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Dateline Moraga: Live Blogging the Senate Debate

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Play-by-play below, but here’s the bottom line: Nobody “won” the debate which means Carly Fiorina did not do what she had to do — kneecap Barbara  Boxer or force her to make a mistake.

Fiorina, a smart, articulate and attractive candidate stood toe-to-toe with a United States Senator and handled herself with skill and grace.

Boxer defended her record in the U.S. Senate and pushed issues like choice, climate change and gun control into the debate that put Fiorina on the defensive.

The single matter that emerged that likely will resonate most: Fiorina’s record of laying off 30,000 workers as CEO of Hewlett-Packard — in Boxer’s terms (not entirely accurate) of shipping those jobs to China.

Her response — sometimes you have to cut some jobs in order to save others — sounded like an eerie echo of  the famous line from the Vietnam War: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” (That’s how it’s remembered even if it’s not exactly right.) And it wasn’t just a slip of the tongue — Fiorina said it in the debate and at her press conference afterwards as well.

We wonder if this will come back to haunt Fiorina: “This is the 21st Century — any job can go anywhere.” BTW, in the debate she said: “It’s an agonizing choice (for a CEO) to lose some jobs in order to save more.”

It was a clear contrast. Fiorina is a tough conservative who would overturn Roe v Wade if she had the opportunity, is opposed to California’s AB 32 climate-change law and would extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers.

Boxer is a die-hard liberal who is known as a partisan, pushes cap and trade legislation, would end the Bush tax cuts for the rich and is more worried about easing the way for illegal immigrants than she is about securing the U.S.-Mexico border.

Untested political newcomer versus career politician. Republican stalwart versus Democratic diehard.

The most baffling thing is this: Why won’t Fiorina, who sees AB 32 as a “job killer,” come out in support of Prop. 23 — which would gut the measure? Pushed at her press conference, she made all the arguments against Prop. 23 but refused to take a stand. All she would offer is that when it comes time to vote, she will take a position.

Also, what happened to term limits that Fiorina is so hot for? Never came up.

It was a lively debate, showed the ideological contrast between the candidates and gave viewers a chance to see both candidates talk and chew gum at the same time, so to speak. Carly was more tightly wound, but crisp; Boxer was more conversational but equally sharp on her attack points.

Boxer kept saying she’s enacted a thousand measures but could not refute Fiorina’s assertion that she’s only got her name on four bills. Not much for a 18-year Senator.

(Live blog begins here.)

Calbuzz went to the extraordinary expense of dispatching the entire National Affairs Desk to St. Mary’s College in Moraga (De La Salle Christian Brothers) to cover the Barbara Boxer-Carly Fiorina U.S. Senate debate – and has been promptly relegated, with the rest of the press corps, to watch the event on a giant TV while the real deal goes down across the way in the LeFevre Theatre.

Plenty of free parking here where it’s 97 degrees outside and TV correspondents are trying not to sweat on camera during their stand-ups.

Cookies too, thanks to the terrific St. Mary’s communications staff – chocolate chip, peanut butter, double chocolate and (ugh) raisin – along with a bunch of fruit that Calbuzz hasn’t the slightest interest in touching.

We’ll be live blogging the debate as soon as it starts in about 15 minutes.

6:57 p.m. KTVU, which is co-sponsoring the debate with the Chron and KQED-FM, just showed live shot of extremely sweaty protesters outside.

“Carly, no es mi amiga” vs. “Boxer, you’re fired.”

Inside the press room, Jon Fleischman of FlashReport, just called the debate for Fiorina.

7:00 – It’s on. Big hand for Carla Marincucci’s hair in the press room.

Boxer, wearing a gray pantsuit, is on the left. Fiorina, in a teal skirt suit, is on the right.

First opening to Carly: “I have lived the American dream.” Trying to give herself blue collar roots, even though her father was a law professor who was almost appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We need some common sense and problem solving ability in Washington, D.C.” First whack at Babs:  She’s been in D.C. forever and her policies have been disastrous. Very aggressive in taking on the incumbent.

Boxer: “I’ve enacted a thousand measures,” coming right back at Fiorina charge that she’s done nothing. Whack at Carly: I’m working to stop companies from shipping jobs overseas. And, oh yeah, Carly got fired and took $100 million in severance.

Great start.

Marinucci asks first question of Fiorina:

Carly says it’s all about jobs — tax cuts — Carla asks — small business owners are struggling — death tax — Boxer voted for taxes — to create jobs we need to make sure business is free from stangling regulation and taxation.

Boxer says 16,500 teachers got pink slips, what’s important than out children — my opponent called the bill a disgrace — but she doesn’t like it because we paid for it by stopping tax breaks from companies overseas.

Question 2: Scott Shafer asks Babs whether Iraq war “was worth it.” She says she opposed the war but voted for more money for troops and veterans. Credits Obama for getting out, and supports him in Afghanistan but supports hard time line to bring troops home “by 2011″

Carly staff is walking around the press room dropping off  “Debate Fact Sheet” on everybody’s work station, challenging BB’s earlier assertions.

Carly on Iraq: Boxer’s “rhetoric doesn’t match her record.” Attacks Boxer for not voting for body armor, and also hits on her on small business legislation speaking government-speak gibberish about “TARP Jr.” and “TARP Sr.”

Question about immigrants: Carly wants to educate everyone but she’s against amnesty for people here illegally –

Boxer says she’s proud of her record on veterans — says Carly called immigration reform “a distraction” — we need comprehensive immigration reform.

Question 4 comes on tape from a guy in Oakland named Tim Tam who wants to know why Boxer doesn’t give somebody else a chance after 28 years in the Senate. Barbara sez “there’s a clear choice” and turns it to hit Carly: “We don’t need those Wall Street values.”

Fiorina says Boxer “mischaracterizes my record” on shipping jobs overseas. “Agonizing choice to lose some jobs in order to save more.”

Next question from Tom Watson, retired HP executive who bashes Fiorina with her record of “right sourcing” jobs and saying that no one has “a God given right” to a job. Great question.

Carly is now listing all the countries in the world – not to mention “Texas and Brazil” about….something…she seems to have been caught a little off guard by this.

Strong comeback on jobs by Boxer noting that Fiorina has opposed every jobs bill that’s come up since she started running.

Carly asks Boxer about famous incident when she asked General not to call her “ma’am.” She gives same answer as Calbuzz previously supported reported.

Fiorina comes back to say that Boxer is using H-P “a treasure of California” as a “political football.”

Randy Shandobil the moderator tells both of them to stop going over time, and get to the point and answer the damn questions. Yay Randy.

Shafer asks about gay marriage. Fiorina says marriage should be “between a man and a woman.” Says that because voters had such a clear decision “not appropriate” for “a single judge” to overturn. Umm, isn’t that why we have three branches of government?

So says Boxer, noting that America has a system of checks and balances. She cites Justice Ron George’s opinion opposing Prop. 8.

Fiorina gnomes just dropped off fifth fact check – almost make you think they had them ready in advance.

Boxer is asked about bipartisanship — is she too partisan — she says he works with Republicans all the time — a time line for withdrawl from Afghanistan is one example.

Carly says Barbara is long on talk and short on achievement — one of the most bitterly partisan — only has four bills with her name on them –

Carla asks about Roe v Wade — I am pro life, because of my personal experiences, her husband’s mother was told to abort him for health reasons — recognize that not everyone agrees with me — I am comfortable funding for adult stem cell research — but if embryos are produced for destruction then she’s opposed — says Boxer’s positions are extreme — has said a baby doesn’t have rights until it leaves the hospital –

Randy — Roe v Wade — she acknowledges she would overturn if she had the opportunity.

Boxer says she respects people’s — says Fiorina would criminalize women and doctors — says this is not about personal views.

Re. the “four bills” says she’s approved 1,000 Boxer provisions — you can see them online.

Shafer asks when Dems are going to stop blaming Bush and Rep congress for economic woes. Boxer says “we have” and are working on it…now she’s talking about the good old Clinton years and is blaming Bush for “the worst job creation record since Herbert Hoover.” “We didn’t get here overnight and we’re not going to solve it overnight.”

Fiorina: “Recovery summer has become the summer of despair in California.” She hits Boxer for voting for stimulus bill which she says “has failed.” Good riff on Boxer record of voting against balanced budget amendments: “Her record is crystal clear.”

Fiorina is asked if she thinks global warming is real or just a problem with the weather as she said in an ad — Carly says the ad was about military security — says we need a national and comprehensive energy bill — not answering whether she’s for Prop. 23 — we need to fund energy R&D — we cannot put bills in place that punish energy—

Randy re asks — Prop 23 — says her focus is on national policy — says she hasn’t taken a position — AB 32 is a job killer.

Boxer — if you cant take a stand on Prop 23, I don’t know what you will take a stand on — it’s a critical issue — my opponents is used to creating jobs in China, Germany, etc. – which would be the result of overturning AB 32 — “no bill I ever wrote superseded CA law.”

St. Mary’ student asks about ag policy. Zzzzz.

Fiorina now hitting BB on water – claims Babs “pressured” Feinstein to drop an amendment…

Viewer question – why do you think it’s a good idea for people on terrorist no fly list to have guns – what – are you nuts?

CF: “The no fly list isn’t particularly well managed.” We should not be taking constitutional rights away from citizens and giving them to terrorists – and that’s exactly what Barbara Boxer wants to do.”

BB: “It’s hard to know where to start.” Boxer trumpets her legislation letting pilots be armed.” Recalls watching debate where Fiorina said this and says Tom Campbell get excited “for the first time in his life.”

“Oh my goodness,” Boxer says Campbell said.

How about the assault weapons ban? Fiorina says it’s far too broad…Babs says dumping it “makes no sense at all.” Big wet kiss to Difi for sponsoring the bill.

Closing statements:

Carly: She’s been struck by the “beauty” of California. Also fear, anxiety and uncertainty. Recounts alleged anecdotal conversations with people who don’t like regulation…very sappy yarn about some lady who said she’d never voted but registered to vote for Carly and “don’t forget us.” Oy. She’s for average people who “give a lot and ask for a little.”

Barbara: “This a very clear choice.” I’m fighting for jobs and she laid off 30K people and sent jobs to China. Made in America vs. Made in China. Someone fighting for tax cuts for middle class and someone fighting for CEOs and billionaires. Clean energy vs someone supported by big oil and big coal. Pro-choice – Fiorina would “turn a woman into a criminal” for having an abortion…Offshore oil. I fought for Wall Street reform and she acts “just like a Wall Street CEO.”

Randy apologizes for not getting to more questions. No worries man, good work.

Calbuzz Snubbed in GOP Debate; Payback Looms

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

This just in: Calbuzz was not chosen to be on the panel of reporters in the Great Debate between Republican candidates for governor Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner. We’re shocked – shocked! -  outraged and distraught. Cold revenge is on the menu.

For now, the debate is scheduled for 2 pm Sunday, May 2 at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, with KQED’s John Myers as moderator and panelists Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle, Josh Richman of the Oakland Tribune, Jack Chang of the Sacramento Bee, Michael Blood of the Associated Press and Santiago Lucero of Univision. A solid enough lineup except for, well, you know . . .

Now Poizner is tweaking Whitman by arguing that she’s trying to limit exposure, and the California Accountability Project, sourcing a KTVU-TV report, is suggesting eMeg is lying about who picked the time. According to Sam Rodriguez at Comcast, the actual start time is still being discussed – by the campaigns.

Not that it’ll make much difference. Comcast is going to make the coordinates available to any TV station that wants them and they can broadcast it whenever they want to; Comcast will air it live on its Hometown Network, where it will be replayed many times; the California Channel is scheduled to air it live, as will others. Whether it’s at 2 pm or 5 pm on a Sunday makes little difference. More people will see it in the clips and the re-broadcast than will see it live no matter when it airs.

Why? Because it’s a “debate” between Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman ferheavensakes!

Which is why, for the entertainment value alone, Calbuzz is rooting for Jerry Brown’s drive – with a petition campaign started about 5 pm Sunday – to get eMeg to agree to join him and Steve in a series of three-way debates. Now that could be fun to watch.

So far, Meg’s not budging. (And why should she, really?) Even though Brown had racked up 4,500 signatures in the first 24 hours. “We’re hoping eventually to get 100 signatures for every million Meg Whitman has spent on her campaign,” said Brown flack Sterling Clifford. “We have 1,400 to go.”

Press clips – rant of the week: When we launched Calbuzz a little over a year ago, our Department of Churning It Out and Doing It Daily wrote that our role models were “Boys on the Bus” Hall of Fame partners Jules Witcover and Jack Germond (as noted at the time, we had little choice but to view ourselves as “the fat man in the middle seat,” the title of one of Germond’s campaign memoirs).

So we were delighted to find an online version of a dead-trees-and-ink column by Witcover, bringing his famed analytic powers  to the task of dissecting, um, online journalism.

Taking as his point of departure the recent announcement that the Library of Congress intends to start archiving hundreds of million of Twitter tweets, Witcover thundered against the evils of modernity, weaving into his screed the disgraceful case of CBSNews.com fronting a blog post that contained a quickly discredited assertion that Solicitor General and possible Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is a lesbian:

The tweet, which seems too often to be an unedited burp from the mouth of a diner overfed with trivia, strikes me as a poor cousin of the blog, that unlimited and too often also unedited vomiting of opinion, diatribe, rumor or just plain bigotry and hate.

The magazine Wired quoted one Matt Raymond, identified as the Library of Congress’ blogger, saying: “I’m no Ph.D., but it boggles my mind to think what we might be able to learn about ourselves and the world around us from this wealth of data.” One also can only wonder, however, what we might be able to learn from more fully expressed ideas, particularly when submitted to responsible, professional editing…

When rumor, prospective slander, libel or just plain inaccuracy gets through, the credibility of all journalism suffers.

We have no argument with our hero on that point. Despite Witcover’s lament that it was otherwise, however, the plain fact is that in the Wild West world of new media, it’s the content consumer who’s running the show, not the content provider. So the bottom line is: let the buyer beware, while the market sorts it all out.

Three reasons we love newspapers: Margot Roosevelt’s report detailing the big bucks efforts of oil giants Valero, Tesoro and Occidental Petroleum to qualify an initiative rolling back AB 32;  fellow LATimeser George Skelton’s takedown of PG&E over Proposition 16, its outrageously phony rip-off measure that would enshrine a monopoly for the utility under the guise of the “taxpayer’s right to vote act”;  the SacBee’s Kevin Yamamura’s smart takeout on eMeg Whitman’s proposal to eliminate the capital gains tax, likely to become a campaign issue.

Three reasons we love the Internets: The Oracle of Cruickshank’s trenchant, from-the-left post-game analysis of the Democratic convention over at Calitics;  Steve Malanga’s from-the-right indictment of the role of public employee unions in California’s budget mess, at the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal;  Danielle Crittendon’s ordinary folks look at what a shameful dog-and-pony wheeze Sarah Palin performs for big bucks in the hinterlands

We wish we’d said that: Better late than never kudos to Chronicler Debra Saunders for a clear-eyed look at the dust-up at San Jose’s Mt. Pleasant High School over Steve Poizner’s memoir of the year he spent teaching there.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Jamie Jungers and Bombshell McGree, together again.

Jerry, eMeg and the Goldman Sachs Connection

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Moments after Jerry Brown finished a press conference at the California Democratic Convention, where he had just challenged his Republican rivals to join him in a set of pre-primary debates, Calbuzz accosted him as he strode down the hall to his next event, trying to squeeze in one extra question.

“How about Goldman Sachs?” we asked him. “How important to the campaign is Meg Whitman’s connection?”

Brown’s eyes flashed red, smoke blew from his nostrils and fire flew off his tongue, but before he could answer, campaign manager Steve Glazer rushed up to protest: “We’re not giving not any walking interviews!”

And just like that, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor thought better of his impulse, smiled slightly and said, “If I answer that, you won’t write about the debates.”

Brown, with Glazer keeping tabs

The hallway scene at the J.W. Marriott Hotel on Saturday morning spoke volumes about two important elements of Brown’s campaign for governor:

On one level it was a tribute to the indefatigable efforts of Glazer to work the impossible: keeping the famously undisciplined Brown from flapping his gums and straying from his appointed message.

It was also testament to Brown’s obvious desire to open a line of full-throated populist attack on GOP front-runner Whitman — portraying her as a tribune of corporate excess and Wall Street greed and using her multiple links to Goldman Sachs as Exhibit A in making the case.

With the Securities and Exchange Commission formally charging the huge investment bank with fraud last Friday, Brown’s campaign has been handed a fresh opportunity, not only to disrupt the Whitman campaign narrative that her executive business experience splendidly qualifies her for governor, but also to perform political jujitsu on the exorbitant campaign spending eMeg is fronting with her personal fortune.

At a time when public resentment runs high against Wall Street banks, and the obscene taxpayer bailouts they’ve received, the SEC’s fraud case against Goldman Sachs is a clear and high-visibility symbol of the avarice and recklessness that fed the recession-triggering sub-prime mortgage/credit default swap/collateralized debt obligation scandal (for those still trying to cut through the complexities of this, Michael Lewis’s “The Big Short” is a must-read).

No less a source than the Wall Street Journal, which included a sidebar on the governor’s race (subscription required) in its page one, double-truck Monday coverage of the SEC-Goldman case, forecast “the furor…could become a sticky issue” in the California campaign.

“Over the course of this campaign, I think the voters are going to be fully aware of Meg Whitman’s financial dealings at Goldman Sachs and they’ll hold her accountable for them,” Brown spokseman Sterling Clifford, told the Journal.

The esteemed Christian Science Monitor also weighed in with a piece on how the Goldman Sachs case could “roil” the governor’s race.

“Whitman has to demonstrate how she was not one of the black hats at Goldman Sachs. In other words, she’ll have to explain herself – not an enviable position for a candidate,”  Steven Schier, a political scientist at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., told the Monitor.

Calbuzz has previously published a leading expert’s analysis of eMeg’s involvement in the stock “spinning” scandal, perhaps the most problematic aspect of her Goldman Sachs connection, while Lance Williams and Carla Marinucci have reported on others, in a fully detailed primer on the issue  published jointly by California Watch and the Chronicle.

Candidate Meg Whitman touts her experience at eBay, the online auction hous

e that made her rich, but her career and personal fortune are entwined with another company: the Goldman Sachs investment bank, a major player in public finance in the state she wants to lead.

Whitman’s relationship with the giant Wall Street firm — as investor, corporate director and recipient of both insider stock deals and campaign donations — could pose conflicts of interest if the Republican front-runner is elected governor of California, critics say.

Some Whitman boosters, led by Republican blogger Bill Whalen, have been whistling past the graveyard, arguing that because Brown’s sister, former state Treasurer Kathleen Brown, is a former Goldman Sachs executive, Jerry Brown will be loathe to gamble on going after Her Megness on the issue.

Putting aside the total false equivalency of the comparison, Calbuzz will be more than happy to take that bet.

Meanwhile, Over in Clovis: KTVU-TV got  eMeg to respond to Brown’s call for three-way debates:  “I think it’s a political stunt to avoid giving specifics. You know,  I have a very specific policy agenda that has been outlined and Jerry has not given a single specific plan on virtually any of the crises that face California.”

Whitman, of course, is right that the debate gambit was a political stunt. But a clever one that gave  the aforementioned Glazer license to reply:

“Perhaps because she has failed to vote for most of her adult life, Ms. Whitman doesn’t understand the voters need for straight talk and honest discussion in an election. Calling an unscripted debate about the serious challenges facing California a ‘political stunt’ shows total disregard for the voters.”

Furthermore, Glazer said,  “From the fake town hall she filmed for her infomercial (coming soon to a station near you) to the 48-page photo album she calls a ‘plan’ and using a business group as a front for attack ads, Meg Whitman has run a campaign wholly based on stunts.”

eMeg’s Video Feeds Put TV Stations on the Spot

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

When we saw Mike Sugarman’s piece on KPIX-TV about Meg Whitman’s new media tactic — shooting video of campaign events, uplinking to a communications satellite and making the video available to TV stations throughout the state — we thought that was a pretty clever use of her vast resources.

A video news release (VNR) is really just the electronic version of a good old-fashioned press release. And if a campaign — or an officeholder — can afford it, why not distribute video? It’s really up to the TV stations to decide whether to use spoon-fed, edited material from a candidate or official, just like newspapers have to decide whether to publish press releases.

But then eMeg’s GOP opponent Steve Poizner unleashed spokesman Jarrod Agen to charge:

Meg Whitman crossed another line in this race by spending her millions to spread her campaign propaganda in tailored sound bites to news stations. This latest action from Meg Whitman of sending ‘Video News Releases’ to media outlets across the state is not only further proof that she cannot handle an unscripted environment, but it breaches the ethics of journalism. First it was staged town halls, now Meg Whitman is trying to buy positive coverage.

Oh puh-leeze.

Democrat Jerry Brown’s complaint was no more sensible, although it was at least more succinct:  “Meg Whitman isn’t just happy buying commercial breaks, now she’s trying to buy the newscasts, too.”

Yo! Crusty! You want some cheese with that whine?

Here’s the deal: The Whitman campaign is rolling in dough. They can afford to send a videographer on the road with their candidate. They can afford to rent a satellite truck and sat time and make B roll available to TV stations at the same time they’re offering one-on-one satellite interviews with those stations. What’s the problem?

Randy Shandobil of KTVU, the best TV reporter in the Bay Area, said he expects his station will likely ignore eMeg’s video feeds, unless there’s some extraordinary reason to use the footage and then it would be labeled as having been provided by the campaign.

Our old friend Dan Rosenheim, news director at KPIX-TV, pretty much endorsed that outlook. And he agreed with Calbuzz that there’s nothing unusual about candidates using every trick in the book to get coverage.

“The burden in this case is on the news organizations,” said Rosenheim.

The problem is this: small stations around the state with few resources will be sorely tempted to put up eMeg’s video as if it were their own and that’s just unethical. But as Rosenheim notes, that’s a challenge for the news outlets — not publicity-seeking candidates.

This is not the same thing, by the way, as producing and sending out phony news stories with actors pretending to be TV reporters and anchors — as Gov. Schwarzmuscle and former President Shrub tried. This is just packaged video footage.

In the meantime, Steve and Jerry would be advised to save their complaints for when eMeg really does go over the line.

Hey, a little bit of mold never hurt anybody: At a time when MSM journalists increasingly spend their days tweeting, Facebooking, You Tubing and otherwise digitally passing virtual time, it’s good to see somebody’s still doing some old fashioned reporting.

So we’re delighted to award a Calbuzz Gold Medal for Resourceful Reporting and Dumpster Diving to Alicia Lewis and Ashli Briggs, the two CSU Stanislaus students who uncovered the secret documents outlining Sarah Palin’s sweet deal to speak on campus in June.

It’s surely coincidental, of course, that the dynamic duo who pulled this stuff literally out of the trash are both political science majors, although any campaign looking for a couple of hungry young oppo research types could clearly do a lot worse.

The pair’s disclosures about the high-end perks Palin demands in exchange for showing up and blathering for an hour or so have made national news, despite the sad fact that they’ve had to share their 15 minutes with Leland Yee, the media windbag state senator from San Francisco.

A word of caution going forward for Lewis and Briggs (whom the university is now absurdly trying to demonize): this line of work can be dangerous. In the future, be sure to heed these dumpster diving best practices guidelines from All Things Frugal.

Equipment

If you are going in the evening, you are going to need something to light up the dumpster. Some people carry a small flashlight. They attach a cord to it, and then hold it in their teeth to keep their hands free. Others wear a headlamp! You can find them at reasonable prices in the bike area of discount stores.

You need something to pull the stuff to you- some kind of pole with a hook at the end. A hoe works. You can also buy long poles that will pick up a quarter in the corner of an empty dumpster.

A stepping stool will help you reach over the top.
Bags- Trash Bags, Plastic Bags, etc., and duct tape in case your bag splits open.
Wet wipes to clean up with, and anti-bacterial lotion for afterwards.

A basic first aid kit, in case you hurt yourself.

– Never climb into a Dumpster with Medical and Hazardous Waste. Anyone can throw out a needle that could jab you. Wear protective clothing.
– Lids that suddenly slam shut when windy.
– Sharp Objects.
– Icky stuff- like dead animals.
– Make sure that there are no ordinances that make this activity illegal in your area.

Why Meg Went Negative on Poiz; Hell Freezes Over

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Inquiring minds want to know: Scoop of the week honors to KTVU-TV in Oakland, which did the first story on new, 15-second eMeg spots attacking Steve Poizner, after some anonymous hero saw them suddenly turn up in the ad rotation and heads-upped the newsroom.

Channel 2’s Frank Sommerville did a report on “Mornings on 2,” about three hours before Poizner put out a release attacking eMeg for the attack, and about five hours before Team Whitman acknowledged the ads in their own release with its link to their “Why We Can’t Trust Steve Poizner” web site.

The key question — Why is Whitman bashing Poizner when she’s sitting on a 30-point lead?

The official line on that, from Sarah Pompei, Whitman’s volcanic mouthpiece,  is that “our campaign strongly believes Californians deserve a lengthened debate between the candidates.” (We note, however, that debate just won’t be uncontrolled or in front of actual human beings like, oh say, delegates to her party’s state convention).

After talking to other analysts and Dem and Reep consultants, we’ve got some more believable theories:

1) Meg’s got a glass jaw and she’s scared. Worried that her support is soft and that Poizner could smack her upside the head, the Armies of eMeg are a bit panicky and are striking out even though nobody knows who they’re talking about. (Steve Poizner: Isn’t he somebody’s insurance agent?) “Best case — she’s proactively pre-emptive; worst case — she bounces the rubble,” said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.

2) She’s trying to drive him out of the race. Her consultants have done everything they can to cajole, bribe and threaten anyone in earshot in an effort to clear the field because eMeg does not want to run in a competitive primary. So it’s a last ditch attempt — $400,000 over four days, according to one GOP source — to convince Poizner not to run.

3) She’s hoping to kill the baby in the crib — to finish him off before he goes on the air. Who knows how much he could really spend. He’s damn near as rich as she is, so why couldn’t he spend 40 or 60 or 100 million dollars? Better to force him now to have to defend himself than to leave the path open for him to run positives for himself and negatives against her.

We think it’s a bit of all of the above. And we were, frankly, surprised to see eMeg rip into the Commish when she’s sitting on such a big fat lead. But then, we don’t think Stevie Wonder can be driven from the race, so all this negative airtime aimed at someone nobody knows seems kinda nutso to us. Unless you’re the media consultant getting 15% on the buy, of course.

We’re pretty sure the cry for a cease fire from folks like Bill Whalen, the former Pete Wilson operative now ensconced at the Hoover Institution, is pretty much a pipe dream.

“Which candidate is willing to move back to the high road and halt this destructive cycle before the Republicans produce what California Democrats want: a tarnished nominee?” Whalen asked.

Calbuzz bet: neither.

And the winner is: The prestigious Little Pulitzer for Investigative Punditry this week goes hands-down to Mark Paul, of the New America Foundation’s California Program, whose Friday piece in Calbuzz offered a moment of clarity about the state budget that should transform the way the issue is covered in the governor’s race.

Putting on a clinic of Actual Reporting, Paul not only shattered the easy demagoguery of every candidate who’s ever mouthed the phrase “waste, fraud and abuse,” but also put the lie to Meg Whitman’s bogus argument that she’ll fix everything by firing 40,000 surplus state employees.

Paul offered a healthy dose of fact-based reality to show that: a) the state is spending less this year than five years ago, despite population growth of two million people; b) the number of state employees per 1,000 Californians has declined over the last three decades; c) half of the bloated state workforce that eMeg is always caterwauling about consists of UC employees (many of whom are paid from independent sources) and guards and other workers in state prisons (many hired to keep up with demand generated by Three Strikes and other throw-away-the-key measures).

Excepting these two groups, the number of all other state employees has decreased over the last 30 years.  So: The next time Her Megness talks about cutting 40,000 workers, she can mean to do only one of three things:

1-Dump UC staff and faculty.

2-Fire many thousands of corrections officers, necessitating the early release of many thousands of felons.

3-Cut other state programs – which ones, please? – to 1970s levels.

…if you examine California state government as a business, one of the first things you are likely to notice is how few people it employs compared to others in its “industry.” Over that past decade, California has ranked between 46th and 50th among the states in the annual federal listing comparing state workforces to population; its state workforce is about 25 percent smaller than the national average.

Mark’s piece is a must-read. It’s here.

Hell Freezes Over: Mega-kudos to Ken McClaughlin of the Murky News, who scored the first in-depth interview with eMeg since she botched her way through a session with the LAT’s Michael Finnegan more than a year ago.

Three things jump out to us from the interview:

1-On the budget, Whitman has no clue what she’s talking about (see above).

2-On social issues, she’s all over the lot – equal rights for gays but no gay marriage, against illegal immigration but in favor of benefits – but she’s basically a liberal.

3-On governance, she confirmed her belief that the sign on the door of the Capitol says “Empress of California,” not “Governor of California.”

Asked by McLaughlin how she would be more successful than Arnold, who peddled much the same tired campaign wheeze as her when he first ran in 2003, eMeg said she would “get to know every senator and assembly member by name, letting them know what she ‘will and will not put up with.’”

What she “will and will not put up with?” Really?

Memo to John Perez: Put that cookie down, clean your room and then do your homework! And I mean NOW, Mister!