tenure (not counting Prop. 13) cites the 1981 Economic Report of the Governor from the California Department of Finance.

There followed a 48-hour whirl of unstinting effort by Department of Finance flack H.D. (“guess I lost your number”) Palmer, determined persistence by MSM journos Ken McLaughlin and Seema Metha, and fact-checking of two decade old fact-checking by stand-up-guy Jackson himself.

“I was wrong when I said that “state taxes were still higher” during his last year than when he began. In fact, they were a bit lower,” Jackson wrote after reviewing the actual facts.

Now that the smoke has cleared over the battlefield, Calbuzz can ride in to shoot the wounded while reporting the clear and unequivocal bottom line of the episode as follows:

1-Taxes inarguably went down over the period of Brown’s two terms as governor, according to non-partisan state budget records.

2-Jackson’s 1992 report, and therefore Clinton’s derivative attack on Brown, was incorrect, because, as he acknowledged, Brooks used the wrong start and end dates to make his calculations.

3-The Empire of eMeg couldn’t care less about the truth or falsity of the substance of the attack they’re making, and intend to keep running their killer ad.

Sez eMeg chief deputy under assistant purse carrier Tucker Bounds:

CNN is a lot less relevant than the indisputable fact that Bill Clinton, not me, said that Jerry Brown turned a $6-billion surplus into a $1-billion deficit, opposed Proposition 13 and ‘doesn’t tell people’ the truth.

To which Sterling Clifford, trusty Gandalf message bearer, stamps his foot and responds:

For Meg Whitman to continue running an ad she knows is false is intentional dishonesty, and voters should expect better from a candidate for governor.

Oh, that.

No truth, no consequences: As all loyal Calbuzzers know, the Whitman for Governor campaign represents Exhibit A for the most distressing national and state political trend of the millennium (“Ground Zero mosque” anyone?) which we termed in this essay, “The Death of  Truth.”

It’s now clear that a candidate with unlimited resources can and will blow off complaints, critiques and factual analyses of those who dare to speak up and will instead declare that the truth is whatever he or she says it is — in their paid advertising and the assertions of their mercenary prevaricators.

To summarize the instant case: independent, unbought-and-unpaid-for, third party finders of fact determine that Whitman’s charge is untrue, but she pays no price for continuing to air it, as her army of lavishly paid water-muddiers simply persist in performing an ape dance of ersatz fact-based debate, which to an average voter may seem so…confusing…and…boring and…oh look, there’s Bill Clinton calling Jerry Brown a liar again…

Why take down the ad if it’s working? That’s got to be eMeg’s calculation.

So what’s a 72-year old Zen Jesuit to do? Brown has four options:

a-Put up his own ad calling Meg a liar for continuing to run an ad which isn’t true. Problem: talk about your expensive He-Said-She-Saids.

b-Complain endlessly to the MSM. Problem: Have you looked at newspaper circulation trends lately?

c-Ignore it and move on. Problem: The key to his campaign narrative is his authenticity vs. her phony marketing campaign – he can’t afford to have a debate over honesty simply be a draw.

d-Get Clinton to make an ad, or at least a public statement, on Brown’s behalf, to wit: “My charge back in 1992 that Jerry Brown raised taxes when he was governor was based on a news report we now know was incorrect.  Jerry Brown didn’t raise taxes. And Meg Whitman knows it. It’s just dishonest of her to use me to make her case. ‘Cause if I could vote in California, I’d vote for Jerry Brown and I think you should too.”

As a tactical matter, Brown has at least a couple of plays here: Plead with Dianne Feinstein to make a call to her pal Hillary Clinton to have her make a call to Bubba, if she can find him. Or enlist AFSCME president Jerry McEntee or another labor bigwig close to Hillary, to make the ask. Or call on Barbara Boxer, who is close to the Clintons, or Ron Burkle, or Steven Spielberg.

Oh sure, there’s a long history of, um, really bad blood there. But Brown can certainly appeal to Clinton’s historic relationship to California — in 1992, he became the first Democrat to win the state since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 and, in the process, picked what was at the time called “the lock” Republicans had on the electoral college. If he ever wants Hillary (Chelsea?) to be president, he sure doesn’t want Whitman as governor of California. He may not like Brown, but wouldn’t he rather have him as governor than her?

And as Shimon Peres famously said, “Peace is made with yesterday’s enemies – what is the alternative?”

Fishwrap: Jerry as Mel Brooks; eMeg’s Nose Grows

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Not since the supermarket scanner flummoxed George Bush I in 1992 has a politician worked as hard as Jerry Brown to make sense of the here and now.

Given his ’90s retro web site and his campaign’s Geezer Speed attack response team, of course, it’s not surprising that the 2000-year old man is just now hearing that in the 21st century, political rivals send operatives out to record campaign events of their foes – and then put them on the internets! Can you say “macaca”?

Krusty got sandbagged this week, when Team eMeg sent a spy to one of his speeches. The plant captured him foolishly saying he doesn’t want to “rock the boat” as governor and then promptly posted to it to You Tube, a Whitman tactic about which he complained in his weekly on-air interview with KGO-radio:

She’s very good at recording. Everywhere I go, she has one of her little kind of unidentifiable gnomes that have their iPhone and they pop it up and they put it up on their Internet. Everywhere I go, it goes directly into her campaign. It’s kind of an eerie feeling, but I’m getting used to it.

Hold the phone, ma! What’s next – electric movin’ pitchurs that come right into the house?

P.S. Props to Seema Mehta of the By God LA Times for catching Krusty’s comments on KTTV’s “Good Day LA,” including this gem about why he opposes the legalization of marijuana:  “We got to compete with China, and if everybody’s stoned, how the hell are we going to make it?”

eMeg’s latest lies: Fortunately for Brown, at least some of the mysteries of the world of online digital content are working in his favor. On Friday, Fact Check.org, the web’s premier political verisimilitude verification outfit, gave a big thumbs down to “Legacy of Failure,” Whitman’s latest 60-second attack ad on him.

Financed by the Annenberg Foundation at the University of Pennsylvania, and honchoed by the terrific investigative reporter Brooks Jackson, the site flatly declares that “Meg Whitman’s attack ad fails to tell the truth.”

Citing 29 independent sources, Fact Check reports that a number of the claims made in the Whitman are simply untrue, while others are taken way out of context, a practice we call “lying with the facts.”

Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown Jr., the Democratic candidate for governor of California, has been involved in politics for more than four decades. And it’s all been a “failure,” according to an ad from Meg Whitman, his GOP opponent. But it’s Whitman who fails when it comes to the facts.

Jeez, paired with Meg’s previous Pinocchio performance, this latest is almost enough to make you think there is something to that eMeg-Goebbels comparison that Brown rather unfortunately raised a few weeks back, a notion not lost on the ever-resourceful comedy writer Chris Kelly.

But what analogy should Brown have used? On the one hand, comparing people to Nazis is kind of ignorant and shrill (see Beck, Glenn) on the other hand, when you’re looking for an example of someone putting a lot of time, money and effort into repeating a set of lies for political gain, J. Goebbels is your almost-too-obvious go-to.

Kelly’s intriguing answer to the essay question – Whitman and Goebbels – compare and contrast – may be found here.

We’re sorry we brought the whole thing up: Calbuzz didn’t really mean to stir up a tea time tempest when we reported – and then retracted – Brown’s false claim that he had “sold” the state plane during his first stint as governor (h/t Dan Walters).

But after the Stone Agers’ favorite blog belatedly picked up on our correction, and the Minions of Meg started bashing Krusty for claiming credit for a budget-saving measure actually taken by then Gov. Ronald Reagan, the reliable Anthony York was forced to come in and clean up the whole mess on the L.A. Times site.

York got it almost right. He correctly reported that while Reagan sold the plane, Brown ended the state’s lease for it, giving Krusty leave to parse the matter by saying he “got rid of the jet,” but incorrectly identified the broadcaster who voiced the incorrect factoid in a long-ago TV story about Brown; it’s Morley Safer, not Walter Cronkite whose stentorian tones may be heard on the disputed tape at the center of the kerfuffle.

Quick hits:

It’s an undeniable fact that Hillary Clinton and Lady Gaga have never been spotted in the same room.

Our hero Dale Peterson suddenly finds himself with some high firepower competition for best ad of the year.

Life in imitation of art: John Boehner fights the tyranny of the tanning tax.