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Sabado Gigante! Jerry Smacks Meg in Fresno Brawl

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

In the very first seconds of the Univision debate with Jerry Brown in Fresno on Saturday, Meg Whitman clearly defined the political stakes:

“The Latino vote is incredibly important to this election,” she said. “I cannot win the governor’s race without the Latino vote.”

It cannot be known until the November election, of course, whether eMeg’s debate performance succeeded in helping to make her candidacy a serious option for Hispanic voters. The early returns in the Calbuzz Why Wait for the Voters Electoral Count, however, show decisively that she didn’t get the job done.

After three days of stories filled with charges about her callous treatment of an undocumented Mexican native who worked in her home for nine years, Whitman’s challenge in the historic, broadcast-in-Spanish debate was to demonstrate that she can connect with the hopes and aspirations of Latinos.

Whitman gave solid, conservative answers on most of the issues. But, despite her own opening statement about the crucial importance of this voting bloc (which we think she overstates), she said almost nothing to suggest to Latinos that she would be there for them any more than she was for Nicky Diaz, whom she booted to the curb when she learned her housekeeper was an illegal immigrant.

“Why did you not show compassion for this longtime employee?” asked the  moderator, Univision’s Maria Elena Salinas, setting the stage for the money moments of the debate, which will probably be replayed, oh, no more than  12 or 13 million times between now and November 2. [Here's the clip]

“This is a very sad situation,” Whitman replied, first describing her own hurt feelings because Diaz in her recent press conference called her “Ms. Whitman” and not “Meg” as she had for all those years.

“The real tragedy here is Nicky,” she added. “After Nov. 2, no one’s going to be watching out for Nicky Diaz.”

Then she turned directly to Brown and (to the astonishment and delight of Camp Krusty) attacked:

“Jerry, you know you should be ashamed. You and your surrogates put her deportation at risk. You put her out there. You should be ashamed for sacrificing Nicky Diaz at the altar of your political ambitions.”

In that instant, Calbuzz had a deeply profound thought: OMG!!

For reasons that remain unclear, eMeg used her spotlight moment to point a finger of blame at Brown, with absolutely no evidence, for exposing her hiring and long-term employment of an undocumented housekeeper, Which  big-brain  adviser thought that was a good idea? Perhaps the same one who suggested she not mention the matter back in June 2009, when she could have disposed of the issue with a couple of page 8 stories, if that.

When he had a chance to respond a moment later, Brown, whose greatest strength as a debater is the counter-punch, denied he had anything to do with the Diaz affair and let fly.

“Don’t run for governor if you can’t stand up on your own two feet and say, ‘Hey I made a mistake, I’m sorry, let’s go on from here…

“You have blamed her, blamed me, blamed the left, blamed the unions but you don’t take accountability. You can’t be a leader unless you’re willing to stand on your own two feet and say, ‘yup, I made a mistake and I’m going on from here.’”

Ouch.

Things seemed to go from bad to worse for eMeg after that. In an exchange likely to resonate with Latino parents, she defended her proposal to ban illegal immigrants from California higher ed institutions in answering a question from a young woman who said she was an honors student  at Fresno State University:

“Here is the challenge we face: Our resources are scarce. We are in terrible economic times and slots have been eliminated at the California State University system—I think they’re down by 40,000 students. Same is true at the … the University of California system. Programs have been cut, and California citizens have been denied admission to these universities and I don’t think it’s fair to bar and eliminate the ability of California citizens to attend higher universities and favor undocumenteds.”

“Undocumenteds”? Really? And was she really arguing that this bright young Latina was hogging a place that some deserving white kid should have had?

Brown, who was very aggressive throughout, jumped on that answer as well. He said he would sign legislation, known as the state Dream Act, to make it  easier for illegal immigrants to obtain financial aid from California’s public universities and colleges – a bill Gov. Schwarzenegger recently vetoed.

“Ms. Whitman goes beyond opposing the Dream Act. She wants to kick you out of the school because you are not documented, and that is wrong—morally and humanly.”

We wondered why he didn’t mention that former Gov. Pete Wilson is chairman of her campaign. At least she didn’t suggest she’d round ‘em all up and deport them. Or did she?

“Illegal immigration is just that, it is illegal,” she said. “And we need to make sure we have the workers that the economy needs to grow and thrive,” Whitman said. “We live in a rule of law. There is a judicial process, and we have to abide by that. So I think the best thing that I can do to help the Latino community in California is as first and foremost, as I said, jobs.”

Brown countered that it’s wrong to bring workers in to fill labor shortages and then herd them home.

“This is about human beings. And you don’t bring in temporary workers and then when you’ve used them up, you send them back. … You don’t just bring in semi-serfs and say, ‘Do our dirty work,’ and then we’re finished with you like an orange and just throw it away. That’s after you’ve squeezed it. That’s not right.”

On “path to citizenship” alone, Whitman dug in against a position that 90% of Latinos (and Brown) support.

And it was notable that when Meg later accused Jerry of not being “accountable” for Oakland schools when he was mayor of that city, there was a low, rippling laugh throughout the audience, whose members had been admonished not to say anything.

The Univision alleged simulcast translation into English was so poorly engineered, there won’t likely be too many TV clips in English. But in Spanish, watch out. Latinos who had been flirting with Whitman are likely, Calbuzz thinks, to default to the guy who marched with Cesar Chavez and dated Linda Rondstadt.

We can hear the conversation around the kitchen table: “Maybe he’s un poco loco, but at least he doesn’t accuse the help of stealing the mail.”

A couple of other key points:

Water - Whitman had her best moments when she and Brown were asked about their plans for increasing state water deliveries, a crucial issue for Central Valley residents.

She strongly endorsed the $11 billion water bond measure that the governor and Legislature agreed on last year, but which they removed from the ballot because they feared recession-weary voters would defeat it; although she criticized some “pork” she said was in the measure, she showed a good grasp of the issue and sympathy for the economic hardships of the valley.

By contrast, Brown offered a head-scratching answer about how Kern County was to blame for the defeat of a 1982 Peripheral Canal initiative plan he had sponsored. Brown was historically and politically accurate: the giant Kern County agribusiness conglomerates J.G. Boswell and Salyer Land Co. helped defeat the canal plan by financing the opposition to it, in a strange bedfellow alliance with environmentalists that was driven by their own, narrow economic interests. But it wasn’t much of an answer for the 99% of the viewers who neglected to brush up on the history of California water politics before the debate.

Taxes - Brown repeatedly hammered Whitman for her support of repealing the state capital gains tax. As he did in the UC Davis debate earlier in the week, he not only called it a gift for “billionaires and millionaires” but also criticized it as a budget-buster, saying it would increase the state’s deficit by $5 billion.

Whitman responded  again by characterizing the capital gains tax as a job-killing obstacle to business development, but after days of being hunkered down in crisis mode, bludgeoned by the controversy over her former housekeeper, eMeg’s answers lacked the spirit and spark they had in her previous encounter with Brown.

AP has a good round-up of other issues here.

Bottom line: Whitman took a huge risk in turning on Brown and attacking him – without a shred of evidence – for being behind the Nicky Diaz story. He staggered her with his roundhouse right response and, although she rallied a little in the debate’s final moments, she never really recovered.   Looking tired and drawn, she mostly seemed to be going through the motions. A clear victory for Brown.

PS — Our video reporter, intern Jennifer Fey, trekked to Fresno and offered this nifty take from a student’s point of view.

Jerry’s New Ads; Meyer on Meg; R = eMeg Squared

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

With Team Whitman furiously trying to spin away the story about Meg Whitman’s undocumented housekeeper and both sides preparing for today’s Univision debate in Fresno, Jerry Brown unloaded two new ads designed to keep Whitman on defense.

One is a positive saying Brown balanced budgets without raising taxes and took on Wall Street banks, mortgage scammers and public officials. “Knowledge and know-how that works for you” is the slogan — a subtle suggestion that he has it and she doesn’t.

The negative ad is far more compelling, saying the “real Meg Whitman” was caught reaping millions for insider stock deals when she was on the board of Goldman Sachs, using the words “conflict of interest” and “corrupt,” charging that she paid herself $120 million while laying off 10% of eBay’s workforce, and asking, “Shouldn’t character matter?”

As Calbuzz noted Friday, demonstrating character is exactly Whitman’s challenge, after it was revealed she had employed an illegal immigrant in her home for years — knowingly or not — before she started talking tough about cracking down on them. And with his pals in the SEIU on the air with an ad speaking to that issue, Brown attacked Whitman as a greedy Wall Street predator.

Whitman’s response was fast and furious. Said spokesperson Andrea Jones Rivera:

“This ad is an outright lie. Meg’s salary was under a million dollars and it was approved by the eBay board of directors.* After swearing that voters would ‘always get the truth’, Jerry Brown has abandoned his promise in favor of a smear campaign that intentionally distorts the truth. In the ad, Jerry Brown goes so far as to cynically attack Meg’s brief service on the Goldman Sachs board, despite the fact that Brown’s own sister is currently a high ranking executive at Goldman Sachs. The truth is Meg Whitman was rated one of the top bosses and CEOs for her time at eBay and we will put her business record up against Jerry’s 40 year political career anytime.”

Meanwhile, Whitman continues to pummel Brown as a tax-and-spend liberal who opposed Proposition 13 and drove up unemployment and the state deficit. Surely that’s why Brown argues himself in his positive ad: “As Governor, I’ll cap government salaries and pensions. On the budget – we have to face reality. Make do with what we have, and no taxes without voter approval.”

Polling suggests voters appreciate Whitman’s business background but they aren’t sure they like her or that she’s got the skills and experience (“knowledge and know-how”) to command California government. On the other hand, they know Brown has what it takes to be governor and they like him pretty much; they’re just not sure they can trust him not to pick their pocket.

Although jobs, budgets, environment, water, education and public safety are kinds of issues governors actually must confront, the curbside political world is wondering today how eMeg’s housekeeper issue will come up in the Univision debate — with an expected audience of millions of Latinos — and what Whitman and Brown will say about it.

No doubt, Whitman would like to be asked why, after hammering on the issue of illegal immigration, did she not report Nicky Diaz to the authorities after learning that she was here without documentation. That way she can come across as sympathetic (although she has to be careful not to sound too condescending).

She likely would not like to be asked why she didn’t use a teensy weensy portion of her vast wealth to hire Diaz an immigration attorney or whether she actually said, “You never have seen me and I have never seen you,” as Diaz recounts the conversation. (Of course, denying it is calling Nicky a liar, so that’s tricky, too.)

Brown, the betting suggests, will keep his trap shut and let Whitman stew in her own juices unless Meg charges to his face that he was behind the whole episode. At which point, it’s hard to predict. He could cooly note that it was not he who hired an illegal immigrant to work in her house.  Or he could fire back at how outraged he is to be accused of the “politics of personal destruction.” We’ll know soon enough.

* Thank you Steve Harmon for this reportorial note: “Salaries are rarely the true measure of a CEO’s net worth in their rarified world of dividends, stocks and bonuses. Forbes Magazine, in September, 2008, and the New York Times, reported that Whitman received a $120.4 million, in salary, bonus and the value of her excercised options in her final year, despite eBay’s stock plummeting 49 percent.”

Meyer Carefully Evaluates Meg’s Skills

The slashing pen of Tom Meyer, world renowned editorial cartoonist and dressed-to-the-nines Calbuzzer extraordinaire today examines the deeper political implications of eMeg’s using the famous phrase, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” multiple times during her Tuesday night debate with Jerry Brown.

Us, we’re still wondering why Her Megness used the aphorism over and over and kept expecting a different result; like, maybe somebody might actually laugh when she repeated it, oh say, the 13th or 14th time. Must be that exquisite sense of comic timing she has to go with her wonderful ability to laugh at herself and her highly-developed sense of self-awareness.

All that aside, a wide-ranging Calbuzz investigation of more than 10 minutes worth of Googling reveals that there is not a single shred of citable evidence to support her attribution of the quote to Albert Einstein (not a big week for Meg and documentary evidence). There is , in fact, a considerable debate around the internets about the original source, with the current conventional wisdom crediting Rita Mae Brown, who actually did write it down in a book once. You could look it up.

And speaking of misusing hoary phrases: Calbuzz was appalled this week by the widespread misuse of the phrase “October surprise” to describe the bombshell news about Whitman’s housekeeper, which Gloria Allred dropped on the candidate’s head on Wednesday morning.

In his essential “Political Dictionary,” the late great William Safire traced the phrase back to the 1980 presidential election, when then Republican vice presidential candidate George Bush the Elder warned that President Jimmy Carter “is a politically tough fellow, he’ll do anything to get reelected, and let’s be prepared for some October surprise.”

Of course, it turned out that the surprise was on Carter, as the Iran hostage crisis that had bedeviled him for much of his term was instantly resolved when the Ayatollah Khomeini ordered the release of the hostages shortly after Mr. Jimmy lost to Ronald Reagan. Safire continues:

By 1991, the noun phrase was being applied to any controversial or unpleasant event in October. (emphasis ours)

Let’s be blunt: The Allred-Nicky Diaz press conference triggering the Meg and the Maid drama took place on Wednesday, September 29; while it might qualify as a “September Shocker,” it most definitely was not an “October Surprise.”

And while we’re at it:  Let’s make it perfectly clear that eMeg’s big laugh line at the debate – making Jerry governor is like “putting Dracula in charge of a  blood bank” – is a total rip off from none other than…Jane Fonda. Hanoi Jane used the line in whacking Carter for his appointment of James Schlesinger as Energy Secretary about the same time that October became so surprising:

“Putting Schlesinger in charge of nuclear power is like putting Dracula in charge of a blood bank,” Jane Fonda orated to the cheering demonstrators at the foot of the Capitol steps.

Mega-kudos and H/T for that catch to Calbuzzer Debra Hall who, besides being brilliant, eagle-eyed and ever-alert, also has the buffest arms of any marketing consultant in California.

Polly Wolly Doodle: Our old friend Steve Lopez of the LA Times has cleverly lined up a polygraph expert, LA PI John Grogan, to give eMeg a polygraph test on whether she ever knew about that letter from the Social Security Administration. After saying she’d be glad to take a lie detector test, Meg backtracked and said she’d do it only if Jerry and Nicky would, too. But what the heck, Meg — this could be a great moment in gubernatorial leadership. All expenses paid!

Duel in Davis: Newbie Plutocrat Versus Labor Stooge

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Here’s your match-up for tonight’s long-awaited debate between wannabe governors Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman:

A washed-up, tax-and-spend liberal in the pocket of greedy labor unions who want to plunder your pocketbook, boost their pensions and bankrupt California will face off against a mendacious plutocrat who flip-flops on key issues, can’t be bothered to vote and wants to enrich avaricious corporations at the expense of the middle class.

At least that’s how the Republican and Democratic candidates would like you to perceive their rivals at the end of their one-hour televised showdown at UC Davis.

While the 6 p.m. event, is unlikely to draw a large viewing audience (among other things, it’s up against reruns of “Seinfeld” and “The King of Queens”) the post-debate news clips and statewide blanket coverage, analysis and commentary about the showdown, by mainstream media and the blogosphere alike, will largely shape the public impressions and narratives of the final weeks of the race — at a time when most voters are just starting to tune in to the campaign.

It’s one thing to use 30-second spots and political surrogates to call a political opponent a “liar,” an epithet both campaigns repeatedly have aimed at the other, but it’s quite another matter to stand on a stage a few feet away from your foe and make the same bombastic charges face-to-face.

In performing under high political pressure, Brown and Whitman face the same opportunity on substance, but distinctly different challenges on style.

The crucial substantive goal for each is to convince voters he or she has fresh ideas and represents change in contrast to the other’s status quo: Stylistically, Brown must combine his slashing aggressiveness with a civil tone, overcome his prickly defensiveness about his past and ensure his famously iconoclastic candor doesn’t lead him into a verbal blunder; Whitman must break through her air of landed gentry aloofness, reach beyond her robotic recitations of tightly disciplined talking points and show she understands and can connect with real-life problems of real people.

Brown is an experienced debater, but hasn’t been in a big-time political arena in almost two decades and, particularly in debating a woman, must avoid coming across as nasty or indulging his habit of showing contempt for those with whom he disagrees. Voters like a gentleman, so watch for him to call her “Ms. Whitman” and try not to get too personal, while keeping the focus on her plans to cut taxes for the rich and lay off tens of thousands of public employees. He’s likely to cite her wobbly inconsistencies during the campaign on immigration, offshore oil drilling and the Proposition 23 climate change issue to undercut her with Latinos and independents, casting her as a poll-tested market brand.

Whitman likes to stay relentlessly on message, but she turned in a shaky performance in the single high-profile debate of the Republican primary, appearing slow in thinking on her feet and adapting her message when being attacked in real time. Look for her to call Brown “governor,” to position him as the incumbent, but try not to seem heavy-handed in portraying him as a too-old, over-the-hill career politician, to avoid insulting senior citizens, who actually vote. She’ll hammer away at his close ties to labor and blame him for ushering in an era of cushy wages, benefits and pensions for unions, while arguing her ideas for creating private sector jobs trump his record of padding public payrolls.

Brown gets wildly irritated when he feels that someone is mischaracterizing his record as governor or mayor of Oakland, so Whitman will try to keep him talking about his past, goading him with charges that he raised billions in taxes and failed miserably in helping the city’s schools, and forcing him to spend time explaining away anew the slashing charges Bill Clinton made against him in their much-discussed 1992 presidential primary debate, all issues she’s highlighted in her tough ads.

Whitman’s Achilles heel, on the other hand, is her difficulty in admitting a mistake, so Brown may try to make her burn up time insisting she’s not unethical, by resurfacing attacks on how she made a killing on IPO shares from Goldman Sachs, a practice later made illegal, when the investment bank was courting her business as CEO of eBay. Brown will likely link her calls to cut the capital gains tax and regulation on business with GOP fiscal policies that triggered the Wall Street meltdown and the recession.

Both candidates have had trouble making a connection to voters but a debate is a difficult format in which to connect. What most voters will see from it – if anything – are a few snappy sound bites and remarks. A put-down, delivered with good humor, is what makes a classic sound bite, as in Ronald Reagan’s comment about Walter Mondale: “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

But Brown probably won’t say, “I fully intend to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

And Whitman likely won’t say, “I knew Pat Brown and Jerry, you’re no Pat Brown.” But only because she didn’t know Pat Brown.

Drinking game: Take a shot every time Brown mentions Whitman’s “phony plans,” or the “obscene amounts of money” she has spent on her “campaign attack ads,” and throw one down whenever she says he “raised taxes, ” turned “a surplus into a deficit” or “opposed Proposition 13.”

You’ll be blotto by debate’s end.

Brown’s New Ads: Gandalf Strikes Back at eMegoth

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Our first reaction upon seeing Jerry Brown’s new 15-second ad-lets was to have our attorneys, Dewey, Cheatem & Howe,  draft a sharply worded cease and desist letter complaining about his rip-off of our Pinocchi-Meg icon:

Dear Attorney General Brown,

We are the proprietors of all copyright in an artistic work entitled “Calbuzz” and have reserved all rights in said work. It has come to our attention that your work entitled “15 second campaign ad” is substantially similar to our copyrighted work. Permission was neither asked nor granted to reproduce our work and your work therefore constitutes infringement of our rights.

Before paying our shysters the eight-hundred-twenty-five bucks they wanted for writing the thing, however, we conducted a wide-ranging, 10-minute investigation of the internets which revealed we weren’t exactly the first to come up with this whole nasal erection thing.

The Real Deal

The use of Pinocchio in political ads dates back at least to the 1988 New Jersey governor’s race, when both candidates put up an ad morphing the other into the little wooden boy, and it’s been put to considerable use since then in races from Georgia to Wisconsin and all points in between (not to mention serving as the visual premise for the WaPo fact checker feature, online sales of Bill Clinton watches and Irish bread and the subject of at least one very nasty corporate lawsuit).

At the moment, however, Brown is much less interested in whether his new ads are terribly original (one fresh touch: the little hat flying onto eMeg’s head) than in whether they do the job for which they’re intended: stop the bleeding, some of it self-inflicted, he suffered in the first major media clash  of the governor’s race.

Brown went up on Labor Day with a pretty mediocre positive spot idealizing his record in his first turn as governor. Whatever else it did, the ad left eMeg a big opening for a counter-punch, which she delivered in the form of the now famous Bubba-disses-Jerry 30-second spot that’s been the sole focus of the campaign since last Friday.

Having now secured Clinton’s endorsement (if only after his empty-both-barrels-into-the-feet weekend performance) Brown with his bookend spots now seeks to  a) contain whatever residual damage was caused by Meg’s most recent attack, and b) move voters’ attention off his centuries-long record and  back to examining eMeg’s integrity and bona fides for the job.

As a political matter, it’s the right play but a strictly tactical move. The larger problem for Brown remains two-fold.

First, the campaign needs to position him as a future-oriented candidate who’s living, more or less, in the here and now, instead of some historic geezer who exists in grainy old black and white footage from the days when Walter Mondale was a strapping youth.

So far, voters have mostly heard about what Brown did back in the Jimmy Carter era, this at a time when half of California’s population wasn’t even born until the end of Reagan’s second term.

Second, Brown needs to find a sustained way of making Whitman seem too threatening to voters who are shopping for change at a time when recession grips California and the state’s government is utterly dysfunctional.

So far Whitman has done a better job of portraying Brown as tired-old more-of-the-same labor hack than he has done of painting her as a corporate tool who wants to go to Sacramento to screw the middle class and benefit her cronies in the board room. These are the competing narratives that define the ground on which the election will be won or lost.

What was he thinking, Chapter II: Amid all the coverage in recent days of Brown’s Lewinsky meltdown, Steve Harmon reported some interesting stuff that no one else had.

Harmon interviewed Calbuzzer cowboy libertarian Patrick Dorinson, who used to work for Brown back in the day, when Gandalf was chairman of the state Democratic party, and who offered some personal insights about why Krusty decided to indulge his logorrhea with some nitwit one-liners about Clinton.

Brown, he said, “starts to get that flow of consciousness going, which can be good in that you get what he wants to tell you. The problem is he doesn’t know when to stop.”

Dorinson said he thought Brown’s line  — “I did not have taxes with this state” — was “clever. It was a very interesting twist of a phrase if you look at it from a satirist’s or blogger’s point of view. But you’re not running for chief blogger. Once you make a mistake like that, it’s hard to pull back.

“Sometimes he thinks what he says is funny to him and the circle he’s with. But you’re in the middle of a battle when people’s opinions are being formed.”

That sounds pretty close to it.

Media Cowardice: Let’s assume, for the moment, that the California Teachers Association ad that says Meg Whitman would cut education funding by $7 billion is wrong. It’s a made-up number the CTA cooked, based on comments Whitman has made about how much she’d cut the budget.

It’s a matter of conjecture, really. But one that cuts so sharply into voters’ perceptions that Whitman has pulled out all the stops to get the ad off the air – threatening to sue stations for libel and slander. “The spot is a lie,” wrote Whitman campaign attorney Thomas W. Hiltachk. “As you know, your station can be held liable for slanderous or libelous statements made by a non-candidate sponsor of political advertising.”

This is ridiculous. Whitman is a public figure so libeling or slandering her is really difficult and last time we checked, even the CTA has the right to buy an ad broadcasting its opinion, even if it defames Whitman.

Of course, Whitman’s ad saying Jerry Brown raised taxes is just as “demonstrably false” (to use the Whitman campaign’s words) as they believe the CTA ad is. Are they pulling down their ad? No way.

What’s outrageous is that, according to the LA Times, “Time Warner and Comcast cable, and broadcast stations (LA), KNTV(SF), KABC (LA), KTTV (LA) have pulled the ads from the air. A number of other stations are also considering pulling the ads.”

What gutless, two-faced, chicken-livered yellow bellies. If all you have to do is assert that an ad is “demonstrably false,” half the political ads in America would never be allowed to air.

Apparently Meg will push around anybody she can, and her eagerness to use her millions to bully news organizations with the best lawyers money can buy seems like just the latest glimpse of a troublesome personality that thinks shoving underlings around her office is business as usual.

Next move: Watch for Brown’s lawyers to threaten to sue broadcast stations that carry any ad that says he raised taxes. The California Department of Finance has proved this is not true, so why not use eMeg’s tactics?

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?”