Posts Tagged ‘Fred Barnes’

Thin Brown Line Between eMeg and the White House

Monday, June 7th, 2010

In the middle of a press scrum at the Republican state convention on March 12, Meg Whitman laughed out loud at a radio news reporter who asked her about her national political ambitions:

Ms. Whitman, would you commit to serving a full four-year term if you’re elected governor? There’s been talk of you as a national political figure.

Let’s just take it one step at a time. We haven’t even won the Republican primary yet.

With that small matter about to be dispensed with Tuesday, it’s high time to re-open the speculation about the 2016 Whitman for President campaign (for the record, she said she would “sure, absolutely”  finish one four-year term for governor) and break down the real from the surreal about that not-very-far-fetched scenario.

Barring a Lazarus-sized political miracle, Whitman will finally put Steve Poizner’s miserable campaign out of its misery tomorrow, promptly putting herself at the center of the nation’s political media conversation, where her high horsepower spin machine has already proved adept at stroking and feeding acolytes among the pundit class:

Meg Whitman is the most interesting person in American politics and, potentially, a formidable Republican leader at the national level…Like Ronald Reagan, she’s a well-known star from another field–the corporate world in Whitman’s case–who has entered California politics at the top and now intends to leapfrog an entire generation of ambitious political strivers…

But let’s assume Whitman is elected. She’d be governor of the biggest state, a brainy, conservative, accomplished woman at the top of the Republican ladder with precisely the experience that Sarah Palin lacks…When Reagan was elected governor in 1966, the speculation about national office–president, vice president–erupted instantly. If Whitman is elected in 2010, it will erupt again.

That conservative bloviator Fred Barnes wrote that over a year ago, at a time when eMeg had barely begun spending the $75-or-so million she’s since dug out of the sofa cushions to put her face in front of every Californian with a TV set four or five times a week, is a measure of how much thrill-up-the-leg excitement lies in store for us once she actually captures the damn nomination.

eMeg is about to go national in a big way and if Barnes is a bit, um, over-smitten in comparing her to the Gipper, he is most correct that being elected governor of California gives you automatic entry to the presidential speculation sweepstakes.

Think about it: the one question that’s never remotely been answered about her obsessive spending spree to buy the governorship is: Why the hell would she want the lousy job?  (And don’t tell us it’s because she had an epiphany and — barf — realized she “won’t let California fail”)

Put another way, why else has Meg Whitman “invested” –- that’s the word she invariably uses when she’s asked about her obscene campaign spending — more than $71 million of her own fortune to capture the Republican nomination for governor? And why is she prepared to spend at least as much in the general election?

Answer: Because she wants to be president of the United States .

How does Calbuzz know this? Because it’s the first of our Three Rules of Politics*: They all want to be president of the United States .

But only a few of them wind up in positions where it’s actually possible. And if eMeg can defeat Attorney General Jerry Brown in November, she would be perfectly poised, at age 60,  to run for president in 2016.

(Of course, there are a few wrinkles in the scenario. Mitt Romney, her 63-year old business and political mentor, has already moved into California as a base for his expected 2012 bid for president.  Having eMeg ensconced in Sacramento clearly wouldn’t hurt Mutt’s chances, and the narrative of the dynamic duo fighting bravely to turn California from blue to red would be catnip for the Fred Barneses of the world. It makes no sense for Meg, however, to even think about playing second fiddle on a Romney ticket, when she could bide her time and go after the big prize herself.)

Which means: It’s entirely possible that California Attorney General Jerry Brown is the only thing standing between Meg Whitman and the White House.

This is not a comforting thought, especially since we have no experience on which to predict the standard quantum limit  effect of $150 million in campaign spending by a candidate for governor.

Normally, one would expect that Whitman would have a hard time winning back the moderates, independents, women and Latinos she has alienated by taking knuckle-dragging, uber-nasty arch-conservative positions in the primary in order to win the hearts and minds of the GOP.

But we don’t know whether, by spending untold sums on campaign propaganda, Whitman will be able to obliterate the collective memory voters might otherwise have of her lurch to the right. Expect November Meg to look nothing like June Meg. She’ll be bright, sunny and inclusive, not the snarling, slashing attack machine she’s been in the primary.

So what’s Jerry Brown’s challenge? To win the independents —  20% of the electorate, compared to 45% Democrat and 31% Republican. And how can he and his independent allies do that? By:

1) Reminding voters about Goldman Sachs and eMeg’s special, elite deals and her failure even to be a voter, much less a problem solver for California.

2) Reminding voters of her flip-floppy positions on choice and offshore oil drilling, her assault on environmental regulation (especially AB 32) and her anti-Mexican-immigrant stand on border security.

3) Explaining how differently he would address spending and taxes, fairness and justice, public employees and education. His curbside, man-on-the-street populism versus her protect-the-rich, attack-the-worker program.

He won’t have $75 million so he’d better have some damn effective allies and he’d better generate some enthusiasm.

And thank you for that.

*The other two rules: The conventional wisdom is always wrong and; Nobody knows anything.

Media Morsels: Palin as Khamenei, gWill Hearts eMeg

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

palintrashStupid, crazy and mean: “Fear a stupid enemy,” goes a Turkish proverb that came to mind as Calbuzz perused the latest news from Alaska that Snowbilly Sarah has engaged some vicious lawyer to intimidate journalists. Palin’s irrational antics can be tres amusant to be sure —  Wonkette’s subtle characterization of her as “batshit-insane” gets it just about right –- but the soon-to-be-ex-governor of Alaska’s latest outrage ain’t no laughing matter. Her threats to the NYT, Washpost and MSNBC are silly on their face, but her effort to muscle and silence Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore, for the crime of not being content to swallow Palin’s incoherent explanation of her resignation, is both reprehensible and dangerous.

Calbuzz knows through bitter experience that being a lowly journalist dragged through the legal system by a vengeful, powerful person who operates on the ancient legal theory of Keep Your Mouth Shut or I’ll Ruin Your Life is a scary, painful and expensive proposition, and every principled pol, newshound and hen in the nation ought to be speaking up for Moore and throwing a red flag at Palin.

The Republican’s 2008 vice presidential candidate is a demagogue of the first rank who, despite the condescending chuckles of Beltway wise men, remains dead serious about exploiting the bitterness and resentments of the nation’s culture wars for the sole and focused purpose of benefiting her own career and self-interest. Palin right now is demonstrating for all to see that her notion of the First Amendment is not much different than that of Ali Khamenei or Kim Jong-Il, so it’s prudent for everyone who practices, covers or follows politics to keep that in mind. Forewarned is forearmed.


I dunno, what do you think she’s up to: The tsunami of ongoing speculation about what strategic calculations, if any, lie behind Palin’s walkaway include a couple of outstanding takes:  Paul Begala, CNN talking head and longtime FOB, argues the full insanity plea, while the journalist Geoffrey Dunn, who’s writing a book on Palin, offers one of the meatier  analyses, examining not only the political/ethical angles but that whole character is fate thing. Most Valuable Blogger award goes to the redoubtable Mickey Kaus, who catalogued (at last count) 14 separate theories floating on the web.

Will_George_EMAILAnother Right-Wing Scribe Falls Hard: Heartthrob Meg Whitman, already the object of a mad crush by conservative bloviator Fred Barnes, now has another right-wing pundit in the full throes of l’amour fou. This time it’s George Will, normally the most decorous and starchy of men, who’s been smitten by Her Megness and is in full gush about it. He begins his tonguey lip  lock with an anecdote displaying his own chuckling delight at how eMeg “delights” in recounting to him – little minx! – the story behind the Central Valley’s biggest corporate carrot farm. Be still, my heart!

Then the Great Man, always a substantive figure,  is on to more substantive stuff, giving us the nuts and bolts of Meg’s program:


“She would reduce the number of state Assembly districts (there are 80) because the Legislature is cumbersome, and would modify the initiative and referendum process.


“Voters have discombobulated budgeting by mandating spending without providing revenues, other than promiscuous borrowing. Whitman favors making it harder — requiring more signatures — to get measures on ballots, limiting the number on ballots in particular elections, and requiring the ballot language to specify the costs of measures being voted on…

Today’s most pressing problem — government in the grip of public employees unions — is, she thinks, ripe for improvement: 85 percent of the state’s unionized employees are working without contracts.”

“She would,” “she thinks” – Voila, what else is needed? L’etat c’est Moi!

And how will eMeg accomplish these great goals, which clearly have never occurred to lesser lights:

“To change Sacramento, which Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego television stations barely cover, she must find new ways to communicate with a disconnected public.”

Here’s an idea about a “new way to communicate”: How about giving an interview to somebody who actually understands this stuff? Sheesh. We’re just sayin’.

Turgid Times Strikes Again: In another blow to big-time big city journalism, the resident geniuses at the sinking L.A. Times have forced out the widely respected John Arthur as executive editor.  A smart, funny, blue collar, hard news guy, Arthur worked his way up the ladder in 23 years at the Times, playing key roles in the paper’s Pulitzer Prizes for breaking news coverage of the Northridge earthquake and the 1997 North Hollywood bank robbery and shoot-out.

Arthur got pushed out because of a disagreement over “masthead changes,” according to a memo to the staff posted by Russ Stanton, the latest Vichy editor installed by the minions of big brain Sam Zell. Brilliant move, Capitan: Axe a guy with great instincts, great experience and great passion because of a battle over rearranging the deck chairs. (One of Stanton’s big moves, which Arthur apparently disputed, was installing the…wait for it…Obituaries Editor as managing editor for news. You can’t make this stuff up).

A telling sidebar to this woeful tale is the characteristic hustle shown by two of L.A.’s better blogs in covering the story faster and better than the Times, which force fed its readers a business section story that could have been written by the marketing department. Word of Arthur’s departure came first from L.A. Observed, a daily must-read for SoCal news junkies, while the best behind-the-scenes yarn came from Nikki Finke Fan Club President Sharon Waxman, editor and publisher of The Wrap:


The firing of Arthur raised the ire of some members of the masthead in a meeting on Thursday. Arthur, much like his former colleague Leo Wolinsky — who was canned last fall — was (is) an unabashed, old-fashioned newsroom guy, the kind who stayed till 10 at night, who checked in on weekends and who guarded the sanctity of the front page with the loyalty of a Saint Bernard. But he was a leftover from the era of Jim O’Shea, an editor ago.

He’s gone now, replaced by people who are presumably more loyal to Stanton.

Safe travels, man.

— By Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine

Fred Barnes Smitten: Conservative Writer Lionizes eMeg

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

emegcoverIt takes veteran Beltway journalist and Fox News bloviator Fred Barnes only three sentences of his hot-on-the-web, 3,500-word profile of Meg Whitman in the conservative Weekly Standard to compare her to Ronald Reagan.

Then he gets really complimentary.

The Barnes cover piece, titled “eMeg: eBay Republican Meg Whitman bids to save California” (to his credit, he sorta credits Calbuzz for our coinage of our favorite nickname for Her Megness), not only portrays her as a strong front-runner for the GOP nomination, but also casts her as the vessel of all true Reagan virtues, from an unstinting belief in free markets to an easy way with people.

The piece concludes by launching a Meg-for-President boomlet:

But let’s assume Whitman is elected. She’d be governor of the biggest state, a brainy, conservative, accomplished woman at the top of the Republican ladder with precisely the experience that Sarah Palin lacks. That she’s a social moderate may be worrisome to conservatives. She’s pro-choice on abortion but voted for Proposition 8 last year, which barred gay marriage. When Reagan was elected governor in 1966, the speculation about national office–president, vice president–erupted instantly. If Whitman is elected in 2010, it will erupt again.”

Hold on there Fred, she may have have three conversations with you, but she’s still gotta make it past her first Calbuzz interview! In the meantime, Calbuzzers, check it out.