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Posts Tagged ‘Sterling Clifford’



Team eMeg Grabs the Green, Proves They’re Yellow

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Not since Vice President Dick Cheney hid out in the “secret” bunker under the old U.S. Naval Observatory following the attacks of 9/11 have we seen an act of political cowardice as brazen as the announced refusal by Meg Whitman’s lavishly paid loser consultants to show up at the upcoming post-election debriefing sponsored by the Institute of Governmental Studies at Berkeley.

Well, maybe that’s unfair to Cheney. He had an excuse: the military and Secret Service insisted on protecting the chain of command in the face of uncertainty.

But Henry Gomez, Mike Murphy, Rob Stutzman, Jeff Randle, Mitch Zak, Jilian Hasner, Tucker Bounds and Sarah Pompei have no such excuse. Especially our friend Murph, who was paid a $1 million signing bonus (masquerading as an investment in his film company) and $60,000 a month, plus what else we’ll know when the final financial report is released.

“I don’t think we’re going to go,” Stutzman told the L.A. Times. “It’s self-indulgent, by self-important scholars and journalists. It is what it is.”

No, this is what it is: the logical extension of eMeg’s infamous statement to her housekeeper, Nicky Diaz: “You don’t know me and I don’t know you.” Chickenshit, dismissive arrogance.

Since its inception after the 1990 campaign, IGS “has brought together the state’s politicos after each gubernatorial election,” wrote Ethan Rarick in the preface to the book on the 2006 conference. “At the center of the conference are the consultants and staff members who ran the major campaigns, but the event also draws the state’s most involved and observant pollsters, political journalists and political scientists. For two days, the Berkeley campus becomes the center of the state’s political universe, a hotbed of debate and discussion about California and its voters.

“The sessions – open to the public and on the record – are videotaped, and the transcript is then edited into a readable and cohesive form. Published as a book, the conference proceedings serve as the principal historical record of California gubernatorial campaigns.”

Never before has a major campaign failed to represent itself at the conference. Moreover, the 2010 governor’s race – with eMeg’s unprecedented spending (we expect it’ll tilt the scales at $180 million, when all is said and done) – cries out to be studied, dissected, analyzed and understood.

Gov.-elect Jerry Brown’s team will be there. That will be worthwhile. But truth be told, Steve Glazer, Sterling Clifford, Anne Gust Brown, Jim Moore, Joe Trippi and Krusty the General himself, all were pretty damn accessible and transparent during the campaign. If you had a question about strategy, tactics, intentions, fundraising, polling, whatever, they held back very little.

Maybe they’ll come clean about who called Whitman a “whore” for trading pension benefits for the support of police groups. (Although we guessed it was Anne and tried unsuccessfully to get her to break the news to us.) But we don’t expect to hear a lot of insider details that will alter how we saw their campaign unfold.

Team Whitman, on the other hand, was the most self-important, impenetrable political death star we’ve ever encountered in California politics. And that includes the fact that at least one of your Calbuzzers was frozen out in 1998 by the Al Checchi campaign altogether after writing the (unchallenged) history of his (mis)management of Northwest Airlines.

“It’s amazing to me that somebody [Murphy] would do five minutes on a national television program [Meet the Press] but won’t go back and forth with the California political writers,” said Democrat Roger Salazar, who managed the independent committee California Working Families for Jerry Brown. “Not showing up at one of the most respected forums in California politics is cowardly. You’d think that $60,000 a month would buy you some guts.”

Gomez has no history in California politics. He was eMeg’s lapdog at eBay and was her No. 1 horse whisperer during the race. But Murphy, the longtime strategist who put presidential would-be Lamar Alexander in a Pendleton back in 1996, was the chief political professional in the Armies of eMeg – the only one who had private time with Whitman in the backstage green rooms at all three debates, for example.

He’s not talking about his reasons for not showing up. Which leaves Stutzman as the next most senior strategist to comment. “There’s a lot of things people are going to ask that we’re never going to disclose — and that are none of their business,” he told the S.F. Chronicle the other day.

In other words: fuck you, you fucking fucks.

The Team Whitman principals deny they have non-disclosure agreements that are keeping them from discussing the internal workings of the campaign (although their agreements could require them to deny they exist). Which suggests their refusal really is just about cowardice and arrogance.

Frankly, we don’t get it. It would be in Team Whitman’s interest to justify their decisions and defend their performance. Otherwise, the journalists, scholars and politicos will have to depend on Whitman’s opponents and neutral analysts to explain:

– Why the best they could do — with unprecedented campaign resources, a raging pro-Republican year and a retread 72-year-old opponent – was 10 points more than GOP registration.
– What were their strategic and tactical goals at various points throughout the campaign? How did they craft their messages? What data did they rely on?
– Who knew what and when about Nicky Diaz? What was their initial plan to deal with Whitman’s lack of a voting history? Why did they decide not to emphasize her family?
– How did they intend to overcome the Democratic registration advantage? What did they think Brown’s greatest weaknesses were? Why could they never sustain a message about the issues? What was the effect of the independent expenditure campaigns against Whitman during the summer?
– Who made the decision to shield Whitman from California political writers? What happened to their much-vaunted voter-targeting strategy? How much of their media experimentation was just a test run for future clients? How come they couldn’t help any other Republican candidates?

These are just a few of the questions Team eMeg won’t be answering anytime soon. But Rarick, who runs the program at IGS, is holding out hope that the Whitman campaign will be represented.

“We would be delighted if Ms. Whitman wants to attend personally. I was surprised to see Rob Stutzman quoted on the Chronicle’s blog to the effect that Ms. Whitman was not consulted on the decision to skip the conference,” he told us in an email. “I think it is incumbent upon us to make every possible effort to allow the Whitman campaign to defend itself, and thus although candidates do not normally participate directly in this conference, we have reached out this morning and invited Ms. Whitman to attend personally and participate on the panels. We’d be delighted if she would like to attend.”

As for Calbuzz, we’d still like to have dinner with Meg.

What Brown Should Have Said About Whoregate

Friday, October 15th, 2010

The spectacle of serial, circles-within-circles statements emitting from various leaders of the National Organization for Women about the use of the word “whore” within Jerry Brown’s inner sanctum illustrates the ability of Krusty’s campaign to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Against all odds, Brown has somehow managed to keep a one-day story up and running for eight days (and counting!), effectively rescuing Republican rival Meg Whitman from the travail of her own self-inflicted error.

In his most selfless act, Jerry helpfully supplanted press interest in eMeg’s problems with her undocumented housekeeper by stumbling through a defensive answer to a Tom Brokaw question in Tuesday night’s big debate about the, uh, salty language used behind closed doors at Camp Krusty.

His politically awful response completed the transformation of Whoregate from small-bore kerfuffle into Topic A about the biggest event of the campaign, as almost every MSM lede included a mention of whoredom, and  a surly Brown faced further questions about it at a post-debate press conference which spokeshuman Sterling Clifford wisely and quickly truncated once he noted the no-good-can-come-of-this direction in which it was heading.

With a major assist from an aggressive Team eMeg, which kept blowing and blowing on the smoldering little story until it finally got lit, and aided by the lackadaisical nonchalance of his own handlers, Brown lost his firm grip on the narrative and momentum of the campaign in the 10 days between the Oct. 2 Fresno debate – when he dominated eMeg with a righteous scolding of her dealings with Nicky Diaz – and the Brokaw event.

In the end, the bizarre whore story may still not matter much to the outcome of the race. However, it is is inarguable that Brown’s mishandling of it not only allowed Whitman to instantly change the subject, but also enabled on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-minded members of the press corps to begin drawing a false equivalence between a person in his orbit blurting a rude word in a closed door campaign klatsch, and the more serious matter of Whitman’s employment of an undocumented worker for years.

It didn’t have to be that way.

No Can Say: "Jane, you ignorant slut."

Going into the last debate, Brown obviously should have been well prepared for a hostile question to be raised about the flap; quite obviously, he was not. Half an hour before the event started, in fact, one of his strategists was still expressing certainty that the word “whore” would not pass Brokaw’s lips.

When it did, Brown instantly started sputtering on all cylinders, beginning with his rejection of the premise of Brokaw’s question – that “whore” is equivalent to the “N word.”

I don’t agree with that comparison…This is a five-week old private conversation picked up on a cell phone with a garbled transmission, very hard to detect who it is. I don’t want to get into the term and how it’s used. But I’ll say the campaign promptly apologized and I reaffirm that apology tonight.

Even after eMeg cuffed his ears a little, Brown amazingly kept the issue going even longer, seizing on a widely-referenced (but seldom-credited by the MSM) Calbuzz report about Whitman campaign chair Pete Wilson’s enthusiastic use of “whores” in the past.

While we appreciated the notice, it just seemed a little…excessive…on Krusty’s part.  What Brown should have said, and what he should have been well prepared to say, was something like this:

Sometimes in the heat of a campaign, partisans get excited and say things they shouldn’t, which is what occurred in this case.

I’ve already apologized for the use of that word but (turning to eMeg) Ms. Whitman, I want to personally apologize to you tonight.

[PIVOT] I do think, however, that the voters are more interested in what each of our policy ideas mean to the real lives of real women than in this matter, so in that regard, I’m proud to have the support of the National Organization for Women, which has endorsed me because of my record of substantive accomplishment on issues of importance to women.

Laundry list of world changing political feats to follow.

Instead of slamming the door on the story when he had the chance, however, Brown just kept making it bigger, opening up at least three new avenues of press inquiry: 1) the perilous political question of the equivalence of racial and gender slurs* (the ground on which NOW’s internal conflict is playing out in public); 2) the comparative importance of the Brown camp’s use of the word measured against that of other politicians (to be sure, it was entertaining to see conservative types, who would have been caterwauling about “political correctness”  if the offender was a Republican, going all smelling salts and fainting couch about Brown);  3) the legal question of whether the cop union that handed the L.A. Times a copy of Brown’s moronic call represented a case of illegal taping (an issue he would be much better off avoiding altogether).

*(As we argued earlier, we don’t think the “N word” and “whore” are really equivalent, if only because Brokaw felt free to say the latter but obligated to obliquely reference the former. In terms of gender, we think the  “C  word” is much closer to the “N word” as a form of hate speech than is “whore”).

When the cat’s away: In any case, Brown seemed utterly untroubled by the “W” flap when he let his hair down kicked back at a post-debate get together with aides and a half dozen reporters at Trevor’s Pub in San Rafael (speaking of equivalences, it’s really hard to imagine eMeg dropping the mask and rubbing elbows with a bunch of  wretched ink stained types under similar, or any, circumstances).

Always so tight he squeaks frugal, Brown stole a few sips from the glass of Chardonnay wife Anne Gust had ordered, in lieu of getting an actual drink of his own, while recounting domestic tension between the two of them over the proper strategy for dealing with a cheeky and intrepid mouse which has taken up residence in their home in the Oakland Hills.

Seems she wants to do away with the creature with traditional rodent eradication measures, while he’d prefer to catch the little creature alive and set it free…somewhere else. We can see the eMeg ad now, as a basso profundo  announcer intones: “Jerry Brown: he’s even against the death penalty for vermin.”

Calbuzz, always at one with the natural universe, recommended getting a cat.

Character Question: Meg, Nicky & the Smoking Letter

Friday, October 1st, 2010

After 19 months of mass market campaigning inside the most luxurious  cocoon money could buy, Meg Whitman on Thursday suddenly found herself in the political free-fire zone.

For a second straight day, Whitman flailed away in unfamiliar territory, far from her comfort zone of  message discipline and robotic recitations of talking points, as she and her army of high-priced purse-carriers desperately sought to spin and control a campaign crisis that kept spiraling out of control.

The meltdown was fueled by the undeniable facts that for nine years the privileged Republican candidate for governor employed an illegal alien as a housekeeper, and that this undocumented worker now was accusing her of having “treated me like garbage.”

“This has nothing to do with my character,” Whitman insisted to reporters at one point during a truly bizarre day in the campaign.

In fact, the white-hot controversy has everything to do with character, providing, for one of the few times in the race, a public test of her credibility, performance under pressure and ability to take responsibility and hold herself accountable for her own actions and decisions.

Alas, it is not a test she is passing with flying colors.

Calbuzz has noted several times before (here and here, for example) that Whitman has only a casual regard for the actual facts, relying instead on the Power of Money to shape the “truth” to fit her needs.

But here was a case of the billionaire prevaricator being exposed by a lowly Latina housekeeper who says she was told, after nine years of cleaning toilets: “You never have seen me and I have never seen you.”

A brief recap: In an extraordinary day in California politics, Whitman’s campaign convened a morning press conference in Santa Monica, to try to soothe a state press corps in full bay, and to put to rest the heated dispute over the candidate’s long-term employment relationship with Nicky Diaz, her 31-year old former housekeeper.

For nearly an hour, Whitman answered questions by insisting she had done “absolutely” nothing wrong.

Constantly flashing a broad grin that seemed in its affect strangely out-of-sync with her words, she variously blamed, with the scantest of circumstantial evidence, Diaz and her attorney, Gloria Allred, public employee unions and Jerry Brown, the Democratic nominee for governor, for concocting a mysterious  conspiracy to “smear” her and to derail her campaign.

In her remarks to reporters, Whitman also stated categorically that she and her husband, Dr. Griffith Harsh, had never received or seen a purported 2003 “no-match” letter from the government that raised questions about Diaz’s Social Security number, a document which might have alerted them to the fact that their Mexican-born employee was not legally in the U.S. (She even offered, in response to a silly question, to take a lie detector test — a pledge she later conditioned on Jerry Brown taking one too. Right.)

Diaz had said, at a tearful press conference one day earlier, that Whitman’s husband had given her this letter with instructions to “deal with this.” But the candidate on Thursday expressed absolute certainty that she and her neurosurgeon husband knew nothing about any such document – “they may have sent something, but we never saw it” – and charged that Diaz might have stolen the letter from the mailbox and was now being “manipulated” to participate in the “politics of personal destruction” by the Allred-Brown-Jimmy Hoffa Cabal.

“All the allegations are completely untrue’’ she said. “The Brown campaign and Gloria Allred are doing a massive smear campaign on me and my family.”

Less than an hour later, however, the famously obnoxious celeb lawyer Allred aggressively smacked down Whitman with what she called “the smoking letter,” an official government missive raising questions about Diaz’s Social Security documentation. It was sent by the SSA, dated April 2003, and addressed to eMeg and her husband; for good measure, it also had a handwritten note on the bottom, in what Diaz said was Dr. Harsh’s handwriting, instructing her to “check on this.” Said Allred:

Meg Whitman is exposed as a liar and a hypocrite. She should now apologize to the press, the public and Nicky…Meg Whitman should be ashamed and embarrassed.

Soon after, the strange day took another strange turn, when Whitman strategists again summoned reporters, this time onto a conference call in which they tried to explain away Allred’s evidence.

eMeg handler Rob Stutzman, who would neither confirm nor deny the handwriting was Dr. Harsh’s said:

What we have here is a letter that is seven years old. If this letter is authentic, Dr. Harsh very reasonably does not recall ever seeing it. And also, has the very reasonable and likely conclusion that if the letter is authentic, his frame of mind was completely focused on making sure that Nicky appropriately was going to receive her Social Security credit and therefore her benefit some day. Which makes sense, if that was the case, that he would leave a note, making sure she saw it and at some point would return it.

Well, that makes everything perfectly clear.

Pathetic lies: Far from putting the matter to rest, the shaky, if not panicked, daylong performance by the candidate and Team Whitman  further undercut eMeg’s credibility, as she made a series of formless and unsubstantiated accusations in an effort to deflect attention from her own actions:

Nicky stole the mail. On Wednesday, the Chron’s Joe Garofoli asked eMeg this question:

Did you ever receive any notification from the Social Security Administration or any other government agency that the number this housekeeper had provided did not match the name or that there was any other discrepancy with the papers that had been filed?

Whitman answered flatly: “No.”

At Thursday’s press conference, she shifted gears, now admitting the possible existence of such a letter, but suggesting that if was sent, Diaz probably stole it from the mail.

She may have intercepted the letter, it’s very possible, I have no other explanation…Nicky did bring in the mail and sort the mail. If she got a letter two weeks before alerting her to a problem and saying we’re going to alert your employer she might have been on the lookout for that letter….. It pains me to say that because, gosh, that’s not the Nicky I knew.

Gosh, it sure isn’t.

(BTW, Griff stood by Meg’s side when she was denying ever having received a letter from the Social Security Administration and did not say, “Oh wait, honey, I forgot to tell you. Nicky didn’t swipe that letter, I read it, filled it out part way and wrote her a little note on it.”)

Despite Whitman’s defamatory comments about Diaz, whose version of events was confirmed by the document produced by Allred, Stutzman gruffly insisted there will be no apology from eMeg for having slimed her former employee.

No… Nicky has willingly allowed herself to be used…It’s unfortunate…But make no mistake: Nicky is participating in something that is 100% political and it is 100% designed to harm Meg’s ability to succeed in this campaign .

Nicky Diaz, POW: Whitman said repeatedly that Diaz “doesn’t know what she’s gotten herself into,” and is being “manipulated” by Allred, who’s allegedly feeding her false things to say. (Does Whitman really think her former housekeeper, part of her “extended family,”  is that stupid and porous?)

At one point during her press conference, Meg rather astonishingly said: “I think Nicky had a gun to her head.”

No word yet on what kind of gun or who’s holding it.

Meanwhile, here’s an alternative explanation: Diaz felt like she got royally screwed by Meg Whitman and the good doctor and figured she had some wages and expenses coming to her. (She was, after all, paid at a rate of $17,940 a year compared to the $20,770 per month that eMeg pays campaign consultant Mike Murphy.) So maybe she just decided to get herself a bad-ass lawyer to help her get what she thinks she’s owed.

Of all the nerve.

It’s all Jerry Brown’s fault:   “I absolutely believe this is linked to the Brown campaign, 100%,” Meg said at her press conference. Not 98%, mind you, One Hundred Percent.

Former state Democratic party chairman Bill Press recapped her argument on MSNBC last night this way (we’re paraphrasing here):

Meg Whitman employed an illegal immigrant for nine years.
When she found out, she fired her.
And whose fault is this? Jerry Brown’s.

We didn’t hire an undocumented immigrant to work in our house,” chimed in Brown flack Sterling Clifford, who figures prominently in the Whitman camp’s evidence for their magic bullet theory.

Part of the proof  of the evil plot that Team Whitman pointed to was a Spanish-language TV ad titled “Nueve Años,” whipped up and released Thursday as part of a $5 million campaign by the Service Employees International Union. The ad says, in part: “Whitman attacks undocumented workers to win votes, but an undocumented woman worked in her home for nine years . . .   Whitman says one thing in Spanish, something different in English.  The real Meg Whitman has no shame. She’s (tiene dos caras) a two-faced woman.”

Meg’s people also fingered a Wednesday night report on KTVU-TV, in which political reporter Randy Shandobil recounted a conversation he had with Clifford a couple of weeks ago, during which the spokesman told Randy that he’d heard Whitman had a “housekeeper problem” (his words, not Clifford’s). Shandobil acknowledged that Clifford was “just passing along rumors.”

We’re shocked – shocked! – that a campaign operative was actually gossiping with a political reporter.

Psst, here’s more breaking news: Calbuzz hereby admits that we sometimes talk off the record with campaign hacks and that they sometimes tell us about rumors they’ve heard that they think we should check out.

Truth be told, Calbuzz has actually done this with operatives from the Whitman campaign! We name no names. (And, unlike some, burn no sources.)

BTW, Calbuzz asked Stutzman on the conference call, even if Jerry Brown was behind exposing eMeg’s employment of an illegal housekeeper, what difference would that make?

“What difference it makes is that this entire stunt, in the way it’s been drawn out particularly over the last couple of days, is completely designed to influence a political race,” Stutzman replied.

Asked Calbuzz: “What’s wrong with that? This is a political race.”

We didn’t get a real answer before we were cut off.

Documents, what documents? Whitman points to the driver’s license and Social Security card that Diaz presented when she first went to work for her and her husband back in 2000 as evidence that they had assurances Nicki was legal, even though they were being taken in by her.

To prove the point, they released a copy of an I-9 immigration service form that Diaz had signed swearing that she was legally in the country and authorized to work. The same form contains a line for the employer to sign, swearing that she has checked out the employee’s documents and believes everything is on the up and up.

However, neither Meg nor Dr. Harsh signed Diaz’s I-9 attesting to this.

When Whitman was questioned about her failure to sign on Thursday, she said: “I don’t know whether we signed it or not.”

Memo to Meg: you’re the one who put out the document, girlfriend, go have yourself a read.

We always play by the rules: In describing her views on hiring household help, Whitman told reporters that she always insisted that they be legal.

A few minutes later, however, Whitman admitted that when Diaz went on maternity leave for three months, she was replaced by one of the housekeeper’s friends, adding that she didn’t know whether or not the second woman was legal and could not recall whether or not she made an effort to find out.

Claiming she would only hire “someone who was 100% legal,” Meg assured reporters that, “Griff and I play by the rules.”

Except when we don’t.

AP Was Dead Wrong on Death Penalty; New Polls

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

We’re glad the Associated Press rewrote completely Paul Elias’s original story on Jerry Brown and the death penalty that they released on Tuesday because the first version was (how can we say this gently?) just plain bullshit.

Brown has not, as the AP originally wrote, had “a change of heart” on capital punishment. He’s still personally opposed to the death penalty; and, as Attorney General in a state that has the death penalty, he and his office are still seeking to enforce it.

The alleged news hook for the original, bum story was that Brown’s “name is now affixed at the top of new lethal injection procedures that California officials want to use to execute six inmates in the coming months at the San Quentin State Prison death chamber.”

Only problem: this is nothing new. Brown’s AG’s office has been arguing for several years to uphold California’s death penalty, which was put on hold in 2006 by U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel of San Jose, until the state could demonstrate that lethal injection procedures did not cause condemned prisoners to suffer cruel and unusual punishment.

“My office has been arguing these cases all along,” Brown said Monday. “We’re in the forefront on this.” Brown’s office contends that new procedures now in place will ensure that lethal injection will not be cruel and unusual punishment.

But that didn’t stop the AP from putting out a story that said: “Attorney General Jerry Brown and his lawyers are demanding that executions resume in California as soon as next week in a push that marks a significant change of heart for the former outspoken death penalty opponent.”

Which would be explosive stuff, considering the long political history of Brown and his father, the late Governor Pat Brown, on the volatile issue. Except…it’s not.

However, the original, heavy breathing AP yarn did give Meg Whitman who (like Elias, at least in this case)  doesn’t let the facts stand in the way of a good story, an opening to let loose one of her campaign’s typical clumsily written,  overbearing and over-reaching rants.

“Even on matters of life and death, Jerry Brown is willing to play politics. Brown’s newfound support for the death penalty after three decades of opposing it is as preposterous as his newfound appreciation for fiscal conservatism. None of this squares with Jerry Brown’s record and must have his supporters scratching their heads.”

To which, Brown’s flack, Sterling Clifford, replied: that she was the only one scratching her head:

“For Meg Whitman, who is on record at the Sacramento Bee editorial board discussing the death penalty as a cost-saving measure, to accuse someone else of playing politics with the death penalty is not something she should be doing.”

Brown’s office is seeking to use new guidelines for lethal injection to carry out the sentence on Albert Greenwood Brown next Wednesday. Albert Brown was convicted in 1980 of abducting, raping and murdering a 15-year-old Riverside County girl on her way to school.

What’s new about Brown’s position? Nothing.

“The Attorney General’s office is doing its job. The Attorney General is doing his job, which is to uphold the laws of the state of California,” said Clifford. “He’s personally opposed to it but will enforce the law.”

In other words, no change of heart. No change of anything – at least not since 1977, when Brown vowed to uphold the law after his veto of a death penalty bill was overridden by the Legislature.

How or why the AP story got dramatically rewritten, we don’t know. But we expect Brown’s head exploded when he read the original and someone went postal on the AP. Which may or may not be a capital offense.

Polls you can ignore (or not): Public Policy Polling, a left-leaning polling outfit, has a new survey showing Brown ahead of Whitman 47-42% among likely voters after being up 46-40% two months ago. This robocall poll has 630 alleged likely voters with a margin of error of plus or minus about 4%. Most interesting finding – if the sample is any good, which we can’t confirm – Brown’s favorable is 42% positive and 45% negative while Whitman’s – after spending $120 million or so on TV – is 35% positive and 49% negative. Ouch.

Meanwhile Pulse Opinion Research, a Rasmussen offshoot, did a poll for Fox News of an alleged 1,000 likely voters (margin of error plus or minus about 3%) that shows Brown and Whitman tied at 45% each – a shift in Brown’s favor from 49-43% for Whitman on Sept. 11. Take it with a grain of salt.

As well you should give only passing credence to the finding that Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina are tied at 46% for Fiorina and 47% for Boxer – a small change from the 46-44% in Boxer’s favor in September.

Attention direct mail vendors: Worst idea in the history of your business.

Jerry Blows His Only Play, Turns on Clinton

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Updated 8 am: In our original post, Calbuzz set out what we thought was Jerry Brown’s best option for dealing with Meg Whitman’s new killer ad.

Brown then turned around and did the one, ridiculous thing it never occurred to us he could be dumb enough to do: Pick a new fight with Clinton, as shown on this video clip reported by Time’s Mark Halperin and ABC’s Jonathan Karl.

Unbelievable. Good luck with getting help from the Clintons now, Gandalf.

(For the record, at 8 am, we also updated the hed on this post, which originally read: “Jerry’s Only Play: Get Clinton to Attack Brooks Jackson”).

Fueled by 5-Hour Energy Berry Flavor shots, Calbuzz spent an edgy, sleepless weekend closely monitoring short-wave radio reports about the blazing fusillades of budget facts and figures the rival campaigns for governor exchanged over Meg Whitman’s latest ad attack on Jerry Brown.

The ad features a short clip from a contentious April 1992 Democratic presidential primary debate between Brown and Bill Clinton, during which Bubba cited CNN to charge that a) Krusty raised taxes as California governor and b) lied about his record in doing so.

As we forecast on Friday, shortly after Team Whitman first aired the tough spot, the truthiness of its allegations would be found in weighing the conflicting evidence presented by Brown’s campaign and Brooks Jackson, the former CNN reporter who now runs factcheck.org at the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Whitman’s (and Clinton’s) evidence is a report by CNN’s Brooks Jackson; Brown’s claim that taxes were cut by about $16 billion during his tenure (not counting Prop. 13) cites the 1981 Economic Report of the Governor from the California Department of Finance.

There followed a 48-hour whirl of unstinting effort by Department of Finance flack H.D. (“guess I lost your number”) Palmer, determined persistence by MSM journos Ken McLaughlin and Seema Metha, and fact-checking of two decade old fact-checking by stand-up-guy Jackson himself.

“I was wrong when I said that “state taxes were still higher” during his last year than when he began. In fact, they were a bit lower,” Jackson wrote after reviewing the actual facts.

Now that the smoke has cleared over the battlefield, Calbuzz can ride in to shoot the wounded while reporting the clear and unequivocal bottom line of the episode as follows:

1-Taxes inarguably went down over the period of Brown’s two terms as governor, according to non-partisan state budget records.

2-Jackson’s 1992 report, and therefore Clinton’s derivative attack on Brown, was incorrect, because, as he acknowledged, Brooks used the wrong start and end dates to make his calculations.

3-The Empire of eMeg couldn’t care less about the truth or falsity of the substance of the attack they’re making, and intend to keep running their killer ad.

Sez eMeg chief deputy under assistant purse carrier Tucker Bounds:

CNN is a lot less relevant than the indisputable fact that Bill Clinton, not me, said that Jerry Brown turned a $6-billion surplus into a $1-billion deficit, opposed Proposition 13 and ‘doesn’t tell people’ the truth.

To which Sterling Clifford, trusty Gandalf message bearer, stamps his foot and responds:

For Meg Whitman to continue running an ad she knows is false is intentional dishonesty, and voters should expect better from a candidate for governor.

Oh, that.

No truth, no consequences: As all loyal Calbuzzers know, the Whitman for Governor campaign represents Exhibit A for the most distressing national and state political trend of the millennium (“Ground Zero mosque” anyone?) which we termed in this essay, “The Death of  Truth.”

It’s now clear that a candidate with unlimited resources can and will blow off complaints, critiques and factual analyses of those who dare to speak up and will instead declare that the truth is whatever he or she says it is — in their paid advertising and the assertions of their mercenary prevaricators.

To summarize the instant case: independent, unbought-and-unpaid-for, third party finders of fact determine that Whitman’s charge is untrue, but she pays no price for continuing to air it, as her army of lavishly paid water-muddiers simply persist in performing an ape dance of ersatz fact-based debate, which to an average voter may seem so…confusing…and…boring and…oh look, there’s Bill Clinton calling Jerry Brown a liar again…

Why take down the ad if it’s working? That’s got to be eMeg’s calculation.

So what’s a 72-year old Zen Jesuit to do? Brown has four options:

a-Put up his own ad calling Meg a liar for continuing to run an ad which isn’t true. Problem: talk about your expensive He-Said-She-Saids.

b-Complain endlessly to the MSM. Problem: Have you looked at newspaper circulation trends lately?

c-Ignore it and move on. Problem: The key to his campaign narrative is his authenticity vs. her phony marketing campaign – he can’t afford to have a debate over honesty simply be a draw.

d-Get Clinton to make an ad, or at least a public statement, on Brown’s behalf, to wit: “My charge back in 1992 that Jerry Brown raised taxes when he was governor was based on a news report we now know was incorrect.  Jerry Brown didn’t raise taxes. And Meg Whitman knows it. It’s just dishonest of her to use me to make her case. ‘Cause if I could vote in California, I’d vote for Jerry Brown and I think you should too.”

As a tactical matter, Brown has at least a couple of plays here: Plead with Dianne Feinstein to make a call to her pal Hillary Clinton to have her make a call to Bubba, if she can find him. Or enlist AFSCME president Jerry McEntee or another labor bigwig close to Hillary, to make the ask. Or call on Barbara Boxer, who is close to the Clintons, or Ron Burkle, or Steven Spielberg.

Oh sure, there’s a long history of, um, really bad blood there. But Brown can certainly appeal to Clinton’s historic relationship to California — in 1992, he became the first Democrat to win the state since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 and, in the process, picked what was at the time called “the lock” Republicans had on the electoral college. If he ever wants Hillary (Chelsea?) to be president, he sure doesn’t want Whitman as governor of California. He may not like Brown, but wouldn’t he rather have him as governor than her?

And as Shimon Peres famously said, “Peace is made with yesterday’s enemies – what is the alternative?”