Posts Tagged ‘Leon Panetta’

Fishwrap Friday: Goo-Goos Gone Wild (Not)

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Will It Be California Forward or Backward? California Forward, the good government group with name-brand backing and top-drawer credentials, will be meeting in Sacramento next week to decide whether to become irrelevant.

Okay, that’s not exactly on the agenda Wednesday. But as the Bay Area Ccafwd_logo1ouncil aggressively forges ahead toward a constitutional convention, its weak brother reform group is moving closer to beside-the-point status — despite backing from the California Endowment, the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

The bi-partisan group, headed by former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg, and Southern California Automobile Association executive Thomas McKernan, has a whole bunch of proposals for Kumbaya stuff like better representation, smarter budgeting and fiscal management.

All of which boil down to: Managing the status quo.

Unless the group resolves next week to take a clear and strong stand on something controversial – say, undoing the two-thirds vote requirement to pass a state budget — the consensus-obsessed California Forward might as well rename itself California Backward.

It’s ironic. The guy who had been heading up the group was former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, until he got called on by President Obama to go to DC to run the CIA. And the group’s roster remains impressive: after Hertzberg and McKernan, it’s got Bob Balgenorth, President of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO; Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Chief Executive Officer, Green For All; Bill Hauck, President, California Business Roundtable; Antonia Hernández, President and CEO of the California Community Foundation; Fred Keeley, Treasurer, Santa Cruz County; Stewart Kwoh, President and Executive Director, Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California; Donna Lucas, Founder, Lucas Public Affairs Group; Sunne Wright McPeak, President and Chief Executive Officer, California Emerging Technology Fund; Bruce McPherson, Former California Secretary of State; Chuck Poochigian, Former State Senator and Assemblymember; Cruz Reynoso, Former Associate Justice, California Supreme Court and the Third District Court of Appeal; Constance Rice, Co-Director, Advancement Project and Gene Voiland, Principal, Voiland Enterprises LLC.

But by dithering and doddering about whether to take clear stands on big issues, California Forward risks squandering its stature and taking a permanent back seat to the Bay Area Council on the government reform front . . .

Inmates Push for Asylum Management: Having the Legislature seize control of the University of California from the Board of Regents “is like having the management of GM take over Microsoft.”

That was the best line making the rounds Thursday, one day after Senator Leland Yee trumpeted a whacky proposal for a constitutional amendment to exchange UC’s 141-year old practice of independent governance for an exciting new future hunkered down in the Capitol muck of petty politics.

“It’s ridiculous, silly stuff,” Board of Regents Chairman Dick Blum told Calbuzz. “The people in Sacramento are going to tell us how to run the UC?”

In an interview, Blum vigorously defended the Regents’ management, contrasting the system’s balanced budget with the state’s $25 billion deficit and its AAA bond rating with the state’s, um, ZZZ rank. He also noted UC’s ability to attract top academic and administrative talent, portraying the regents’ hiring of President Mark Yudof a year ago as a milestone in improving the system’s management. Yudof is a nationally recognized leader of the accountability movement, which stresses the use of measurable results systems for universities: “You won’t find a better, proven manager of a hugely complex, public higher education institution anywhere.”

Yee and his allies have attacked the recent approval of mid-six figure salaries for campus chancellors as just the latest outrage of out-of-control executive compensation at UC. Blum said that the average income for the top executives of the system’s 10 campuses are “35-to-40 percent below market” and that the biggest problem for the $18-billion UC is that the state keeps cutting its share of the overall budget, which now amounts to less than $3 billion.

“There is such a thing as the marketplace, there is such a thing as reality,” Blum told us.

Yee’s chief of staff, Adam Keigwin, said the senator is not seeking “day to day management” of the UC system, just more “oversight” that would give the Legislature greater authority over what he described as abuses involving pay for top university officials. Which sounds kinda like a distinction without a difference . . .

The Meg and John Show: Having captured a smashing 37 percent of the vote in California last November, Arizona Senator John McCain will give Republican wannabe governor Meg Whitman some tips on running strong in the Golden State today.

Her Megness is scheduled to appear with Joe the Plumber’s best friend at a Town Hall meeting in Orange County, followed by a “private event” (i.e. fundraiser) in Fresno, according to her campaign. For media mavens desperately seeking a rare opportunity to pose a question to the elusive eMeg, she’ll have a press avail at 2:50 pm (and that’s not 2:51 p.m., either, mister!) in the Executive Room of the Piccadilly Inn. The release on the event says it’s for “Credentialed Media Only” and that part is in BOLD CAPS, so don’t even try sneaking in if you’re some kind of low-rent blogger or something…Wait a minute, credentialed by whom? . . .

Offshore Plan Sinking Fast: Look for a whole lotta pushback on Arnold’s controversial plan to raise revenue by drilling for oil offshore of Santa Barbara, when the State Lands Commission meets Monday in Santa Monica. It’s the first meeting of the group since Governor Deltoids announced the proposal, which would end run a commission vote turning down the project last January . . .

Today’s Sign the End of Civilization is Near: Four states now prohibit drivers from smiling for the photos on their licenses, according to a USA Today report. Arkansas, Indiana, Nevada and Virginia all require you to wipe that grin off your face because it messes with their high-tech, face-recognition software. Bring on the Vulcans! . . .

Spell Check: Congratulations to Kavya Shivashankar, 13, of Olathe, Kansas, who won the National Spelling Bee Thursday by correctly spelling “laodicean” which means lukewarm or indifferent in religion or politics. Pronounced “lay-ah-di-see-an,” this is NOT what makes a good Calbuzzer.

Pelosi Biographer: Why I Believe Her On the CIA and Waterboarding

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

nancypelosiBy Marc Sandalow
Calbuzz Special Report

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s much-ridiculed explanation of her CIA briefings on waterboarding is entirely plausible.

Pelosi has made a rare spectacle of herself with her account of why she never objected to torture, opening herself to attack by Republicans and ridicule by no less a revered figure on the left than Jon Stewart.

She initially denied being briefed, then explained that her briefers only talked about the possibility of waterboarding in the future, and finally acknowledged that a top aid was specifically told that Abu Zubaydah had been waterboarded.

So, basically she’s gone from “I definitely was not told” to “I was told, but they used an auxiliary verb with a slightly more passive mood,” Stewart chuckled last week.

It’s entirely reasonable to ask why the San Francisco liberal didn’t scream to the heavens the moment she heard about “enhanced interrogation techniques.’’ Which is why Republicans –- who are about 0 for 20 in their long effort to bring down Pelosi –- have made the Speaker’s involvement their No. 1 talking point.

“Nancy Pelosi stepped in it big time,” declared GOP Chairman Michael Steele, who knows a good deal about “it’’ but does not know much about intelligence briefings or Pelosi’s involvement.

This much is clear. Someone is not telling the truth. Either the Speaker of the House or someone at the CIA is lying or badly misrepresenting what transpired. Only those with the highest security clearance can know for certain what happened behind the steel-encased safe rooms under the dome where briefings take place.

Nevertheless, here are four solid reasons to believe Pelosi’s account.

1.CIA director Leon Panetta wouldn’t hang Pelosi out to dry. Pelosi and Panetta have worked closely together for three decades. They met when Pelosi was chair of the California Democratic Party and Panetta was a young congressman from Monterey. When Pelosi came to Washington in 1987, Panetta was living with Reps. George Miller, Marty Russo and Charles Schumer and along with Pelosi were part of a Tuesday night dinner clique. Panetta squeezed into Pelosi’s car for hair-raising dashes to National Airport on many Thursday afternoons as the Northern California delegation raced to make the last flight back to San Francisco. He accompanied her on dozens of flights, recalling her demand for extra gobs of hot fudge on the sundaes they served on cross country flights. Pelosi urged Panetta to run for governor in 1998, and her daughter made up “Panetta for Governor’’ hats. Panetta has new obligations as CIA director, and he made clear his professional loyalties when he issued a statement Friday saying it is not CIA policy to lie to or mislead Congress. But the statement did not say that Pelosi was lying nor did it specifically contradict her claim about the contents of the Sept. 2002 CIA briefing. If the CIA has internal documents which show Pelosi is wrong, it is hard to image Panetta wouldn’t have warned her off.

2. Her story is consistent with other Democrats. Senators Jay Rockefeller and former Senator Bob Graham of Florida each received briefings during the same time period as Pelosi, and, like her, say they were not told about waterboarding. Graham — who political junkies might remember was passed over as a possible running mate for John Kerry in 2004 in part because of his seemingly pathological habit of keeping a meticulous journal — went back and checked his records and said that three of the four dates the CIA claims to have briefed him are wrong.

3. Pelosi is a creature of protocol and her account follows protocol. Why didn’t Pelosi do something dramatic to stop waterboarding when she – by her own admission – found out about it in February 2003? Conservatives say it is because she already knew and was complicit in its practice. Some of her own supporters on the left accuse her of being spineless. For anyone who prowls the halls of Congress – which Pelosi first did as a toddler when her father represented Baltimore’s Little Italy – her response was completely in line with her role as the House Democratic leader. Pelosi says she first learned that waterboarding had taken place from her aide Mike Sheehy in February, 2003. Sheehy told her that Rep. Jane Harman, D-LA, who had taken Pelosi’s spot on the Intelligence Committee had been briefed on the use of waterboarding, and had written a letter voicing her objection to the White House. Pelosi’s response: Good. She supported Harman’s objection. It would have been illegal for Pelosi to have exposed the secret practice. It would have been poor form for Pelosi to have overruled Harman and insisted that she write the objection herself. And it would have been foolhardy to believe that either of their objections would have made a difference. Only months before, Pelosi had led 60% of the House Democrats to vote against the war in Iraq, insisting that evidence from other intelligence briefings did not support President Bush’s claim that Iraq was an imminent threat. The White House response hardly suggested a willingness to heed the warnings. The only recourse available to Pelosi was to rally a majority of the House to pass legislation banning enhanced interrogations techniques. Which is exactly what she did, a year later. Bush promptly vetoed the legislation.

4. Pelosi is not a liar. During 21 years’ reporting for the San Francisco Chronicle, I encountered elected officials whom I regarded as friendly sources who looked me in the eye and lied. Pelosi is not one of them. Pelosi can be awkward, suspicious and at times disdainful of the press. She shunned me when I wrote her biography, refusing to grant me a single interview. But I have never seen a shred of evidence of her being untruthful. She is a meticulous woman who speaks carefully, even if it doesn’t always come out in complete sentences. Longtime staffer Mike Sheehy was with Pelosi in the Sept 4, 2002 briefing in which Pelosi adamantly insists she was told waterboarding had not been used. She would not have said so without Sheehy’s concurrence. Columnist Charles Krauthaumer noted Pelosi’s uncomfortable performance and tortured syntax at a news conference last week, calling it proof that she was not telling the truth. Clearly Krauthaumer has never been to a Pelosi news conference before.

Of course the political consequences of this episode may hurt Pelosi regardless. Shouts of “what did Pelosi know and when did she know it’’ ring through Washington at a time when Democrats want to be talking about cap and trade, health care and education. Democrats would rather attention be focused on President Obama than Pelosi. The headlines look bad for the Speaker. The facts, however, do not

Marc Sandalow is the author of “Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi’s Life, Times and Rise to Power.” He is now an analyst for KCBS-radio and KPIX-TV, director of UC Merced’s Washington Program and director of journalism programs at the University of California’s Washington Center.

Friday Fishwrap: No Name Steve, Rose Garden Meg, Me Too Tom

Friday, May 1st, 2009

Desperados: At some point, almost every political campaign descends into a debate about debates: A trailing candidate publicly calls on her rival to agree to a series of, oh say, 13 or 14 debates over the weekend, because “the voters deserve to understand the important differences between us on key issues.” At which point the front-runner condescendingly demurs, saying what the voters really want is to “hear directly from both of us, without the 30-second sound bites of commercials.” It’s a traditional piece of political kabuki theatre that usually pops up in the final days or weeks of a race, when a contest is all but decided.

So it was a bit surprising Thursday to see the three Republican contenders for governor suddenly don [mixed metaphor alert: we’re very multicultural here at Calbuzz] kimonos and kumadori to begin enacting the debate over debates ritual, 404 freaking days before the primary election.

Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, performing Act I, released a letter brimming with civic sanctity that called on rivals Meg Whitman and Tom Campbell to join him in two debates about the May 19 ballot propositions: “Such debates represent the political process at its best.”

Former everything Campbell nearly broke a leg running onto the stage for Act II, in which he accepted the invitation: “California voters deserve to know where the candidates stand not just on these measures, but what they propose as a realistic solution to our budget crisis if they oppose them – especially Proposition 1A.”.

But former eBay CEO Whitman, bringing conflict and climax to Act III, dismissed Poizner’s invite with a sneer: “We smell desperation,” Whitman mouthpiece Rob Stutzman told Calbuzz. “The cheap and stupid stunts are suggesting that (Poizner) is taking his place in the polls seriously — as also-ran.”

At which point Poizner flack Kevin Spillane played for a curtain call: “So the Whitman campaign is now confirming they believe public debates on issues by gubernatorial candidates are cheap and stupid stunts,” he told us. “That also confirms their view of the California electorate. Apparently voters should just shut up and be grateful Meg Whitman is blessing us with her candidacy for Governor.”

[Can you tell Calbuzz just loves this stuff?]

As a practical matter, the Poizner-Whitman family feud is all about tactics, not substance, as the two of them agree on three of the five budget props; the big difference on the props lies between the two of them and Campbell.

The bottom line: All three of the Reps are desperate, at least mildly, in his or her own way: Poizner, to raise his public profile by aggressively setting the pace of the race, and Campbell, for any kind of attention to overcome his financial handicap against the two Richie Riches. As for Whitman, she’s starting to seem rather desperate to avoid uncontrolled public exposure entirely, not the kind of behavior you normally see in your candidates for governor.

[PS: Since posting we noticed that our colleague Jon Fleischman over at Flashreport has offered to moderate a debate on Prop 1A with Whitman and Poizner against Campbell and Schwarzenegger: nice promotional idea Jon!]

Gavin’s Potemkin Party: S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsom scored plentygavinwave of positive ink for last weekend’s big block party in Sacramento, ostensibly hosted by the California College Democrats, which featured Wyclef Jean and “honored” the Democrat wannabe governor.

But the high cost, high tech, high production value of the event seemed a tad, well, high end, for a bunch of college kids, no matter how entitled:

Scene: Interior cluttered college dorm room where an attractive couple are conversing while listening to their Ipods, texting and sipping vente non-fat caramel macchiatos:

Elliot (Shia La Beouf): Gee, Brianna, I really feel like honoring Gavin Newsom – but what the heck can we do?

Brianna (Mischa Barton): Oh…My…God! We could so put on a show!!

So Calbuzz padded off to learn who actually put the thing together. The press release trumpeting the event was unusual in that it had no contact phone numbers; when we checked the listed web site – www.blockpartyforcaliforniasfuture.com – it was a shell that was registered by TCR Studios of West Sacramento. That turned out to be one of the IT shops used by Jason Kinney of California Strategies, the premiere engulf and devour Capitol consulting firm.

Kinney, who coincidentally rounded up corporate contributions for the bash, and who happens to be a close ally of Gavin Newsom’s, directed our questions to Claremont McKenna College student Nick Warshaw, the president of CCD. Warshaw said he was in on all the decision-making, but acknowledged that Kinney or his people handled the permits, staging, sound, video, bands, security, you know, stuff like that.

Beyond the widespread media bounce, Newsom ended up with the name, address, phone number, email address, and Facebook and Twitter data from about 3,000 young Democrats and others who signed up for free tickets to the Wyclef concert.

So was it a Newsom event, with CCD as the beard, set up so everyone would think the “honored” Newsom is the darling of young people? Or was it a CCD event, organized with a big assist from Newsom allies? Or is that a distinction without a difference?

Boxer Prebellion: Calbuzz is impressed boxer1that Sen. Barbara Boxer, anticipating a challenge from former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, has nailed down three Silicon Valley mega-names as backers: Safra Catz, President and CFO of Oracle; John Chambers, Chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems; and John Doerr, partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

The trio agreed to serve as co-chairs of the new Technology Leaders for Boxer committee. Lining up Chambers, especially, reminds us of Bill Clinton’s move in 1992, when he snared John Young — Fiorina’s predecessor at HP. When Republican business leaders like Chambers support the Republican candidate, it’s dog bites man; when they back a Democrat, that’s man bites dog.

Leon Air, Newest Carrier in the West: Catch the details of how CIA Chief Leon Panetta gets charter treatment commuting from Monterey to Langley here. (more…)

Sorry Dianne: Panetta’s a Great Choice for CIA Director

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

By Phil Trounstine

(Originally posted on Huffington Post, Jan. 6, 2009)

Leon Panetta is not only an experienced, level-headed Washington hand and a decent human being, but he’s eminently qualified to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Sorry, Sen. Feinstein, that the news leaked out before you could be briefed or suggest your own candidate for the job. But having frozen Panetta out of the California governor’s race in 1998 by not deciding whether to run until he had no chance of lining up financial backing, now would be a good time to stand aside and let him rise to the occasion.

Besides, a number of CIA directors, including George H.W. Bush, were not “intelligence experts” when named to head the agency. Like them, Panetta will surround himself with professional spooks but he’ll be the civilian in charge of setting policy and operating rules.

Let’s celebrate the idea that the new director of the CIA will be someone who is unequivocally opposed to torture and who understands — as a former Chief of Staff — that the president needs to hear unfiltered, honest intelligence reports.

Let’s be glad that president-elect Barack Obama has selected someone who will not be cowed by the testosterone-poisoned atmosphere of the “intelligence community.”

And let’s savor the fact that Panetta is a man of integrity, intelligence and humility – a rare set of qualities in a CIA director.