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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Kinsley’



Voters Turn to Web for Politics (Calbuzz Sets Pace)

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

All but overlooked in the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll is some intriguing new data that shows a dramatic shift in how people get their political news in the state: web sites and blogs have now left newspapers in the dust as primary sources of such information.

“People more and more are getting their news and information about California politics and elections on the internet,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC’s CEO and director of the survey. “Television and newspapers are not what they used to be.”

The survey asked respondents to identify where, ”you get most of your information about what’s going on in politics today.” The results show that while TV remains the top choice for 37 percent of Californians, the internet is now in second place, at 24 percent, while newspapers lag  behind in third, with only 15 percent saying it is their main source for politics.

The findings cap a decade-long cultural trend: When PPIC asked the same question in 1999, 45 percent listed TV as their leading choice, while 30 percent said newspapers and only five percent pointed to the internet.

While the influence of political coverage in newspapers has sharply declined, however, there was some good news in the poll for the industry: Among those who use the internet for politics and elections news, 47 percent said they turn to newspaper web sites, only slightly fewer (50 percent) than those who said they use other types of websites (we name no names).

As for those who still consider newspapers their leading political source, nearly three in four (73 percent) said they read the paper version of the publication, a significant drop-off since 2007, when PPIC first asked the question, and 87 percent said they preferred the paper rather than the‘net.

The PPIC research is just the latest in an ever-accumulating mountain of evidence that shows the traditional MSM business model, which consisted of publishing or broadcasting a general interest news and information product to a mass audience which is then marketed to advertisers, continues to crumble.

With the rise of the internets, the mass audience has fragmented, and consumers now have a virtually unlimited number of niche news sources where they can find more in-depth and detailed information about specialized topics (we name no names).

The good news: a vast array of choices for readers and viewers. The bad news: consumers, citizens and voters never again have to read or watch something with which they disagree.

“People can now find many sources of information they agree with, instead of seeking a broader view,” said Baldassare. “The trend certainly has pluses and minuses.”

Late Edition: At our request, PPIC ran another crosstab which found that among those who have both a cellphone and land line, 34% get their political information from TV, 26% from the internet, 16% from newspapers and 11% from radio. Among those with a land line only, 62% get information from TV, 12% from the internet and 10% from newspapers. This is a HUGE difference and suggests that the shift to the internet for information is moving right along with the shift toward cell phones and away from land lines.

When it rains it pours: Speaking of digital technology, we can only hope that Her Megness found it amusing when her spokeshuman, the volcanic Sarah Pompei, made a one-letter URL error on a Twitter message she was forwarding from chief strategist Ned Beatty Mike Murphy, and accidentally directed the entire Golden State political press corps to a You Tube video of a Korean transvestite bass player.

The story about Pompei’s mis-tweet promptly went viral, though Calbuzz is not entirely certain that it counts as good news for a campaign in the closing days that the most popular message you put out is about a Korean transvestite bass player.

No word yet on who the guy is endorsing, and apparently no truth to the rumor that before he makes up his mind he’s demanding more info on eMeg’s position on intellectual property rights.

How dare you? Belated mega-kudos to our old friend Cathy Decker, High-Ranking News Sheriff and Ace Rewrite Person for the by-God L.A. Times’ vast political team, for neatly working the word “umbrage” into a recent analysis about the low-rent controversies, including the whole “whore” kerfuffle, that pockmark California’s campaign for governor:

It was not immediately clear who uttered the comment; the Brown campaign said it was not the candidate. The candidate was not heard disabusing the speaker, in any case.

Whitman’s campaign responded in full umbrage, calling the word choice “an insult to both Meg Whitman and to the women of California.”

“This is an appalling and unforgivable smear against Meg Whitman,” her spokeswoman, Sarah Pompei, said.

And yet the same Whitman campaign last June tried to dismiss as inconsequential reports that the candidate, during her tenure as chief of EBay, had cursed at and pushed a young woman underling.

Decker’s splendid adjectival construction provides an entry point into a re-examination of “umbrage politics.” In this silly political game, a candidate or campaign takes deliberately misconstrued, overdrawn or reductionist offense — of the “I’m shocked – shocked to find that gambling is going on in here” variety — at some statement or act by a rival (see: Fiorina, Carly; entire campaign).

Or as Michael Kinsley put it, in a lovely little piece called “Do People Really Want a Stupid President” over at Politico:

This puts us in the fashionable world of “umbrage politics,” where the game is to take as much offense as possible at something someone said or did. Usually this will involve giving the controversial statement or action an interpretation, or at least an importance, your victim obviously never intended and hiding the obvious fact that — far from being “saddened” or “outraged” — you are delighted to have this stick to beat him or her with.

Obama said that “facts and science and argument [do] not seem to be winning the day” at the moment “because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared. And the country is scared.” (Columnist Michael) Gerson riffs on this: “Obama views himself as the neocortical leader —  the defender … of cognitive reasoning. His critics rely on their lizard brains — the location of reptilian ritual and aggression.” In short, he takes this single sentence from the president, deconstructs it thoroughly enough to qualify for tenure in many an English department and calls the result “some of the most arrogant words ever uttered by an American president.” Then he goes to town.

We’re shocked – shocked!- to find that umbrage politics is going on in this campaign.

Final word on whore: Better late than never, Boston Globe columnist Joanna Weiss breaks it down once and for all. Let us not speak of this matter again.

Q: Will Jerry’s Mea Culpa Hose Down Bill? A: Yes

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Update 1:15 pm: In a statement to the LA Times, Bill Clinton today endorsed Jerry Brown for governor saying he and Brown had patched up their differences from the 1992 presidential race and that Meg Whitman’s using his attack on Brown is misleading.

“I strongly support Jerry Brown for governor because I believe he was a fine mayor of Oakland, he’s been a very good attorney general, and he would be an excellent governor at a time when California needs his creativity and fiscal prudence,” Clinton said in a statement to the Times. If Clinton mentioned what he thought of Brown’s previous two terms as governor, it was not reported.

“Clinton agreed that the [Whitman] ad was misleading, and said his claim was based on an erroneous report,” the Times reported. And they quoted Clinton further saying: “Moreover, the tough campaign we fought 18 years ago is not relevant to the choice facing Californians today. Jerry and I put that behind us a long time ago.”

Clinton also endorsed Gavin Newsom for lieutenant governor “because of his strong support for Hillary in the 2008 primary season and because of his impressive record of innovation and accomplishment.”

Later on Tuesday, Brown issued the following statement:

“I am deeply honored to have been endorsed by former President Bill Clinton, who, after his accomplishment-rich presidency, continues to demonstrate his commitment to bettering our state, our nation, and our world, each and every day.”

For the record, the headline on this piece, before we saw the Times posting (congrats to Seema Meta who had it up online at 12:27 pm) read: “Will Jerry’s Mea Culpa Be Enough to Hose Down Bill?”

Our report as originally posted:

Calbuzz hears that right up to the moment on Sunday when Jerry Brown lost his marbles and his self control and went negative on Bill Clinton Krusty was really, really, really close to a deal for the  popular former president to do something very helpful for Brown’s campaign for governor.

Despite the bad blood between these two monumental egos, Clinton apparently had been persuaded – likely with assists from California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton and San Francisco Mayor and Lite Gov candidate Gavin Newsom – that defeating Meg Whitman and electing Democrats should be Clinton’s priority.

Even if it meant helping Brown, whose self-important primary challenge was a relentless thorn in Clinton’s  side during the 1992 presidential campaign; the memorable primary battle between the two resurfaced last week, when Team Whitman made Clinton the start of a new ad using an 18-year-old presidential debate clip where Bill says Jerry is a taxer and a liar — based on a CNN report which the original author now admits was wrong.

But something about Clinton seems to turn Brown into a raving lunatic and so on Sunday, in a couple of cheap, throwaway lines, he insulted Clinton as a liar and dredged up the Monica Lewinsky affair by quipping:  “I did not have taxes with this state.” How stupid is that? Anyway – That’s our job!

It’s also worth noting that the Calbuzz archive will prove that we had already warned him that everything is on the record in the 21st Century which he, in his digital dotage, seemed to have forgotten, or maybe never knew.

Recognizing that Brown had stepped in a pile of his own…making, his campaign called a quickie  press conference on Monday to try to clean up the mess. “Bill Clinton was an excellent president. It was wrong for me to joke about an incident from many years ago, and I’m sorry . . . I’ve made my share of mistakes, and my inappropriate joke about President Clinton is one of them. But from me you’ll always get the truth.”*

Whether his mea maxima culpa will be enough to assuage Clinton, we can’t predict. Better, we thought, Brown should have flown to New York, put on a blue dress, assumed the penitential position and . . . begged Clinton for forgiveness.

Brown’s people say he called Clinton and got as far as the senior staffer they’ve been talking to about Clinton’s participation in the California campaign.  Apparently, Brown doesn’t have the juice to get a call through to Clinton himself.  How sad is that? Still, Brown’s peeps say, plans for Clinton to campaign in California (for  Barbara Boxer, for Brown, for the ticket or all of the above, we don’t know) are still a go.

If Clinton does  lift a finger to help Brown it will be because he is, despite everything, a hard-nosed political pragmatist who, for a lot of reasons, doesn’t want a billionaire female Republican governor of California hovering over national politics for the next eight years. (Can you say President Hillary Clinton? Reapportionment? Meet the Press? )

And because he wants to help Boxer, a longtime ally whose daughter Nicole was married to Hillary’s brother Tony Rodham from 1994-2000. Also, Clinton would want to help Newsom, who was a prominent supporter of Hillary’s in the 2008 presidential campaign.

Meanwhile, Team Whitman — gloating over the great reviews their ad is getting –  ignores the fact that Brooks Jackson, the former CNN reporter on whom Clinton was relying when he made his charge against Brown, has since acknowledged he was wrong. Instead, they’re clinging to Jackson’s argument that his report was essentially “valid.”

“As I said then, rising taxes in Brown’s early years helped bring about a tax revolt. It came in the form of Proposition 13” Jackson wrote. But in this context, that’s misleading. Those “rising taxes” were the result of inflation in the housing market – not Brown’s tax policies. By trying now to make it look like his original report had merit, Jackson has given Whitman an excuse to perpetuate her lie.

Yes, Brown vehemently opposed Proposition 13 – as did eMeg campaign chairman Pete Wilson and most other people in public office. And once it was passed, he implemented it with relish and allowed state spending to increase, spending down a big surplus, to make up for billions in funding lost by cities, counties and schools.

Despite that, Brown’s spending as governor – adjusted for inflation and population, as economists do when comparing dollars in and out over time – were actually lower than his predecessor, Ronald Reagan. The Associated Press has a story detailing that fact.

As if any of these facts matter.

*Inquiring Jesuits want to know: Brown’s comments about Clinton on Sunday – and his effort on Monday to wave them off as a joke – got us thinking about Michael Kinsley’s famous formulation that “a ‘gaffe’ is the opposite of a lie – it’s when a politician tells the truth.”

Putting aside the Lewinsky portion of Brown’s bonehead remarks, it seems to us that the more serious part of his statement on Sunday came when he said, “I mean Clinton’s a nice guy, but who ever said he always told the truth?”  Those words call into question the former president’s fundamental honesty.

Brown never directly addressed that comment during his damage control press conference, when he apologized only for his “inappropriate joke.”

Instead, Brown simply concluded by saying, “But from me you’ll always get the truth.”

Which raises the question: Was Brown “always” telling the truth on Sunday, when he said that Clinton had problems telling the truth? Or was that just a gaffe?