Posts Tagged ‘Mark Leibovich’

The GOP, Issa and Gadhafi’s Zenga Zenga Remix

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

The minoritarian tyrants holding hostage a deal on California’s budget seem keenly intent on squandering their best chance in a generation of exercising some actual power over state fiscal policy.

At a time when Gov. Jerry Brown is aggressively courting GOP support for his budget plan, most of the Capitol’s Republicans have decided that it’s a better play to hold their breath ‘til they turn blue than it is to extract substantive policy concessions from Brown, in exchange for a couple of votes on a process issue.

The GOP’s cuckoo caucus keeps pushing away the governor, proclaiming to the heavens their absolute, no joke, thoroughly unlimited and utterly unconditional opposition to new taxes.

Yeah, well, except…nobody’s asking them to support more taxes.

All Brown wants is backing for a procedural move to put before voters the question of whether or not to extend some temporary tax and fee hikes approved in 2009. For that, the trading window is open for the very kinds of conservative policy changes – Fix pensions! Cap spending! Ease regulations! All the surf and turf you can eat for $9.99! – that Party of Lincoln types have been wetting the bed over for years.

Once again, slowly: no one is asking any Republican to be for higher taxes.

Nothing (nada, nichts, rien) whatsoever stands in the way of GOP warriors barnstorming the state from San Ysidro to Yreka, Coachella to Pt. Concepcion, preaching hellfire and brimstone about the unspeakable, godforsaken horrors that surely will rain down on California if the Vehicle License Fee does not revert from 1.15 to 0.65 percent come July 1.

What we keep failing to understand is, given their oft-expressed certainty that they speak for “the people of California” on tax matters, why are Republicans so fearful of making their case to voters?

As a political matter, the head-in-the-sand crowd has not exactly attracted a tidal wave of support for their stance, as the clock keeps ticking towards the March 10 deadline for a deal. There’s grumbling among  responsible business types about the kiddy korps tactics of the GOP leadership, much eye-rolling by some senior party strategists and even a stray warning flag hoisted by our favorite, reliably righty pundit.

Chronicle carrot top conservative columnist Debra J. Saunders, who’s the closest thing to a right-winger permitted to cross the San Francisco city and county line, on Tuesday issued a caveat-conditioned call for her brethren and sistren to put the sucker on the ballot:

The truly conservative move is to negotiate concessions — preferably pension reform or a spending cap — because it’s time to settle the tax-versus-cuts argument once and for all…

Brown has told Californians that if they want this level of government, then they have to pay for it: “I think we have to meet the moment of truth now.”

Truth is: (a) He needs to give Republicans something in exchange for having their heads put on sticks. (b) Voters aren’t likely to vote for his tax package without real reforms. And without real reform, failure is more than an option.

But, hey, if the Reps won’t even listen to their own, we say the hell with sweet reason: As a gang of unscrupulous political polemicists, we’re thinking we’ll  drop all this rational argument stuff in favor of propounding some seriously jaundiced and dogmatic rhetorical parallels between a) the inexorable budget absolutists in Sacramento and b) the despotic kleptocrats  being serially deposed across the Arab world.

On second thought, nah. As Richard Nixon famously said,  it would be wrong, that’s for sure.

We’ll let Meyer do it instead.


Score one for Paul Revere: Much chuckling and good cheer among the hard-bitten political types  over at Third Lantern, the Democratic hack community’s guerrilla oppo research unit assembled to throw brickbats at California Representative Darrell Issa, the Grand Inquisitor of Congress.

The Ice Man just suffered a major embarrassment when he was forced to can his supposedly brilliant 27-year old press secretary for inexplicably piping e-mails from other reporters to our old friend Mark Leibovich, who’s on leave from the New York Times while researching a book on the incestuous culture of Washington.

If you’re not sure why it was a bad idea for the now-departed, Icarus-wannabe Kurt Bardella to do such a thing, just imagine the ump tipping off hitters on the dog-ass Dodgers about what pitch Timmy Lincecum was going to throw next. If that doesn’t work for you, check out everything you’d ever want to know about the story over at Politico, which started flogging this yarn about seven seconds after they apparently learned that at least one of the reporters with compromised email worked for them.

Let’s be clear about one thing, however: Leibo did absolutely nothing wrong in this matter. He’s a principled and top-rank journalist whose job entails gathering as much useful information as possible from his sources. If one of them turns out to be a major knucklehead, that would not be his problem. (Oh, and BTW, turns out Politico itself filed a Freedom of Information request in 2009 seeking correspondence between government officials in numerous federal agencies and a huge number of other news organizations. How do you spell “hypocrisy?”)

That said, here are a few, extremely sympathetic words for Bardella and Issa from Dan Newman of the aforementioned Third Lantern hit team:

“The fish rots from the head, and clearly Darrell Issa has put together a team that shares his ethically challenged approach to business and politics. BTW – did the Congressman put a box with a gun on Kurt’s desk?” Newman emailed us, with a link to a 1998 L.A. Times story:

One of Issa’s first tasks as the new boss was to remove an executive named Jack Frantz.

According to Frantz, Issa came into his office, placed a small box on the desk and opened it. Inside, he said, was a gun.

“He just showed it to me and said ‘You know what this is?’ ” Frantz said.

Issa invited Frantz to hold the gun at one point and told him he had learned about guns and explosives during his military days, Frantz said. Because he was about to be fired, Frantz said he saw it as “pure intimidation.”

The bookkeeper, Brasdovich, also recalled Issa having a gun at the company that day. “It was pretty terrifying,” she said.

Issa confirmed that he wanted to remove Frantz–who years later was convicted in a telemarketing scheme–because he failed to collect outstanding bills.

But, as for having a gun, Issa said, “Shots were never fired. If I asked Jack to leave, then I think I had every right to ask Jack to leave. . . . I don’t recall [having a gun]. I really don’t. I don’t think I ever pulled a gun on anyone in my life.”

Shots were never fired! God, we love this business.

ICYMI: We have doughboy bodies, too, so how come we can’t get hot Hollywood babes like Jimmy Kimmel?

ICYMI 2: The Gadhafi (spell it however you want)i zenga zenga hip hop remix is sweeping the world. Here’s another Zenga mix (thanks to Tony Seton).

Just In: Kennedy Whacks Davis, More on Gov Money

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

kennedycigarNasty Ringer from inside the Horseshoe: So Calbuzz is reading along Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal’s slobber job on Gov. Arnold’s COS Susan Kennedy and suddenly — KABOOM! — she smacks her former patron Gray Davis upside the head with a crowbar:

“Gray Davis would still be governor today if he had the chops [i.e. “balls”] to stand up to the unions and if the Democrats weren’t so pig-headed and owned by the special interests,” said the diminutive cigar-chomping Ms. Kennedy.

This, from a putative Democrat who owes her job to Davis, who made her his cabinet secretary, deputy chief of staff and then put her on the PUC. Kennedy is no press rookie either — having been communications chief for US Sen. Dianne Feinstein before going to work for Davis in 1999.

Kennedy also knows – as well as anyone – that while the CCPOA, CTA and AFL-CIO all had their hooks into Davis (and her), had it not been for Enron and the energy crisis, Davis never would have lost his job.

We tried to get a reaction from Davis but he wouldn’t bite. “I’m not going there,” he insisted. gray-davis“I’m a senior statesman now. I don’t get into disputes.”

An associate of his at Loeb and Loeb in LA, however, said Kennedy sent an email apology to Davis. And a friend of Kennedy’s in Sacramento said she had been trying to aim her fire at the unions (who had made life difficult for the penny-pinching Davis) and felt terrible that she shot her former boss in the face instead.

As long as we had Davis on the phone, we asked him if he wasn’t feeling just a little bit of schadenfreude watching Gov. Schwarzenegger try to handle the budget he so loudly pledged to streamline.

Again, he wouldn’t take the bait. “I don’t take any glee in seeing the difficulty Californians are facing,” Davis said. But, he noted, “It’s abundantly clear that just because you change governors you don’t change the financial condition of the state.”

megcrop1The Meg and Jerry Show: The preliminary numbers on first round fund-raising are in and, as expected, Meg Whitman is dominating the GOP Money Primary, reporting contributions of $6.5 million in the first five months of her campaign. That amount is in addition to $4 million she has donated herself.

The numbers reported by the campaign do not make it clear how much she has spent, with what appears to a much higher overhead operation than any of her rivals, nor does it say how much eMeg has in the bank.

Our Monday post on the Money Primary offered some caveats about over-interpreting Whitman’s big haul, but by any measure it’s an impressive effort by a rookie candidate, and her spin posse took full advantage, quoting campaign chairman Pete Wilson: “There is no more certain measure of enthusiasm for a candidate than heavy early campaign contributors.”

Republican foe Steve Poizner reported raising $1.2 million to date, and pointedly noted that most of his contributions were $100 or less in contrasting his strategic approach to that of Megabucks Meg, a fellow member of the uber-wealth club.

” “Our campaign has focused heavily on generating support at the grassroots level from hard-working California voters and these numbers reflect our success in earning that support,” the  insurance commissioner said in a release. “We will have the funds needed to communicate our message throughout the state, from now to the primary and beyond.”

Republican Tom Campbell, who’ll spend the campaign with his nose to the windows of the counting houses of his two party rivals, said he had raised just under $500,000, had no debts and about $300,000 cash on hand.

As we reported yesterday, General Jerry’s $7.4 million haul exceeded expectations, and dwarfed the $1.6 million raised by Gavin Newsom, who joined Poizner in talking up the number of small donors who’d given him cash.

But here’s a worry for Newsom: He has thus far raised $2.8 million and reported $1.1 million cash on hand. If our Calbuzzer math is right, that would mean he has spent $1.7 million –- or about 60% of his money raised. Yow, that burns.


Times Weighs In: On the other hand, Gavin Hood cops the cover photo of this Sunday’s New York Times magazine, featuring Mark Leibovich’s 8,300 word situationer on the California governor’s race.

Leibovich, formerly of the SJ Mercury News, is a graceful writer and a fine reporter, and his piece provides a solid one-stop fill, bristling with good quotes and anecdotes, about where the 2010 race stands, at least for that small handful of Californians who have inexplicably failed to follow Calbuzz in recent months.

At first glance, Newsom comes off as the big winner of the piece, both because of the Nixon Redux, guy-on-the-beach-in-a-suit photo that graces the cover, and because the San Francisco mayor is also the entry point into the Times story.

“Newsom sees the job of governor as a potentially exhilarating high-wire act,” Leibovich writes. “’We’re in a moment of crisis that requires order-of-magnitude change, dramatic change,’ he told me. ‘Candidly, if things were going very well, I don’t think I’d be the best person for the job.’”

But Newsom’s political vulnerabilities, from his Prince Gavin sense of entitlement to his unease in discussing the adulterous affair he had with a top aide’s wife several years ago, also clearly come through.

“There is indeed about Newsom something of that quintessential California type, the overgrown and hyperactive child,” the piece reports. “Immensely gifted but flawed, he is a jumble of self-regard, self-confidence and self-immolation – potential greatness and a potential train wreck in the same metrosexual package.”

Leibo interviewed all of the contenders, as well as Gov. Arnold, and the up-close-and-personal treatment he affords each of them is worth the price of admission.

From Jerry Brown’s recounting of receiving advice from the Big Dick (“’Richard Nixon once said to me, ‘Don’t peak too soon,’” Brown said) and the tiresome sameness of Meg Whitman’s cipher campaign (“All of her campaign events appear to be held in the exact same ballroom, whether they are in a Radisson, a Hyatt or a Doubletree”) to Steve Poizner’s bummer-dude manner (“On behalf of Californians, I apologize to the rest of the country”) and Tom Campbell’s terminally earnest hopefulness (“Campbell said that a large field of candidates will help him”), the Timesman offers telling glimpses behind the masks of the candidates.

IOU an explanation: Amid the thousands of dead trees sacrificed to reports that the state has started issuing IOUs’, the most valuable piece of journalism has been offered not by the political press corps but by Chronicle business columnist Kathleen Pender.

You can find Pender’s smart Q&A about the IOU situation here

Friday Fishwrap: Gay Marriage Wars and More

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Gay Blades Come Out Again: The cultural war over gay marriage has suddenly re-emerged nationally, setting the stage for volatile political developments in California when the Prop. 8 decision comes down between now and June.

Last Friday’s decision by the Iowa Supreme Court that found unconstitutional a state ban on same-sex marriage was followed within days by enactment of a pro-gay marriage law in Vermont and passage of another in the District of Columbia. All this could push the issue directly before Congress, as similar measures move ahead in New York and other states.

The flurry of activity triggered an all-hands-alert among religious foes of gay marriage, led by an outfit called the National Organization for Marriage, which rushed to air in California and other key states a dubious TV spot that uses paid actors to mouth lines of supposedly real people whose purported lives are about to be allegedly disrupted by “The Gathering Storm.” (And for a good spoof of the ad, try this.)

Foes of Prop. 8 meanwhile are sniffing defeat in court and planning mass demonstrations if the California Supremes uphold the initiative ban on gay marriage passed last November. The court has until June 3 to issue its ruling.

All of which complicates the lives of the candidates for governor. After months of mouthing platitudes about the green economy, as all-recession-all-the-time stories blanketed the news cycle, wannabes now face the unpleasant prospect of getting whipsawed between two highly motivated enemy camps: ardent progressive and gay activists demanding civil rights for all versus impassioned conservative evangelicals and other churched groups, fiercely intent on protecting their most sacred values from doom.

SF Mayor Gavin Newsom may be buffeted the most. In a Democratic primary in which liberal voters have an outsize influence, the marriage issue may help Newsom, whose biggest claim to fame to date is ordering S.F. bureaucrats to issue marriage licenses to gays. It also reinforces his strength with younger voters who are bemused by all the fuss their elders make about who sleeps with whom.

But just when Newsom is trying to introduce himself in Southern California as a model of innovative and effective leadership, he once again will be associated with a polarized issue that promptly reinforces his political roots in a city known for its ultra-liberal values. Much worse for him, though, is the now-famous “whether you like it or not” clip, which shows him as an arrogant young man, blithely dismissive of the 50% of Californians who disagree with him. Net effect: Negative.

Jerry Brown, who used his powers as attorney general to oppose the voter-approved Prop. 8 before the Supreme Court, thereby blunts any major gains Newsom might otherwise reap from the issue in the primary. Beyond that, anybody who’s strongly against gay marriage isn’t bloody likely to be for Jerry Brown in any case. Net: Wash.

Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman, two moderate Republicans trying to masquerade as true-believer conservatives to court right-wing GOP primary voters, will both come under new scrutiny and pressure to bow to the Christian right on this and other social issues.* The whole exercise will underscore for California Republican Assembly types that they don’t yet have a real horse in the race. Net: Negative.

As General-Governor-Mayor-Chairman-Secretary Brown told us when we asked him about the issue: “Politicians don’t like 50% issues – they’re looking for 80% issues” . . .

Big Foot Watch: You know your home state governor’s race is gonna be fun when the New York Times lets one of its best, brightest and sharpest writers journey west to gather string for a piece on the future of politics in California. That’s wussup with our old pal Mark Leibovich, formerly of the San Jose Mercury News, who’s coming to the Golden State soon. In case you aren’t familiar with Mark, he’s the guy who so deftly filleted Hardballer Chris Matthews, ex of the S.F. Examiner, in the NYT magazine that Chris himself dined out on the piece . . .

Hacks to Flacks: The list of California political journos fleeing newspapers to jump to the other side is growing. Latest is Mary Anne Ostrom, who hangs it up after 21 years at the Merc News to work as an adviser to Whitman for “policy, communications and online outreach.” She tells calbuzz that it’s “not just the dire state of newspapers. I crave a change (and) I’ve always been curious about the inner workings of a campaign.” Ostrom joins ex-S.F.Chronicle WashBuroMan Zach Coile, who jumped ship to mouthpiece for US Sen. Barbara Boxer . . .

We’re just sayin: First challenge for our old colleague Mary Anne: Do something about the insipid “Ask Meg” clips on the campaign’s slick web site, which include fluff like eMeg saying that the secret to fixing education is to “set ourselves a goal of being No. 1 again.” Or maybe do something about Meg’s vapid Tweets (“In Silicon Valley working today!”). Like make her stop, already.

* Although, as we have noted before and Bill Bradley notes in his comment, Whitman strongly opposed Prop. 8 during the campaign