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Posts Tagged ‘Institute of Governmental Studies’



Lockyer: Both Parties Must Bend to Repair California

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, one of the most experienced and durable Democratic politicians in California, was the keynote speaker at the 2010 governor’s race post-mortem hosted by the Institute of Governmental Affairs at UC Berkeley. Here’s the text of his lucid prepared remarks, delivered Jan. 22, 2011 at the Hotel Shattuck Plaza in Berkeley.

By Bill Lockyer

Several years ago, Thomas Frank wrote a book titled “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”  The book was Mr. Frank’s attempt to explain, from his admittedly liberal perspective, the American heartland’s attraction to conservatism.

After the 2010 elections, I would not be surprised to see a conservative writer pen a book entitled “What’s the Matter with California?” in an attempt to explain how and why the Republican tidal wave broke at the California border. It’s a question worthy of exploration.

Why were the California results so unique?

There was a Democratic sweep of every statewide constitutional office; there was not a single loss of a California congressional or Senate seat held by Democrats; and there was a pick up of one Democratic seat in the Assembly.

My explanation starts with one counter-intuitive fact: The California results were not the result of some hyped-up turnout in the Democratic base or of a depressed Republican turnout. An examination of the actual election results, as opposed to the exit polls or post-election polling, shows that the 2010 turnout in every demographic group were within a percentage or two of the 2006 turnout . . . with a few exceptions.

One interesting exception was 18-24 year-old voters, who turned out at a 6.4 percentage points higher level than in 2006. And 25-34 year-old voters also improved their turnout by 3.6 percent. At the same time, Republicans increased their overall turnout by 3.6 percentage points and DTS (decline to state) voter participation expanded by 3.4 percent.

Exit polls in other states do show varying degrees of higher turnout among Republican base voters along with some depressed numbers in the Democratic base. But, in California, we simply had a decent turnout among all voters.

So, if turnout doesn’t explain California’s Democratic exceptionalism, what does?

I believe California has a structural firewall that protected Democrats against the Republican “shellacking”.

Democrats continue to win substantial majorities of women, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, younger voters, gay and lesbian voters, coastal voters, liberals, and college educated voters. You combine that coalition with the majority of “moderate” and DTS voters who express their preference for Democratic candidates in almost every election and you have to ask: “Who the hell is left to vote for the Republicans?”

Simply answered, Republicans are the party of older white voters from inland California, a base too small to win in 21st Century California. These demographics have been with us for 20 years now and show no sign of changing.

This electoral reality deeply impacts how we govern in California. The shrinking Republican Party is so dominated by conservative voters that competitive Republican primaries damage Republican nominees who have to work their way through the litmus test minefield of taxes, immigration, abortion, gay rights, and the environment, and let’s not forget the “John and Ken primary ” test.

Remember, the most successful Republican candidate in recent years, Arnold Schwarzenegger, never ran in a competitive Republican Primary.

For Democrats, the challenge is not how we put together a successful campaign coalition, but how we govern successfully. And, for Democrats, at this moment in history the challenge of governing is how do we restore fiscal reality to our state budget and, at the same time, grow our state’s economy.

Democrats run for public office because we believe that government should play an active role in improving the lives of its citizens. Very few Democrats run for office because they want to shrink the size of government.

In 2011, and beyond, Democrats will have to defer their historic ideological mission for another time and accept the responsibility of cutting government spending now. This duty will inevitably put a Democratic governor, Democratic constitutional officers, and a Democratic legislature at odds with some Democratic constituencies and interest groups.

And, these Democratic elected officials cannot shrink from this responsibility.

California voters overwhelmingly have chosen Democrats to lead them out of this economic crisis and, if we fail, the political consequences in future elections will be profound.

Gov. Brown has opened this debate by coming forward with an honest budget based on real numbers, free of phony accounting gimmicks. Its basic premise is that half of the answer to erasing the deficit should come from cuts in spending and half should come by extending taxes that are scheduled to expire. This is both sound policy and good politics.

As political leaders and as voters, if we do not support and follow this path and close our budget deficit, the consequences will be profound and Draconian.

The question is: How does our legislature respond?

Our inability to create bi-partisan compromises in our state’s budget has resulted in an endless shell game that has mired California in a persistent and ever-growing budget deficit. Too often the expedient has trumped the prudent.

Democrats must prove that they are willing to make substantial cuts in government spending to have credibility in this debate with voters and with Republican colleagues. The fact is that voters are likely to reject (again) the governor’s call to extend expiring taxes unless they see real budget cuts passed by the legislature.

Republicans must begin to participate fully in the governing of California and Democrats should welcome their participation. If Republicans fail in their responsibility, they will continue to be a shrinking minority party.

Republicans must negotiate with the governor and their Democratic colleagues in good faith and take the litmus tests off the table. This will begin to make the Republican Party relevant to the future of California.

To my Republican friends, I ask a simple question: “What good has all the political posturing done for the Republican Party?” When you can’t make political progress in California during a national Republican landslide, it is time to try a new approach.

No Relation to Grover Norquist

When Grover Norquist, a professional anti-tax activist based in D.C., demands every California Republican legislator sign a no tax pledge, a pledge that he insists includes denying the people the right to vote on the path forward, we really are in the Twilight Zone.

If Republicans are hostages to their litmus test politics, they won’t be at the table that works out the budget fix. Republican voices and ideas will not be a part of the solution.

Now, let’s talk about the “elephant” in the room. Democrats cannot expect Republicans to commit political suicide in order to pass a budget. That is why Democrats must be prepared to negotiate with Republicans on spending cuts that last as long as the tax hike extensions. Should either party come out of budget negotiations declaring victory, California will be the loser.

Democrats and Republicans can choose another way. Together, we can turn California around.

Fifty years ago this week, in his 1961 inaugural address, John F. Kennedy spoke words, in another context, that apply to this day and this time.

“United, there is little we cannot do. Divided, there is little we can do.”

Final Thoughts on IGS 2010 Gov Race Conference

Monday, January 24th, 2011

In the end, the weekend conference on California’s just-concluded campaign for governor looked a lot like the race itself: Meg Whitman refused to talk to an audience not of her choosing, got trashed for it and ended up the biggest loser for her selfish and self-absorbed behavior.

The UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies confab, held every four years, drew its largest crowd ever, an eclectic collection of media and political hacks, earnest students and academic chrome domes, professional pollsters and political wannabes, all drawn by the opportunity to hear, first-hand from the operatives who ran the campaigns, the inside story of how the deal went down.

Beyond its sheer entertainment value for an audience of obsessed political junkies, the conference in the past also served the more serious purpose of establishing a permanent record of the process by which Californians chose their chief executive, an important resource for scholars, authors and journalists. But the 2011 version was unfortunately flawed by two big shortcomings:

First, not a single member of the mighty Legions of eMeg had the courage, concern for history, not to mention common courtesy, to show his or her face; despite heroic efforts to represent the Republican perspective by top-rank GOP pols who didn’t work on the campaign (about whom more later) this left a huge hole in the record, given that Herself and Her Money, in many ways, became the story of the campaign.

Second, there was way too much spin and way too little candor by too many of those who did participate – an unfortunate departure from past years, which will leave a distorted and incomplete record of what was one of the most important campaigns in recent decades: “It just wasn’t the real story of the campaign,” one prominent political scientist complained at a post-conference reception. (Suggested reading for future scholars: this and this.)

That said, there still was value in the event, even if it was often to be found in the bar of the Hotel Shattuck Plaza and around the tables of nearby Berkeley restaurants, where war stories and unvarnished opinions were more frequently to be found. Some observations:

Most Valuable Player – The MVP of the conference was Jim Bognet, manager of Steve Poizner’s losing GOP primary effort. Funny, smart and honest, Bognet offered a sense of what it was like day-after-day to go up against a rival funded by $180 million (Meg’s spending “created its own center of gravity”) and displayed how personal the battle got between the Republicans (“never was so much spent on so many for so little”). He also provided – in the form of advice to students in the room thinking about going into politics — the best single riff of the weekend, defining the ethical rot at the center of Team Whitman that led to the most expensive disaster in the history of American politics:

When you’re getting paid a lot of money – and there were many consultants in this race that got paid a lot of money – it gives you an incentive not to speak truth to power. It gives you an incentive not to tell them what they don’t want to hear as candidates. You are more valuable as a campaign staffer and as a human being if you’re willing to say to the person who is paying your paycheck, “You are wrong. You need to talk to the press. You need to go out and answer these questions. You need to answer for why you switched your position.” It is a conflict of interest because the same person that is paying you, you have to give hard advice and talk about things, personal things that are not comfortable to talk about. So I would say, you have to fight against that continuously in order to add value to your candidate.

Least Valuable Player – The LVP of the conference was Peter Ragone, representing Gavin Newsom’s short and stunted primary bid for governor. Ragone is a nice guy and a competent operative, but his endless, obviously phony spin on behalf of the new Lite Governor had the audience groaning and looking for barf bags.

Newsom, it seems, is a politician of uncommon moral courage, motivated by only two idealistic factors – his unstinting and unselfish determination to do what is right and true and good for all the rest of us (after trashing the office of lieutenant governor, he changed his mind and ran because “he decided this was where he could the most good”) and the high moral courage that drives him to put his family above all else (no mention of him boinking the wife of his chief of staff in the mayor’s office). Self-interest never figures into it, Ragone would have us believe. Enough to make a hog puke. No matter what new UC Regent Newsom wanted, IGS should have invited Garry South and Nick Clemons, his actual gubernatorial campaign directors.

The missing characters –  The transcript of the proceedings will be turned into a book which purportedly will serve as the final word on the governor’s race. Puh-leeze. Consider this: the three most important behind-the-scenes players in the race – Brown’s wife Anne Gust, Whitman major domo Henry Gomez and top strategist Mike Murphy – didn’t figure in any of the discussions and, unless we missed it during a trip to the head or the cookie table, their names were never even mentioned. That’s like doing Hamlet without Hamlet.

Kudos to the stand-ins. While eMeg’s minions cowered in fear far away from Berkeley, former state chairmen Duf Sundheim and Bob Naylor, along with veteran strategist Jim Brulte, did a terrific job of describing the GOP perspective, their limited contacts with the candidate and her turf-conscious consultants, and how the establishment watched in horror as Whitman melted down.

“As Republicans, we were really concerned as the primary went on because since they were so close on the issues, it was really going to come down to a very nasty, personal fight,” Sundheim said. Said Naylor: “When the dust settled in the primary, the Whitman campaign was over.” And Brulte, who with his commentary reaffirmed his position as the sharpest Republican mind in the state, observed that except for Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger – celebrities who transcended politics – California voters have always wanted  an experienced hand as governor. By spending so much money on television without a break, Whitman undercut her own ability to be the next best thing, he argued. “By Labor Day, Jerry Brown, who was governor when I was in high school, was the fresh new face.”

Message trumps money – Since we’re kvetching about others for a lack of self-criticism, Calbuzz should acknowledge that our own coverage may have suffered from putting too much focus on the extraordinary spectacle of Meg’s crazed spending, which at times led us to the misassumption that she could make up for her lack of a clear and consistent winning message by throwing money at the problem.

“I never understood it,” said Democratic consultant Gale Kaufman. “Every time you turned on the TV, there were four or five tracks of (Whitman) ads that were completely different. They were switching ads all the time. You had no idea what their strategy was and never had anyone explain it to me.”  The Whitman campaign never had a compelling message, agreed consultant Rick Claussen: “Tactics is just a way to talk to voters.” You can spend all you want reaching out to voters, but if you don’t have something worth listening to, it’s a huge waste of money.

Brown was both lucky and good – In the final session of the conference, Brulte put his partisan perspective aside and offered his bottom line: Brown “ran a picture perfect campaign,” he said, a strategy built on keeping its focus on fundraising, using the office of Attorney General to keep him in the news and steering their own course no matter how much the winds emanating from Camp Whitman tried to blow them off course.

In Jim Moore, Brown had the best pollster in the race, the best ad man in Joe Trippi and the most disciplined manager in Glazer; their game plan to hold their fire until Labor Day, while many top Democrats and the political peanut gallery were hollering for them to answer eMeg’s summer assault, made all the difference. But Brown’s strategists also admitted that they benefited from missteps by eMeg. Said Glazer:

The one worry that I had when we went through that (2009) fall period into the new year was that Meg Whitman was going to use her resources to use Jerry Brown as the foil to be a stronger Republican . . . I thought that she would — even before the new year struck — that she would start to use Jerry Brown and start to raise our negatives by running against us as the presumptive Republican nominee. And I expected that all the way through until the primary day. I was very surprised that that actually never happened.

Once the primary was over, Trippi’s greatest fear was that Whitman would “go dark” over the summer, giving voters a respite from her 24/7 invasion of their living rooms and allowing her to re-emerge as a fresh face in the fall. Instead she essentially turned herself into the incumbent in a year when voters wanted change.

As Bognet had put it earlier: “She built herself a $180 million brand. Unfortunately, by the time the general came around her brand was, ‘She’s the woman with the money who won’t get off my TV.’”

Panelists also agreed that Whitman made a huge error by trying to portray Brown as a traditional tax and spend liberal, which simply misstates his record. As Republican Naylor, who served in the Assembly during Brown’s first turn as governor, put it: “Tax and spend doesn’t stick with Jerry Brown.”

Tone matters – Trippi correctly observed that the relentlessly snarky tone of Whitman’s relentless attack ads didn’t resonate with voters – “failure has followed him everywhere” he intoned — because they have a much more complex and long-running, if not always fond, relationship with him. Better for the Whitman people, Trippi said, to have been respectful to Brown by crafting a  more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger “gold watch” message, saying that he had performed valuable service to the state but adding that it was simply time for him to go, and to elect a “governor for the 21st century.”

Trying to avoid the press was a huge blunder — Speaker after speaker pointed to Whitman’s strategy of stiffing the media as a costly error for several reasons: it sent a message to voters that she thought she was too good to go through the usual hoops candidates for high office have always faced; it established a narrative that Whitman was secretive, and must have something to hide; it was a clear affront to the working press of the state, and their frustration showed up in the stories. As Poizner’s Jarrod Agen put it: “It never works to avoid the press.”

Bill Lockyer is the Diogenes of state politics — California’s treasurer was the keynote speaker of the conference and he turned in a boffo performance that provided a full-on and utterly frank look at the state of the state’s finances. Ask Lockyer what time it is and he’s liable to tell you how to make a watch, so some of his discourse on the niceties of the municipal bond market were a bit windy, but he’s smart, funny and seen it all. We’ll be running the text of his speech later this week.

Worst advice – The model for a California GOP comeback is Chris Christie in New Jersey, said Republican Tony Quinn. Sustained attacks on public employee unions and bloated government are the key to victory, he said. When Calbuzz rose to note that Whitman had done exactly that, he replied that she hadn’t done it very well.

Immigration sunk Whitman – Even before Meg’s Nicky Diaz housekeeper scandal, the immigration issue was a huge problem for Whitman. As Glazer explained, she had many liabilities on the issue even without Nicky – from shifting positions on a path to citizenship to her opposition to the Dream Act. Poizner’s hardline position in the primary forced her to move far right, which made her efforts to get back to the center in the general look pathetically calculated. When the Nicky story erupted, it merely personalized the hypocrisy and brazen opportunism of her political stances.

As Poizner’s Agen explained:

If we’d gotten into the general, it would have been a policy debate between Steve and Governor Brown on the policy issue of immigration. Jerry Brown would have had one stance on immigration, Steve would have had the other. But it would have been a policy discussion on immigration . . . What ended up happening, though, was immigration turned into a character issue and that is what ultimately hurts the Republican Party hugely is if immigration is a character issue. If it stays a policy issue, people are going to disagree with it and we felt that if you get to the general election, we’ll have it out, we’ll have that debate with Jerry on immigration, we’ll see how people, where people stand.

Best line – The strategists were asked at one point to name one thing they would have done that they didn’t do. “Telephone operational training,” said Glazer, a big laugh reference to Brown’s failure to hang up the phone when leaving a message with a law enforcement union, which led to the flap over someone in Brown headquarters (hello, Anne) referring to eMeg as a political “whore.”

Best fights – Field Pollster Mark Dicamillo ripped off the face of robopollster Jay Leve of SurveyUSA (in the nicest possible way), who responded with a furious defense of his methodology, a screed that included some whacks at Calbuzz. The Cage Match of the pollsters was only matched for excitement when Democratic operative Bob Mulholland and Tony Quinn got into a finger-pointing duel about the rules and political significance of the new “top two” primary system. Talk about don’t-invite-ems.

The new Whig party — A number of speakers at the conference strongly argued that the California Republican party is essentially dead. Brulte for one said there was no way Whitman could have won the race because of the structural and demographic political landscape of the state, while Sundheim said “Republicans, as a brand, are dead.” Speaker after speaker noted how the Republican hostility to Latinos and other minorities, coupled with tired messaging that has nothing for younger voters, has made them an isolated and marginal party of old white people. Most seemed to have read and adopted the Calbuzz Memo to CA GOP: Time to Do Something Different.

Speaking of Whigs — Sacramento consultant Ray McNally, proving that there’s not much new in American politics, read from an 1840 confidential memo written by Abraham Lincoln that laid out a complete organizing strategy for the “overthrow of the corrupt powers that now control our beloved country,” which included everything from polling and GOTV to voter contact and fundraising. Example: “3) It will also be their duty to report to you, at least once a month, the progress they are making, and on election days see that every Whig is brought to the polls.” You can read it here.

The two minds of the voters – Political scientist Kim Nalder from Sac State honed in on the most fundamental factor driving state politics today: the disconnect that voters feel between demanding high levels of service and their determination not to pay taxes. Lockyer underscored a Calbuzz report that voters think 48% of the money the state spends is wasted –  a high hurdle for Brown to overcome if he is to sell his cuts-and-taxes budget plan to fix the state’s $28 billion budget shortfall.

Deep thoughts: Thad Kousser of UC San Diego made some points that cut against the notion that California is forever blue (an argument that effectively lets the Armies of eMeg off the hook). A panel of political scientists agreed that “campaign effects” are marginal – but that marginal effects matter big time in close races, so the Whitman-Brown race could have been close – “Nothing was inevitable in this campaign.” And a note to future mega-spending candidates: “Campaigns can’t tell voters what to think, but they can tell them what to think about.”

Nice work — There were too many journalists from the LA Times on the program (although we were wrong to say two of the three didn’t cover the governor’s race: only one did not) and not enough from other major papers or news agencies. But the four who participated — Mark Barabak, Cathy Decker and Anthony York of the Times, and Timm Herdt of the Ventura County Star — did a fine job of moving the conversation along.

Berkeley Gov Panel Outrage; Brown’s Bitter Medicine

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

The Calbuzz State, National, International, Global and Intergalactic Desks will be attending the quadrennial governor’s race post-mortem sponsored by the august Institute of Governmental Studies at Berkeley Jan. 21-22. We’ve already noted our disappointment and disgust that no one from eMeg Whitman’s loser campaign has accepted an invitation to attend what has always been an informative conference.

Now we are incredulous that the head of the program, Ethan Rarick, chose not to invite either the chief strategist or the campaign manager for Gavin Newsom’s bid for governor to the upcoming conference. Nor has he included on the panels anyone from the San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, San Jose Mercury News or the Associated Press. Not to mention Calitics or Flash Report or any other on-line media outlet.

Rarick insists he did what IGS has always done – allowed the campaigns to pick their spokespeople. But in a Nov. 18 email to strategist Garry South – who was the key player in the Newsom campaign for governor for 15 months – he said, “After some consideration, I decided not to put you on the panel representing Newsom since you went on to run a competing campaign against Newsom, and therefore I think you cannot really represent the Newsom viewpoint.”

Which is bullshit, since Newsom dropped out of the governor’s race in October, South joined Janice Hahn’s campaign for lite gov in December, and Newsom didn’t jump into the LG’s race until mid-March. Nor does it explain why he didn’t invite Nick Clemons, the Newsom campaign’s day-to-day manager and former executive director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party who ran five successful state campaigns for Hillary Clinton in 2008.

Rarick said he spoke to Newsom “through an intermediary” who said the former SF Mayor wanted Peter Ragone, who was an unpaid communications adviser to the campaign, to represent him. We have nothing against Peter. He’s a friend. But he wasn’t in the daily nitty-gritty of the campaign and we suspect can’t really add much to the historical record – which is what the IGS post-mortem is supposed to be all about. (See Rarick, E, “California Votes.”)

Rarick also chose four journalists to moderate panels – three from the By God (“maybe they’ll subsidize us”) Los Angeles Times,  two of whom (both from the Times) didn’t actually, you know, cover the campaign, leaving out of the mix people like Carla Marinucci, Joe Garafoli, Jack Chang, Juliet Williams, Judy Lin, Ken McLaughlin, Steve Harmon and others who labored day-in and day-out to keep California informed.

When we told Rarick that some reporters who busted their asses covering the campaign were insulted that they’d been stepped over, Rarick told us, “If they’re offended or insulted I’m sorry, but I’m not terribly concerned if they feel insulted.”

Interestingly, after we got off the phone with Rarick, we got a call from our old friend Darius Anderson of Platinum Advisors of Sacramento and Chairman of the IGS National Advisory Council – the program’s chief fundraiser.

He wondered why we’d been beating up on poor Ethan on the phone. We explained why, in a perhaps intemperate voice in which the words “craven” and “boot-licking” may have been uttered.

But when we asked Darius why Rarick had said he’d been the one who decided not to invite South or why Clemons hadn’t been asked to participate, Anderson asked: “Do you think it would be smart to piss off a member of the Board of Regents?”

Ah, ha. So when Rarick wrote in his book on the 2006 post-mortem that “the conference proceedings serve as the principal historical record of California gubernatorial campaigns,” he forgot to add, “unless they piss off a Regent, in which case we redact them.”

Take that, California! Tom Meyer’s instantly iconic image of the supersized suppository Jerry Brown believes will cure what ails state finances provides a clear and unflinching look at the challenge the new/old governor faces in ramming his fiscal fix through the body politic.

The half-cuts, half taxes prescription that Dr. Silver Fox is offering is already drawing shrieks of terror, both from goofballs on the left and nitwits on the right, not to mention newly-minted solons whose goo-goo concerns about the realignment of state and local government responsibilities apparently keep them awake nights, or OCD-crazed process junkies who insist nothing in the Capitol can be done in ONLY SIX WEEKS!

Amid all the predictable grievance-peddling, umbrage-taking and bumper strip sloganeering that has greeted Brown’s presentation of the first honest budget in memory, none rankles more than the cuckoo caucus’s insistence that California voters do not deserve the right to decide for themselves whether or not to raise their own taxes.

Thus, a surly collection of Howard Jarvis fetishists, union bashers and gold standard crackpots summoned the press this week to hurl mighty oaths and cheap threats at any Republican lawmaker who might dare think about casting a procedural vote to put Brown’s plan on the ballot:

“From the perspective of taxpayers, any official who supports placing a tax increase on the ballot is expressly supporting that tax increase,” said their statement.

With all due respect to the ringleaders of this ragtag outfit, our friends Jon Fleischman and Jon Coupal, who elected you guys to anything? (Come to think of it, Fleischman was elected as the state GOP’s Chief Deputy Undercommisar for Enforcement of Non-Deviationist Thinking, but that doesn’t really go to our point).

Do you honestly believe that people aren’t smart enough to decide for themselves what’s in their best interest? Or is it just that you live in mortal fear of what they might say? Hmmm?

Press Clip:  Moments after Calbuzz finally received in the mail the handsome fake gold tie clasps commemorating our capture of Second Place in the 2010 Best Correction sweepstakes, word reached here that our chances of repeating in 2011 already are at huge risk.

Seems that self-styled media critic Howard Kurtz, who’s trying to reinvent himself as a cool new media guy after spending a couple centuries at the WashPost, has not only committed a boner for the ages, but also covered it up for six weeks, then promptly tried to pin the blame on someone else.

As first reported at Gawker, Howie the Putz last November churned out a beastly post about California Rep. Darrell Issa, the GOP’s Torquemada, and his plans to re-institute the Inquisition on Capitol Hill. The piece was based on a rather long telephone interview with Issa.

Except it wasn’t.

Turns out that during his no doubt probing interview, Howie was actually talking to, um,  Issa’s flak. A small factoid that Kurtz chose not to share with his readers for over a month, before he assured them it wasn’t his fault anyway. Exactly the kind of top-drawer ethical journalism that we’ve come to expect from this fraud.

Jason Linkins at Huffpo has the best take.

Block that Dick: Now that Obama’s enjoying a little uptick in the polls, we’re betting the White House staff redoubles their efforts to keep him off the phone for any locker room calls he’s inclined to make during this weekend’s NFL divisional round.

Obama stepped in it a few weeks back, when he rang up the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles to congratulate him for giving quarterback Michael Vick a second chance, after Vick’s imprisonment for canine serial killing, a bonehead move that earned the president the wrath of pooch lovers across the political spectrum.

Tevi Troy now provides full context for the misstep, in a lovely little piece recounting the many problems presidents have had with football through the ages:

Even back in the 1920s, when gridiron great Red Grange visited the White House, the laconic Calvin Coolidge bizarrely said “Nice to meet you, young man. I’ve always enjoyed animal acts.” But Coolidge’s comment was relatively harmless to his presidency. Other presidents have made enough mistakes on football to populate an entire blooper bowl, particularly Richard Nixon.

Nixon’s poor judgment in sending failed football plays to Washington Redskins coach George Allen prompted the columnist Art Buchwald to write “If George Allen doesn’t accept any more plays from Richard Nixon, he may go down in history as one of pro football’s greatest coaches.”

And in 1969, Nixon handed University of Texas coach Darrell Royal a plaque after his team defeated Arkansas and completed an undefeated season. The problem was that Penn State also went undefeated that season, and the national title, which was decided by the AP and UPI polls in those pre-BCS days, went to the Longhorns. Penn State fans have forever blamed Nixon for Texas finishing No. 1 that year. Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno was so bitter that, years later, he publicly wondered, “How could Nixon know so little about Watergate and so much about football?”

Calbuzz picks: Take the points and Ravens, Packers & Seahawks, give the points and take the Pats.

Team eMeg Grabs the Green, Proves They’re Yellow

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Not since Vice President Dick Cheney hid out in the “secret” bunker under the old U.S. Naval Observatory following the attacks of 9/11 have we seen an act of political cowardice as brazen as the announced refusal by Meg Whitman’s lavishly paid loser consultants to show up at the upcoming post-election debriefing sponsored by the Institute of Governmental Studies at Berkeley.

Well, maybe that’s unfair to Cheney. He had an excuse: the military and Secret Service insisted on protecting the chain of command in the face of uncertainty.

But Henry Gomez, Mike Murphy, Rob Stutzman, Jeff Randle, Mitch Zak, Jilian Hasner, Tucker Bounds and Sarah Pompei have no such excuse. Especially our friend Murph, who was paid a $1 million signing bonus (masquerading as an investment in his film company) and $60,000 a month, plus what else we’ll know when the final financial report is released.

“I don’t think we’re going to go,” Stutzman told the L.A. Times. “It’s self-indulgent, by self-important scholars and journalists. It is what it is.”

No, this is what it is: the logical extension of eMeg’s infamous statement to her housekeeper, Nicky Diaz: “You don’t know me and I don’t know you.” Chickenshit, dismissive arrogance.

Since its inception after the 1990 campaign, IGS “has brought together the state’s politicos after each gubernatorial election,” wrote Ethan Rarick in the preface to the book on the 2006 conference. “At the center of the conference are the consultants and staff members who ran the major campaigns, but the event also draws the state’s most involved and observant pollsters, political journalists and political scientists. For two days, the Berkeley campus becomes the center of the state’s political universe, a hotbed of debate and discussion about California and its voters.

“The sessions – open to the public and on the record – are videotaped, and the transcript is then edited into a readable and cohesive form. Published as a book, the conference proceedings serve as the principal historical record of California gubernatorial campaigns.”

Never before has a major campaign failed to represent itself at the conference. Moreover, the 2010 governor’s race – with eMeg’s unprecedented spending (we expect it’ll tilt the scales at $180 million, when all is said and done) – cries out to be studied, dissected, analyzed and understood.

Gov.-elect Jerry Brown’s team will be there. That will be worthwhile. But truth be told, Steve Glazer, Sterling Clifford, Anne Gust Brown, Jim Moore, Joe Trippi and Krusty the General himself, all were pretty damn accessible and transparent during the campaign. If you had a question about strategy, tactics, intentions, fundraising, polling, whatever, they held back very little.

Maybe they’ll come clean about who called Whitman a “whore” for trading pension benefits for the support of police groups. (Although we guessed it was Anne and tried unsuccessfully to get her to break the news to us.) But we don’t expect to hear a lot of insider details that will alter how we saw their campaign unfold.

Team Whitman, on the other hand, was the most self-important, impenetrable political death star we’ve ever encountered in California politics. And that includes the fact that at least one of your Calbuzzers was frozen out in 1998 by the Al Checchi campaign altogether after writing the (unchallenged) history of his (mis)management of Northwest Airlines.

“It’s amazing to me that somebody [Murphy] would do five minutes on a national television program [Meet the Press] but won’t go back and forth with the California political writers,” said Democrat Roger Salazar, who managed the independent committee California Working Families for Jerry Brown. “Not showing up at one of the most respected forums in California politics is cowardly. You’d think that $60,000 a month would buy you some guts.”

Gomez has no history in California politics. He was eMeg’s lapdog at eBay and was her No. 1 horse whisperer during the race. But Murphy, the longtime strategist who put presidential would-be Lamar Alexander in a Pendleton back in 1996, was the chief political professional in the Armies of eMeg – the only one who had private time with Whitman in the backstage green rooms at all three debates, for example.

He’s not talking about his reasons for not showing up. Which leaves Stutzman as the next most senior strategist to comment. “There’s a lot of things people are going to ask that we’re never going to disclose — and that are none of their business,” he told the S.F. Chronicle the other day.

In other words: fuck you, you fucking fucks.

The Team Whitman principals deny they have non-disclosure agreements that are keeping them from discussing the internal workings of the campaign (although their agreements could require them to deny they exist). Which suggests their refusal really is just about cowardice and arrogance.

Frankly, we don’t get it. It would be in Team Whitman’s interest to justify their decisions and defend their performance. Otherwise, the journalists, scholars and politicos will have to depend on Whitman’s opponents and neutral analysts to explain:

– Why the best they could do — with unprecedented campaign resources, a raging pro-Republican year and a retread 72-year-old opponent – was 10 points more than GOP registration.
– What were their strategic and tactical goals at various points throughout the campaign? How did they craft their messages? What data did they rely on?
– Who knew what and when about Nicky Diaz? What was their initial plan to deal with Whitman’s lack of a voting history? Why did they decide not to emphasize her family?
– How did they intend to overcome the Democratic registration advantage? What did they think Brown’s greatest weaknesses were? Why could they never sustain a message about the issues? What was the effect of the independent expenditure campaigns against Whitman during the summer?
– Who made the decision to shield Whitman from California political writers? What happened to their much-vaunted voter-targeting strategy? How much of their media experimentation was just a test run for future clients? How come they couldn’t help any other Republican candidates?

These are just a few of the questions Team eMeg won’t be answering anytime soon. But Rarick, who runs the program at IGS, is holding out hope that the Whitman campaign will be represented.

“We would be delighted if Ms. Whitman wants to attend personally. I was surprised to see Rob Stutzman quoted on the Chronicle’s blog to the effect that Ms. Whitman was not consulted on the decision to skip the conference,” he told us in an email. “I think it is incumbent upon us to make every possible effort to allow the Whitman campaign to defend itself, and thus although candidates do not normally participate directly in this conference, we have reached out this morning and invited Ms. Whitman to attend personally and participate on the panels. We’d be delighted if she would like to attend.”

As for Calbuzz, we’d still like to have dinner with Meg.