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Posts Tagged ‘Chris Cillizza’



Checklist for Lt. Newsom; GOP Seeks Presidentials

Monday, January 31st, 2011

When Gavin Newsom made like Achilles and took to brooding in his tent, back in the dark days of 2009 after quitting the race for governor and before re-emerging as a candidate for lite gov, the ex-mayor of San Francisco imperiously mocked the state job he now holds:

“What does the lieutenant governor do?” he said at the time. “For the life of me, I don’t know.”

Today, as Calbuzz formally demotes Newsom from the rank of Prince Gavin to the status of Lieutenant Starbuck, our intrepid cartoonist Tom Meyer offers his own, extremely helpful, suggestion to get the good lieutenant started on a new job description.

“What should Newsom do with his time?” politics guru Jack Pitney recently remarked to the indefatigable Jack Chang. “Accept speaking invitations, do lots of talks, spend time with the family, help raise his kids. It’s essentially a non-job.”

It’s true, of course, that the lite gov’s most solemn constitutional duty is to get up every morning, make sure Governor Brown is still breathing and then go back to bed. And sure, there are plenty of boring and conventional ways for newly-elected Newsom to spend his days.

But in our unstinting efforts to find positive solutions to intractable problems – we’re from the press, we’re here to help! – we’ve come up with a short list of other assignments for Lt. Starbuck to not only make himself useful but also keep his handsome mug squarely on the political radar in Sacramento.

Become California’s Chief Deputy Recycling Officer. Newsom will never be able to match the legendary tree hugger cred of Brown, who was totally green long before Kermit the Frog. But between banning plastic water bottles and starting an organic garden at City Hall, the erstwhile prince built his own, not inconsiderable, rep as a verdant pol. So what better way to save the Earth, while simultaneously meeting and greeting the folks who matter in Sacramento, than by making daily rounds of the Capitol, collecting bottles, cans and unread newspapers (as most, sadly, are).

Stop the squirrels from panhandling in Capitol Park. As S.F. Mayor,  Newsom spent considerable time and political capital trying to tamp down the city’s well-earned image as a happy haven for aggressive, snarling street people. Now he has a splendid chance to apply those skills by forging a pragmatic but humane approach to handling the begging squirrels of Capitol Park (especially the nasty gray ones)– maybe with a new program for tourists to kick into a Rodent Food Bank instead of offering the annoying critters nuts and seeds on an individual basis.

Wash and service Kamala’s car. Sure, Attorney General Kamala Harris is Starbuck’s future rival for the Democratic nomination for governor, but unlike him, she has, you know,  an actual job. While saving the Department of Justice a few bucks by volunteering to change the oil and wax down Herself’s state-financed ride, Gavin might even generate a few extra bucks for the general fund by connecting with other customers in the Capitol’s basement garage.

Launch a new state escort service. A recent study found that Sacramento is one of the few towns west of the Mississippi with a healthy surplus of single women over men. Given that Gavin’s greatest political asset is his movie star mien – hey, is that Matthew McConaughey?-  why not put his good looks to work as the star attraction of California’s new Department of Arm Candy and Society Walkers, safely squiring unattached females to fundraisers and other big events in Sacramento’s non-stop social whirl?

Serve as the Legislature’s designated driver. Every year, it seems, at least one prominent state lawmaker gets stopped on a DUI, endangering his political career when word of his scandalous behavior reaches the district back home. What better insider gig for a guy with lots of time on his hands than hanging around the bar at Lucca and cheerfully grabbing the keys to ensure some soused solon gets safely tucked in bed?

Rearrange Jerry’s books. Our pal Greg Lucas recently provided a terrific guided tour through the eclectic and expansive personal library of Governor Gandalf, noting that his bookcase is “brimming — without organization — with topics like religion, urban planning, history, psychology and mysticism.”

Surely Gavin could earn himself some Brownie points – and begin working off the early demerits he racked up by undercutting Jerry’s bid to whack the U.C. budget – by spending a few hours getting the gubernatorial athenaeum in order, hopefully employing the Dewey decimal system, which the old-school Silver Fox would doubtlessly prefer.

On the day he was inaugurated this month, Newsom pathetically pleaded with reporters, who showed up to watch his swearing in but quickly decamped to fry some bigger fish: “This is the last time you’re going to want to talk to me,” he said. “Don’t forget me.”

No worries, lieutenant, we wouldn’t think of it.

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Let the games begin: We hear the California Republican Party, struggling to recover its footing after getting pasted in November, is assiduously putting out feelers to potential 2012 presidential contenders in hopes of attracting some attention to its March 18-20 convention in Sacramento.

Party activists, of course, will be there to elect leaders, establish rules for top-two primaries and other fascinating chores, but whether normal people even notice the event may hinge on whether any presidentials come courting.

Included on the GOP’s wish list: Haley Barbour, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. Of course, they have to extend a warm invitation to Tundra Queen Sarah Palin, too, but we hear that some in the party dearly hope she won’t want to show, since she would consume all the oxygen and turn the convention into a Tea Party Extravaganza, when serious party rebuilding is what’s called for.

Calbuzz is not in the party building business but we sure would like to see the California GOP become relevant again in statewide elections: it’d be better for political reporters, not to mention democracy, if there was a little competition of ideas in California. That’s why we posted our Memo to the GOP (key item: figure out a way to support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants without sacrificing your Republican principles).

Meanwhile, back in the United States of Washington, D.C., the 2012 sweepstakes is already well underway. If you’re already behind — for shame! — here’s a preliminary reading list:

– Chris “The Fix” Cillizza offers an early line on the electoral college, concluding that Obama’s not nearly in the sad shape some would-be rivals would have you think.

– The Chron produced a swell set of charts for their pre-SOTU coverage comparing Obama’s standing on some economic and political measurables with those of recent presidents.

– The Times details how national political blogs are cranking up to go completely nuts with coverage.

Politico confirms the accuracy of the Times story.

– Politico also smokes out our own Rob Stutzman, a key 2008 Mitt Romney operative, to buttress their situationer showing that Mighty Mitt is encountering a level of skepticism among political professionals that’s hardly befitting an alleged front-runner:

“I’m keeping my powder dry for now,” said Stutzman, Romney’s top California adviser in 2008. “I think new congressional maps and Senate races may provide the most exciting campaign opportunities in ’12.”

At least since that whole Meg Whitman thing, anyway.

Why football is America’s Game: The Jets blew their chance at the Super Bowl with a bunch of dog-ass play calls in a crucial series at the Steelers’ goal line last week, which means the big game’s entertainment value will be considerably lessened without the performance art stylings of madman head coach Rex Ryan.

Press Clips: Lights! Action! Camera! Bribery! News?

Friday, July 16th, 2010

We don’t know if Michael Luo of the New York Times was just idly rooting around in Meg Whitman’s 19-page FPPC Form 700 financial disclosure when he just happened to stumble across an investment of more than $1 million in “Tools Down! Productions” and knew “ah ha!”  – that’s political consultant Mike Murphy’s Hollywood production company.

Or maybe somebody who doesn’t like Whitman and/or Murphy decided to point Luo in the right direction or slipped him the paperwork. Either way, it’s a good story and since we have a pdf of the actual document in hand (you can’t get it online), we know it’s true:

Right there on page 9, “Tools Down! Productions, Inc c/o Aaron Zimmer, Singer Burke & Co., 6345 Balboa Blvd, Building 4, Suite 375, Encino, CA 91316” a ”Partnership Stock” investment in “Entertainment Production” valued “Over $1,000,000.”

That’s MORE than $1 million, Calbuzzers. Sandwiched between investments in  Magellan Midstream Holdings LP and Abaca Technology Corp. just where you’d expect to find it.

Although some in the news media have been quick to kiss this deal off as totally legal and out of reach of scandal, there remains one question that we probably will never get a real answer to: Was this, on Whitman’s part, a political expenditure disguised as a business investment?

Sure it looks like Whitman, um, bribed Murphy to either stay away from Steve Poizner’s campaign or sign on to hers. But Murphy’s a private citizen. He can – and does – sell his services to the highest bidder. More power to him.

Whitman, on the other hand, has to follow certain rules. She can’t (ethically or legally) pay a retainer or a fee to a political consultant out of her private funds and not count that as a political expenditure made in pursuit of the office she’s seeking.

We don’t know what you might call the actual facts that could shine a light on that issue. We don’t even know how much the total “investment” was. Was it more or less, for example than the “More than $1,000,000” eMeg listed in two different Goldman Sachs Distressed Opportunities Funds?

Of course, not knowing all the facts has little effect on handlers for Whitman’s opponent, Jerry Brown. “By all accounts it was a political payoff masquerading as a so-called legitimate business investment,” said Brown campaign manager Steve Glazer after we goaded him.

“Murphy should disclose his other investors and whether the payment was reported on his income taxes . . .  It’s possible she paid it from one of her Cayman Island accounts,” Glazer added.

Murph’s only on-the-record comment to us was, “I’m absolutely not commenting on this.”

Oil spill, what oil spill? It was Hall of Fame blogger and erstwhile Senate candidate Mickey Kaus who coined the term “Feiler Faster Thesis” to describe the way that online age politics is changing as people learn to process information ever-faster, to keep up with the speed at which information now moves. Kaus in 2000 propounded the thesis based on an idea from writer Bruce Feiler to argue that the whole notion of “momentum” in campaigns is woefully out of date.

The news cycle is much faster these days, thanks to 24-hour cable, the Web, a metastasized pundit caste constantly searching for new angles, etc. As a result, politics is able to move much faster, too, as our democracy learns to process more information in a shorter period and to process it comfortably at this faster pace. Charges and countercharges fly faster, candidates’ fortunes rise and fall faster, etc.

A few years later, he boiled it down further:

The FFT, remember, doesn’t say that information moves with breathtaking speed these days. (Everyone knows that!) The FFT says that people are comfortable processing that information with what seems like breathtaking speed. [emphasis in the original]

The FFT came to mind Friday, when we read a report from the Washpost’s hypercaffeineated Chris Cillizza noting that the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, which preoccupied TV and cable news for weeks, is quickly fading as an issue, even as the company and government continue frantic efforts to contain and cleanup the millions of gallons of oil erupting from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

Asked to name the most important problem facing the country, just seven percent of respondents in the July Gallup poll said “natural disaster response/relief” — a major drop off from the 18 percent who said the same in June. (In Gallup’s May poll, just one percent named “natural disaster response” as the most important problem in the country.)

“Americans’ reduced likelihood to see the spill as the top problem could reflect the reality that the spill is no longer ‘new’ news or perhaps that Americans are becoming more confident that they spill will be fixed,” wrote Gallup poll director Frank Newport in a memo detailing the results.

Given their current sorry state, any Democrats desperate for any shred of good news may look to the FFT for hope that fast-moving, and so far unforeseen, events might yet alter the political landscape before they have to face cranky voters.

As dismal as things look for the Dems, amid the current conventional wisdom forecasting a wipe-out and possible loss of the House, cooler head prognosticators and pundits, like NBC political director Chuck Todd, don’t see how the numbers work for the Republicans to take over control.

P.S. After leaving Slate for his quixotic challenge to Barbara Boxer, Kaus has been writing on his campaign site, but says he’s mulling several, no doubt lucrative, alternatives (better get in line!) for where his blog lands next.

But what about the little guy: As eMeg dithers about which of the countless proposals she should accept to debate Jerry Brown, both of them  should summon the courage to show up at a big August event in Ventura County where they can talk to hundreds of real people from around California who are living and working on the front lines of the recession. Timm Herdt of the VenCo Star reports that:

Organizers intend to call it a “shared prosperity forum,” but the precise name they have in mind is a little longer: The 2010 California Shared Prosperity Gubernatorial Candidates Forum.

Whether they can actually call it all that, of course, depends on the two major party candidates for governor, Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman. If one or both accepts, the governor’s forum is on. If not, well, there’s a Plan B….

Executive director Marcos Vargas tells me that a broad range of groups from the San Francisco Bay Area to San Diego, groups representing low-wage workers, immigrants and seniors, have agreed to attend. A number of those groups, such as the Korean Resource Center in Los Angeles, are part of a statewide coalition called Mobilize the Immigrant Vote.

It is Vargas’ vision that the event could be a refreshing change from the sort of staged town-hall meetings that pass for dialogue between candidates and voters these days.

Refreshing indeed.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Roaring Virile Fire Disturbs Social Order.

Press Clips: Why Is NPR in Thrall to Prince Gavin?

Friday, August 7th, 2009

newsom_2_JPGWe were floored to listen to Madeleine Brand’s nine-minute story on the California governor’s race on NPR on Tuesday. Not because that’s a huge amount of time to spend on the race — which it is — but because half the damn thing consisted of an interview with Gavin Newsom (she didn’t interview any other candidates).

The piece also included an interview with the Chron’s Carla Marinucci, whose comments were edited so her money quote cast the race exactly the way  Newsom and his strategist, Garry “Svengali” South, want to define it: as a “generational contest.” Whether Prince of Prides Newsom can succeed in cubbyholing Crusty the General Jerry Brown as a drooling geezer seems to Calbuzz a dubious proposition, at best.

What we found most interesting in the NPR piece was Newsom’s decision to underline strongly his claim to fame as the No. 1 advocate for gay marriage, after  downplaying it in recent months; when Calbuzz asked him about it in March, for example, he said, “People, from my perspective, have really moved on . . . The new realities of the economy are much more pressing in people’s minds.”

But on NPR, he not only embraced his role on the issue, but reveled in it. For the record, he said: “There are certain fundamental values that I hold dear and there are principles that I’ll fight for. I believe in equality. It’s not just a slogan; it’s not just rhetoric. Actually, I want to champion it, I want to fight for it. I’m someone who just doesn’t believe separate is equal . . . I won’t equivocate.”

burningpapersThe decline and fall of practically everything: Thanks to our friend Alan Mutter over at Reflections of a Newsosaur for pointing us to an excellent post at Content Bridges that provides the first quantitative analysis of the journalistic impact of all the financial cuts in the newspaper industry.

The site is operated by former Knight-Ridder guru Ken Doctor, who put together stats on the number of journalism jobs slashed by daily newspapers – 8,500 in the last two years alone – and reductions in pages devoted to news – an estimated half of the 40 percent decline in newsprint usage – to calculate a loss of 828,000 news stories a year, “neither written nor read,” as Doctor put it.

It’s easy enough to trash newspapers and those who run them, and Lord knows Calbuzz does our share, for being arrogant, out of touch and slow off the mark to adjust to the wacky world of the web. But 828,000 fewer stories means that people across the nation know a helluva’ lot less about what’s going on in city halls, cop shops, courtrooms, school boards and state capitals than they did just a few years ago. And that ain’t good for the public interest, no matter how clueless some newspaper editors may be.

P.S. The big buzz in the news industry this week was Aussie press baron Rupert Murdoch’s announcement that he intends to start charging readers for content on all web sites of his far-flung News Corp. empire.

difipencilNext up – podcasting with Dianne: Check your thesaurus for an antonym for “blogger,” and you’ll find a big picture of Dianne Feinstein; California’s straight-laced Senator is just about the purest antithesis imaginable of the pajamadin.

So Calbuzz was shocked the other day to find Difi joining the likes of Alec Baldwin, John Waters and Nora Ephron in Arianna’s lineup of celebrity bloggers over at the Huffington Post.

No doubt, Herself’s piece on warrantless wiretaps was Really Important but still: She managed in a single post to  a) put everyone to sleep from the start by employing the dreaded historical lede –- 2 ½ paragraphs worth of it; b) leave us scratching our heads about her central point by omitting the crucial nut graf, and c) churn out a thicket of verbiage as impenetrable as a Brillo pad, laced with bureaucratic Beltway-speak like this:

“Initially, the OLC based its opinion on the president’s inherent constitutional authorities as Commander-in-Chief. Subsequently, the OLC shifted its rationale to rely upon the Authorization for the Use of Military Force…”

Memo to Dianne: Don’t quit your day job.

mouthpiece

Not exactly “Frontline”: Class act kudos to Chris Cillizza of “The Fix,” for graciously extracting himself from “Mouthpiece Theatre,” the WashPost’s dreadful experiment in multi-media infotainment.

For the past several months, Cillizza served as sidekick to the spectacularly unfunny Post humor writer Dana Milbank in an online video schtick called “Mouthpiece Theatre” in which the two donned smoking jackets, wielded pipes and parodied political pundits, playing it for yuks, which were few and far between.

Last week, they keyed off Obama’s “beer summit” with Harvard Professor Henry Lewis Gates and the Cambridge cop who arrested him, assigning several dozen obscure brands of beers to various politicians; the creaky episode collapsed completely when they put up a photo of Hillary Clinton and Milbank suggested she should drink “Mad Bitch” beer, a crack that earned the players and their paper widespread condemnation in media, political and feminist circles.

Over at the Columbia Journalism Review’s site, Megan Barber wrote:

“One wonders how much of the Post staff’s time and resources were devoted to researching, writing, staging, shooting, and editing such an extraordinarily value-free contribution to the annals of political commentary. Milbank and Cillizza are no Stewart/Colbert—they’re not even Letterman/O’Brien—not only because they’re simply not as funny, but because their status as (ostensibly) reporters means that they owe us more than lame-puns-for-the-sake-of-lame-puns, as per the typical humor of late-night TV.”

In a substantially lighter vein, comic Andy Cobb did a terrific You Tube send-up of the show

On Wednesday, media writer Howard Kurtz broke the news that the suits at the Post had pulled the plug on “Mouthpiece Theatre.” Cillizza, to his credit, made a clean breast of things on his blog.

The smug,  self-absorbed, fratboy Milbank also apologized in Kurtz’s piece, kinda, sorta but did so in a predictably self-serving way:

“It’s clear there was an audience for it out there, but not large enough to justify all the grief. My strength is in observational, in-the-field stuff, and that’s what I should do. I’m sorry about the reaction it’s caused but I think it’s important to experiment. The real risk to newspapers is not that they take too many risks, but that they don’t take enough risks.”

Calbuzz decoder ring translation: The little people just aren’t smart enough to appreciate my genius.

lingand leeLee and Ling and One Limp Neo-Con: Like all journalists, Calbuzz felt great concern about Euna Lee and Laura Ling and, back in June, offered space to Betty Medsger to advocate on their behalf. So we were delighted when former president Bill Clinton was able to bring them home from North Korea the other day. It was a wonderful exercise of personal diplomacy with the nutcase Kim Jong Il, who was most likely confused about whether he was posing for snaps with Clinton or Elvis, his one true hero.bolton Anyway, we were jazzed by the release of the two journos.

So when former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton immediately declared that the successful mission actually was “a classic case of rewarding bad behavior,” we just had to make a note — of what a complete dick this guy is.

Calbuzz Rants: Snowbilly Logic and Chronicle Watch

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

palinwaveSympathy for the devil: The enterprising Chris Cillizza at the WashPo’s The Fix reports on a new Gallup Poll that finds a “Palin Sympathy Effect” wherein 53% of respondents say coverage of Palin has been “unfairly negative.”

Calbuzz is not among them.

In fact, we think Eugene Robinson of the WashPo cut right to the bone when he said “All of us who ever took Sarah Palin seriously — or pretended to take her seriously — should be deeply ashamed.”

The latest evidence, in addition to her Snowbilly stream-of-unconsciousness press conference resignation was her comment in an interview with ABC News in which she explains why the frivolous complaints that are driving her out of office in Alaska wouldn’t hurt her in Washington.

“I think on a national level, your Department of Law there in the White House would look at some of the things that we’ve been charged with and automatically throw them out,” she said.

Suddenly, it hit us that we’ve misdiagnosed the tundra bunny governor. Her problem is that living so long in Alaska, all she sees is the trees. She can’t see the forest. So instead of seeing the Department of Justice, she sees the Department of Law. Which, of course, there isn’t one of.

Along with your Department of Law, surely Palin would be studying up on your Department of Order. (Fred Thompson quit, but maybe Sam Waterston still works there,right?) And there’s your Department of Concrete (which oversees roads, houses, swimming pools and the like), the Department of Germs, the Department of Rocks and that old retro favorite, the War Department.

ancientpressWhy newspapers are doomed, Chapter 876: Our friend Marcia Meier took the occasion of the passing of the King of Pop to once again set forth the clear and compelling case for why newspaper editors should stop making themselves look silly with big banner headlines proclaiming “News” the morning after everybody knows what happened.

Meier’s Huffpost blog hit a special chord coming the day after the Chronicle took to the streets to shout to the heavens that they’ve improved the look of their newspaper by shifting to new printing presses. Really? What’s next? Color TV? Phones you can carry around with you? Indoor plumbing?

Mother Jones has a lovely little take down on the Chronicle’s sadly funny claim that “a new era gets rolling” because they’ve found a way to put ink on dead trees with decent color registration.

And speaking of the Chron . . .  chronbanner

ChronicleWatch
Great newspaper lets mayor peddle swill

What’s not working: The San Francisco Chronicle is letting the city’s mayor get away with trumpeting alleged accomplishments without lifting a finger to fact-check his claims.

Ever since he started running for governor, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has traveled up and down the state, telling voters everywhere he goes that as the city’s mayor he has led the way in solving a series of intractable social and economic problems, a splendid performance he says makes him the best-qualified candidate to lead California.

From universal health insurance to financial aid for schools, from balanced budgets to economic development and job creation, from homelessness to immigration, to hear him tell it, there’s seemingly no area of public policy where the Superman Mayor has not made San Francisco a veritable paradise on earth.

Maybe all this is 100% accurate. We have no bloody idea. Because throughout the months of civic-self promotion, Calbuzz has been waiting and waiting and waiting for the mayor’s hometown newspaper to help California’s voters –- and its press corps -– make an informed judgment of how Newsom’s extravagant claims stack up against the true facts. And waiting . . .

For years the mighty Chron trumpeted, as a model of service journalism, its “Chronicle Watch,” in which reporters would chase down tips about small-bore community problems –- from dirty swimming pools to missing stop signs –- publish the name of the no-account bureaucrat responsible for the outrage and keep a running score of how long it took to fix things.

Today Calbuzz begins its own “ChronicleWatch” on the Chronicle’s failure to hold their mayor politically accountable. We’ll stay on the story and let you know when they fix the problem.

How long it’s been broken: Since April 21, when Newsom announced his candidacy.

Who’s responsible: Executive Vice President & Editor Ward Bushee

Note to the Silicon Valley paper of record, the  Sans Jose Mercury New: We’re eagerly awaiting those bleeding-edge storiMN_Logo4ies on Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner that will give us some clues about their management skills, temperament, vision, political views (who was it who reported that Meg just recently registered Republican?)  and anything else that will shed light on whether candidates in your back yard are qualified to be governor.  Could be a “MercWatch” on the horizon, too.

Jack Kavanagh’s Rough & Tumble Deserves Top Honors

Friday, April 10th, 2009

We were delighted to be named by the Washington Post’s “The Fix” as one of the top three political web sites in California, along with Flashreport and Calitics. But there is one web site that wasn’t named that — in our opinion — is a vital resource for anyone following California politics. That’s Rough & Tumble, by Jack Kavanagh.

Jack has been pulling together the most relevant California political news on his site for years — day in and day out. He’s fair, open-minded and one of the hardest-working guys in the business.

Jack’s web site generates 18,000 to 20,000 page views a day: it’s tremendously successful and rightfully so. It’s the granddaddy of California political sites. (There are many other great sites, but Jack’s is in a class by itself.)

Calbuzz is indebted to Rough & Tumble: More people come to our site from Rough & Tumble than any other single source. We urge Chris Cillizza, who publishes “The Fix” for the Washington Post to add Rough & Tumble to his list of top California sites.