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Kam Kuwata, RIP

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Kam Kuwata, one of the smartest, most effective and beloved political consultants in California, has died, friends in Los Angeles said this morning. He was 57.

In a business filled with rats, skunks and rattlesnakes, Kuwata was a gentle bear of a man. Politically, he was relentlessly determined, intense and fierce on behalf of his clients and causes, but always did his work with a civility and kindness that reflected the compassionate and humanistic perspective he brought to the business.

Among his many clients in California and Hawaii were Senators Dianne Feinstein and Daniel Akaka, and the late Senator Alan Cranston. He also worked as a consultant for Gray Davis, Jane Harman, Bob Matsui, Jim Hahn and Leo McCarthy, among others. In 2008, he served as the program director for the Obama campaign at the Democratic National Convention.

Kam was a valued and trusted source for political reporters throughout California and the nation, an extraordinarily plugged-in guy, an insightful analyst and a world-class communications operative who never insulted journalists’ intelligence with his spin.

Details of his passing are still unclear, as are plans for a service. We’ll update as we can.

Update 12:26 PDT: Mark Barabak just posted and has more reporting on the circumstances and Kam’s background.

Update: 20:11 PDT: Formal statements are coming in from all over now, from Kam’s clients, colleagues and friends. Here’s Dianne’s:

I am deeply saddened at the passing of Kam Kuwata.  California has lost a sharp political mind, and I’ve lost a loyal and dear friend of more than 20 years.

Kam managed my first Senate campaign in 1992.  We went through a lot together in those days, and no matter the circumstances, I could always rely on Kam’s great sense of humor, his good advice and his compassion for the people of California.  He was respected by people in politics and journalism, something I always thought spoke volumes about the kind of person he was.

I am shocked by Kam’s death and reminded at how short life is.  There will never be another like Kam, and I will miss him.

And here’s the statement from President Obama:

I was saddened to learn of the passing of my friend Kam Kuwata. Kam’s brilliance as a political strategist was matched by his passion for our country and the process by which we govern ourselves.

I’ll never forget the critical contribution Kam made to our efforts in 2008, planning an open, vibrant convention that really captured the spirit of our campaign. Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to Kam’s extended family of friends and to so many in California who mourn his passing.

Update 4/12, 2:45 pm: Over at the Facebook page that’s been created “Remembering Kam Kuwata” there’s a comment from Peter Sears that’s so poignant, we had to add it here:

So you walk into the bar and Kam’s face lights up and he grabs your hand solidly, yanks you to him and affectionately squeezes your arm, unabashedly making sure you know how happy he is to see you. Now you can’t stop smiling. Then, although he’s only asking you questions, he makes you feel like you’re the most interesting person he’s talked to that day even though, given the circles he travels in, there’s almost no chance that’s true. Now you’re thinking you’re warm and kind and witty and whip smart when really, it’s him. And now that he’s gone you think to yourself, “Boy, that’s how to be a human.”

Alan Cranston campaign bus, November 1986

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.

Calbuzz Rescues Inaugural from Crashing Boredom

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Calbuzz staff psychiatrist Dr. P.J. Hackenflack greatly enhanced his reputation as the Perle Mesta of California Monday night, as he tossed the toughest-ticket bash of Inaugural Week, featuring fine cuisine and libation, fine fellowship and the brightest stars in the state’s glittering political firmament.

In a political social whirl otherwise dominated by an event where the big payoff was a couple of dogs and a small bag of chips, Calbuzz party organizers agreed with each other that their gathering of First Amendment scumbags and rapacious consultants was by far the best shindig of the week.

Unfortunately for the good Doctor H., he missed his own soiree, after passing out cold beneath a banquet room table from rapidly throwing down 13 or 14  double Jamesons on the rocks several hours before his guests arrived.

Still, the 90 or so revelers who were actually conscious for the big party, held at fabulous Lucca restaurant (plenty of valet parking), did their best to overcome their disappointment at his absence, dining on smoked chicken risotto, chicken saltimbocca, pan roasted salmon and grilled bistro steak, consuming mass quantities of Ray Station Merlot, Kendall Jackson Chardonnay and Camelot Cabernet, and enjoying an evening utterly bereft of the tedious, mind-numbing speechifying that characterizes most such events in Sacramento.

Plus, they got a really cool credential — the type which the skinflint Brown operation provided to no one covering his big day.

Consistent with the post-post-partisan values and ethics of Calbuzz — which hold that folks of differing political persuasions are to view their rivals not as bitter enemies, but as nutty neighbors — Republican operatives like Adam Mendelsohn, Jim Brulte, Kevin Spillane, Marty Wilson, Beth Miller and Julie Soderlund (special kudos to Rob Stutzman and Mitch Zak for being the only ex-members of the GOP’s Legions of eMeg with the stones to show up) mixed and mingled with leading Democratic lights, including Tom Quinn, David Townsend, Joe Trippi, Donna Bojarsky, Jim Moore, Steve Glazer, Jason Kinney, Roger Salazar, Steve Maviglio, Karen Skelton  and Garry South (whose frequent harsh criticisms of Jerry Brown’s campaign for governor make him an intraparty marked man, matched Stutz and Zak’s raw courage in taking his place  at the festivities), while other hacks (widely suspected of  RINO tendencies by some in the Neanderthal Caucus) including Jack Flanigan, Bob Naylor, Donna Lucas and Don Sipple, added to a gemutlicht ambience of general hilarity.

Along with members of the Capitol press corps that Calbuzz actually knows (apologies to Sactown hacks we don’t know), world-class media types, including New York Times L.A. bureau chief Adam Ngourney, by-God L.A. Times sage George Skelton and national political correspondent Mark Barabak, A.P. political writers Juliet Williams and Judy Lin and KCRA-TV’s inimitable Kevin Riggs sprinkled the crowd, as Greg Lucas of “California’s Capitol,” Joel Fox of “Fox and Hounds” and Torey Van Oot of “Capitol Alert” ably represented the political blogosphere and blindingly insightful eggheads and policy makers like Dan Schnur, H.D. Palmer, Dave Lesher, Nancy McFadden and Peter Schrag raised the average I.Q. of the room at least a point or two.

Here stood newly sworn-in governor Brown, huddling with newly named Resources Secretary John Laird over matters of apparent great urgency.

There was new First Lady Anne Gust, explaining to an astonished inaugural witness how she was surprised to find out she was introducing her husband about two minutes before his swearing in.

Across the room,  almost Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom passionately held forth on the insider intricacies of San Francisco politics that have delayed his swearing in (see Agnos, Art and his five votes).

We even have a boozy recollection of overhearing Krusty and the Prince dividing up the world: Gavin focuses on economic development and UC and stays out of Jerry’s way as he tries to run the government. Such a deal.

Worried Democrats meanwhile kept an anxious eye on Brown, lest he keel over and make incumbent Lite Gov Abel Maldonado a full-term governor before Newsom takes the oath of office.

A good time was had by all, except for the aforementioned, utterly plastered Dr. H. There were no injuries.

9/11 Fishwrap: iCarly, Prince Gavin, Happy Goo-Goos

Friday, September 11th, 2009

carlyfistCarly of Arabia: Here at Calbuzz, our Department of Erudition’s Division of Bibliographic Resources and Recreational Imbibing maintains one of the world’s most extensive databases of news and information sources.

So it was that we happened to peruse some archival reports of AME Info, the widely-known and widely-respected provider of business information in and about the Middle East. Wherein we once again were beset by questions about what former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina knew, and when she knew it, about HP conducting business with Iran, despite a U.S. ban on trade with that, um, controversial nation.

Loyal readers will recall our kudos to Mike Zapler of the San Jose Mercury News, who recently reported on how H-P used a Middle East distributor called Redington Gulf to sell “hundreds of millions of dollars worth of printers and other products” to Iran during the leadership tenure of Fiorina, who has launched a bid to capture the Republican nomination for Barbara Boxer’s U.S. Senate seat. In his piece, a spokeswoman stated that Fiorina was “unaware of any sales to Iran during her time at the company.”

Yet smack in the middle of Hurricane Carly’s 1999-2005 stint as CEO, on Oct. 5, 2003, AME Info reported that Redington Gulf had become H-P’s first Mideast distributor to surpass $100 million in transactions through its offices in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, “Iran and Egypt.”

“The seeds of the Redington/Hewlett-Packard relationship in the Middle East were sowed six years ago for one market – Iran – and one product group,” the story says (itals ours). “Today it boasts of covering the entire region and across multiple product groups and support services.”

redingtonThe piece even includes a happy photo of five smiling fellas – identified as “the management of Redington Gulf FZE and seniors from HP” – joining hands to cut a cake in celebration of “this milestone achievement.” And some milestone it was: HP in 2003 named Redington their “Wholesaler of the Year,” according to the distributor’s web site.

But Beth Miller, speaking for Fiorina’s nascent campaign, insisted that HP was “not doing business in Iran at all” while the wannabe Senator was CEO.

“To her knowledge, during her tenure, HP never did business in Iran, and fully complied with all U.S. sanctions and laws,” Miller told Calbuzz. She also cited recent comments by Redington CEO Raj Shankar, also reported by AME Info (take that CB!), stating that his company sells HP printers and supplies to “approved Iranian customers” – who aren’t in Iran.

“Redington Gulf does not engage in any commercial activity in Iran,” Shankar said. “The company does not conduct sales, stocking or import activities inside Iran, nor does it transact payments from any customer or bank in Iran. The business model is such that Redington does not take the product physically to Iran. Redington fulfills those products (in United Arab Emirates), and it is then for the customer to take the product into Iran and engage in local commerce.”

Bottom line: When Fiorina formally enters the race later this year, we foresee rampant curiosity about HP’s 2003 “Wholesaler of the Year.”

[After-the-fact credit note: Although it was suggested to us by someone else before he used it, David Dayen over at Calitics was the first writer we know of to deploy the label  "iCarly".]

Two faces of reform: Good-government reformers will take one look at the new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California and squeal with delight about the finding that 58% of likely voters say it would be a good idea to have a split roll property tax system – in which commercial properties gets taxed at current market value, instead of  being limited in the same way as residential property, which has been the case since the passage of Proposition 13.

And the goo-goos will likely also get a thrill up their legs about the 54% who like the idea of replacing the two-thirds vote requirement with a 55-percent majority rule for the legislature to pass a state budget.

They may even get goose bumps about the 48% of voters who’d support replacing the two-thirds vote requirement with a 55-percent majority standard to pass local special taxes.

But before falling into a total swoon, these good folks should duly note that the same statewide survey found: 58% of likely voters say Proposition 13 is still a good thing; 64% still favor term limits; 65% would limit annual state spending increases; and 55% say laws passed by initiative are probably better than those passed by the legislature and governor.

In other words, California voters like the idea of major changes, but when it comes to actually making changes – don’t bet the house.

gavindash

Two faces of Gavin: SF Mayor Gavin Newsom was sharp as a tack in an interview about his campaign for governor on KCRA’s “Which Way LA” Thursday.

With host Warren Olney flinging tough questions, Prince Gavin showed he can handle serious subjects in crisp sound bites – laying out the key constitutional revisions he’d like to see, his top priorities as governor, where he’d look for new revenue (tobacco tax, oil severance tax and vehicle license fees) and why he believes he was right to lead the way in standing up for gay marriage.

It’s clear that by routinely taking questions from the public and reporters  (as opposed to, oh say, Meg Whitman, just to pick a name out of the air) Newsom has honed his campaign skills. As Calbuzz told Olney on his post-interview segment, Newsom’s political problem is not one  of presentation; rather, he needs to convince enough donors that he’s a smart investment to put together the resources to run a serious campaign. And that’s a tough sell because Attorney General Jerry Brown – who’s about 20 points ahead of Newsom in serious polling — is especially popular with older voters. And about 68% of the June 2010 primary electorate is expected to be 50 and older.

But we gotta say – he gives good interview.

gavinpensiveOn the other hand: SF Weekly presents a decidedly unflattering portrait of Newsom in the Calbuzz Must-Read of the Week. Pulling more than its share of the local media’s load of responsibility for enlightening the rest of us about Prince Gavin, the paper published a terrific 4,622-word profile by Ashley Harrell, who interviewed boatloads of former advisers, consultants and supporters:

“Seek out the political operatives who once worked closely with Newsom, and you’ll find that a number have soured on the mayor. Ask them why, and you’ll be bombarded with his alleged character flaws. Among them: ‘thin-skinned,’ ‘disloyal,’ ‘friendless,’ ‘joyless,’ ‘Machiavellian,’ ‘craven,’ and ‘empty.’ One will tell you that Eric Jaye was ‘the best-paid babysitter in California.’ Several will diagnose Newsom with an acute case of narcissism.

“‘He’s probably the worst mayor in modern history,’ said Jack Davis, a strategist who has worked on the mayoral campaigns of Newsom, Willie Brown, and Frank Jordan. ‘I pity this poor state if lightning should strike and this cad becomes governor amidst the problems that the state has. He’d have a nervous breakdown. There’s no there there.’”

Must read II: The indefatigable Mark Z. Barabak offered up a considerably brisker profile of Newsom that, in a series of deft strokes, also cut to the core of what bothers lots of folks in San Francisco about their mayor – and explains why Brown runs ahead of Prince Gavin in SF.

“Still, to a striking degree, some of Newsom’s biggest backers — in civic groups and policy circles, among political activists and campaign donors — have in the last few years become some of the mayor’s sharpest critics. In a series of interviews, they expressed disappointment and accused Newsom, in words oft-repeated, of focusing more on self-aggrandizement and personal publicity than solving the city’s problems.

‘Once he’s said it and it’s printed in the newspapers, it’s done in his mind,’ said Jim Ross, a political consultant who ran Newsom’s 2003 campaign for mayor. ‘Then it’s on to the next big announcement.’”

This just in – U.S. land mass growing exponentially: A headline on the Huffpost home page last week read thusly: “Hundreds of states shut down to save money.”