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Posts Tagged ‘term limits’



The Death and Possible Re-Birth of Negotiation

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Whether or not the dozen California Republican legislators (more than enough for a minyan!) who have refused to join the politically suicidal Taxpayers Caucus are all modern day Pharisees, Gov. Jerry Brown was not far off the mark comparing them to Nicodemus ben Gurion, the prominent Jewish elder who is said to have met with Jesus under cover of night to avoid the risk of ostracism.*

“I’m not going to blow their cover,” Brown said of the individuals he’s been meeting with – those who have declined to drink the Kool Aid being dispensed by the Grover Norquist-inspired Ostrich Phalanx and henchmen, like our pal Jon Fleischman.

The small band of savvy Republicans appear to get that a) they are in a position to extract at least some of their cherished goals in exchange for merely voting to put Brown’s tax extensions on the June ballot and b) their old world is rapidly changing, because of the new rules of redistricting and the top-two primary system, so they can’t afford to stand in the doorway and block up the hall.

As Rob Stutzman, the Republican strategist who advised Meg Whitman’s campaign for governor, put it: “They have more leverage than they’ve had at any time arguably over the last decade.” But then guys like Stutzman and Jim Brulte, the former legislative leader, are old-school pols who believe, like Ronald Reagan did, that you negotiate to reach agreement and that agreement – i.e. governance — is a good thing.

At a time when “compromise” has been stricken from the actions and vocabulary of Tea Partiers in Washington and the intransigent governor of Wisconsin (except as a pejorative to attack those who disagree with their rigid stances), the efforts to strike a deal by a handful of GOP legislators in Sacramento is a smart and responsible move, both as policy and as politics.

By bucking the unrelenting pressure of no-compromise apparatchiks and no-tax ideologues in their party’s extremist wing, these Republicans – like Sam Blakeslee, Anthony Cannella, Bill Tom Berryhill, and Bob Huff, to name a few — have set the stage for a political counter-narrative to the bitter union-busting drama being played out in Madison, and the looming threat of a federal government shut-down by Congress under Weeper of the House John Boehner.

If the GOP’s Responsible Caucus can wring enough legislative concessions from Brown to justify the intraparty flak they’ll take for helping him pass the key element of his plan – a statewide vote on extending $12 billion in temporary higher taxes and fees – they also will have a dealt a major blow to the politics of deadlock that have dominated California for a generation.

Urging them on – with visions of business-friendly reforms dancing in their heads – are groups like the Bay Area Council, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and even the California Chamber.

It should be noted, by the way, that Brown’s problem is not just with Republicans. Forces on the Democratic left are extremely upset about the massive spending cuts Brown has already extracted and, if the Republicans seeking a deal overplay their hand and some interest group – the California Teachers Association, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, Service Employees International Union, or any other – decides to oppose whatever deal Brown negotiates, the whole thing could explode.

A way out — our sources are betting — is at best a 50-50 proposition.

As Steve Glazer, Brown’s senior adviser told Calbuzz over the weekend: “We’re sitting on bar stools in a foot of gasoline and everybody’s got a match.”

The ossification of Sacramento was created by a battery of political circumstances, including some so-called “reforms,” that together had the unintended consequence of bogging down the Capitol in the gridlock of polarization and partisanship. The key ingredients in hardening the political cement are 1) diminished party registration 2) non-competitive elections and 3) term limits.

Add to these closed primaries, campaign contribution limits that don’t apply to interest groups and a cable-driven coarsening of political dialogue and you have a recipe for impasse. That’s how we arrived at a situation where negotiation is seen as collaboration and compromise is regarded as capitulation.

Ironically, the sudden willingness of at least a few members of the minority to consider compromise, negotiation and deal-making to be useful and acceptable tools, in place of the just-say-no obstructionism that has long marked the GOP position, may itself have been triggered by two new reforms: a new, non-partisan citizens commission that is redistricting the state and a new “top-two” primary system are both designed to encourage more moderate politics; they may be working even before they’ve fully taken effect.

“With open primaries in redistricted seats in a presidential election all the old rules are out the door,” said Brulte.

Diminished party registration, wherein moderates and those with loose party affiliations have registered in ever greater numbers as Decline to State (independent of a party), has meant that those who still vote in their party primaries are the most ideological, the most partisan and the most intractable voters in any particular political jurisdiction.

In October 1994, Democrats had 49% of registration, Republicans 37% and DTS 10%. In October 2010, Democrats were 44%, Republicans 31% and DTS 20%. Who left the Democratic and Republican parties (or chose not to join them)? Moderates who didn’t want to be part of the left and right wings of the electorate.

So those who won their party primaries – and thus those eventually elected to the Assembly and state Senate – reflected (and shaped) the ideological cast of their districts.  Legislators who refuse to negotiate toward an agreement are, in many cases, perfectly reflecting the narrow electorate – in existing districts — who sent them to Sacramento. It’s the hard core who’s voting.

Non-competitive seats, partially a function of gerrymandering and partly a function of living patterns of the California population, have ensured the election, re-election, and re-re-election of the same voices and interests year in and year out.

One liberal may replace another; one conservative may follow a predecessor, but the ideological shape and tone and color remains the same. The general election means little in most cases because all the action is during the primary. If an incumbent – or a candidate who appears to be an incumbent because he or she served in a different office – is in the race, you can all but forget about it.

Few seats are actually competitive and where they are, it’s almost always just in the race to see who gets to represent the party in November.

Term limits have a compounded negative effect. On the one hand, they drive those just elected to spend ever greater amounts of time planning for their re-election and advancement to another seat in a different house. On the other hand, they leave Sacramento with a neophyte corps of legislators who have no institutional knowledge, no long-term commitment, no real power base in their own communities and less knowledge than the permanent legislative staff and the army of lobbyists who are always on the case.

Moreover, leadership is a joke: it’s almost impossible to enforce caucus discipline, it’s increasingly difficult to speak with one voice for either party, “leaders” are in place long enough to get a cup of coffee and replaced before they’ve found the secret drawer in the big desk or learned the name of the janitor who empties their trash can.

Coupled with campaign contribution limitations that don’t apply to interest groups, term limits mean that instead of the special interests needing the lawmaker, it’s the other way around – legislators need the special interests more than the pleaders need them.

And Now for Something
Completely Different

The handful of GOP legislators who are quietly (secretly) negotiating with Gov. Brown just may get this: by the end of August, the non-partisan redistricting of California legislative boundaries should be completed and the next round of elections will not involve party primaries but a top-two system of electing candidates.

We may even see big labor begin to play a role in what used to be Republican districts. Sources tell Calbuzz there’s talk in the labor community about spending in districts where particular legislators have made it a point to work against their interests.

Candidates who are identified as obstructionist or worse, responsible for massive teacher layoffs, shorter school years, public safety cutbacks, closed state parks, etc., are going to have one hell of a time picking up enough moderate and independent votes to keep their offices. They will NOT be running in tailored districts and they won’t have a free shot at a party position.

You gotta wonder how smart it is to rely on right-wing operators, who ask, like FlashReport’s Fleischman, if “The CalChamber is Ready to Betray Taxpayers Again?” As a Republican, just exactly what is your base if you can’t include the Chamber of Commerce?

No wonder Flash and his cronies on the right are hoping at the GOP convention to change the Republican Party’s rules to give central committees the power to dub candidates official GOP standard bearers. That may their only weapon and frankly, we’re not sure, even if they can adopt this Soviet Rule, that it would do the trick for their people.

As Steve Harmon of the Contra Costa Times so ably noted, the notion that Republicans who voted for tax hikes under Gov. Arnold Schwarzmuscle were driven from office is mostly bunk. “Of the six Republicans who voted for taxes (in 2009), only one later went on to defeat in a Republican primary. Two captured GOP nominations in statewide contests, another was elected to a county post and two others dropped out of politics.”

And that was before redistricting and the top-two primary system. And before Brown, who was allowed to dispense his vows of poverty and chastity in order to leave the seminary, offered dispensation to any Republicans who signed the GOP anti-tax pledge.

* It was to Nicodemus, as reported in the Gospel of John (3:16), that Jesus, after saying that man must be reborn in faith, offered this central concept: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Reform Won’t Cut It; We Need Legislators With Guts

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

By Gary Delsohn
Special to Calbuzz

Some very smart people, many of them friends of mine, have created a cottage industry arguing that California is in desperate need of political reform.

We’ve seen books, opinion page essays, incessant blogging and groups like California Forward offer insightful analyses about the laundry list of structural fixes needed to stop the constant bickering and budget crises that paralyze the Capitol year-in, year-out.

We even have a European billionaire talking about reform who seems to have captivated the media and other good government folks, not for anything he’s done or proposed, but because he’s so rich he likes to fly around the world in his jet and live in posh hotel suites instead of residing in any one place.

Of course, we need a tax code that reflects our 21st Century economy, one that is more broadly based and is not held hostage to the vagaries of Wall Street.

Sure, we need fair, competitive elections and honestly drawn legislative districts.  We need to ditch term limits, or at the very least refine them, so we can again have a legislature with wise old hands.

Everyone knows the state is not well served when self-serving lobbyists and consultants are better informed and more experienced than our legislators.

It would be nice if we could count on legislators to spend no more than the state takes in, but since we cannot, we also need a spending cap like the one already slated for the 2012 ballot.

These will all help future governors and legislators do their jobs more effectively.  Maybe we even need some of the other reforms floating around like pay-as-you-go and two-year budgeting.

But none of these will fix our state.

What California needs more than anything else are elected officials with — to use a polite term — guts and vision.

How about Democrats willing to stand up to the public employee labor unions?  Democrats who will tell their labor donors without equivocation that California can no longer afford overly generous pensions and other lifetime benefits.

We need those same Democrats to tell the unions, “Sure you hate privatizing even the most obscure state service, but that’s too bad.  California is broke. We need to be more efficient and competitive.  If you don’t like it, vote me out of office.  This is about saving our state, not your union.”

We need Republicans with the courage to act as adults about the state’s revenue crisis and not be intimidated by what right-wing radio shows or the Flash Report will say if they do the right thing. Because every Republican in the Legislature who is intellectually honest knows you cannot solve a $25 billion budget shortfall by cuts alone.  Unless, of course, you want to decimate state government.

We need the same Republicans to wake up and realize California’s environment is arguably its most precious asset, so stop scheming to undermine or delay every piece of legislation that seeks to protect and enhance it.

No constitutional convention, initiative or reform love-in will give us any of those kinds of politicians. We need our elected officials to rise to the occasion, show some guts and vision and do what’s best for the state, not what’s best for their political parties or resumes.

The media have an important role to play here, too. It requires more than just parroting what the zealots say under the guise of fair reporting.

When Yvonne Walker, head of SEIU’s Local 100 tells a Sacramento TV reporter after Gov. Brown’s state of the state speech that Gov. Schwarzenegger declared war on state workers because he needed an enemy, which she did, it would be nice if the reporter knew enough or cared enough to push back.

All that was needed was a simple, “But the state’s broke. Social services and programs for the needy are being axed. Taxpayers are paying more. If California is busted, don’t state workers have to expect some cuts, too?”

It’s not difficult to see the outline of a deal that can be struck between Gov. Brown’s quite reasonable proposed budget solution of cuts and taxes and Republicans’ unreasonable no-tax obsession.

Approve the cuts and tax extensions that Brown has proposed, craft lasting pension reform and some honest regulatory relief for business that gets the state’s economy out of the deep freeze. Then have Democrats and Republicans stand together to explain it to voters.

Compared to what we’re watching as people sacrifice their lives to fix broken governments in the rest of the world, this is small potatoes.

And I’m sorry, the need for civil discourse notwithstanding, we should not even be talking about the goofy notion of countering Brown’s proposed tax package with an alternative proposal to cut taxes by the same amount.

I spent seven years at the Capitol — four as a reporter for the Sacramento Bee and three as Gov. Schwarzenegger’s chief speechwriter — and that idea is as lame as it gets.

Brown was right when he said, “Further tax cuts take us further down the road. You got to get real here. Don’t say, ‘I’m going to solve this problem by creating a whole bunch of newer problems.’”  The tax cut idea is childish and counter-productive.

My fondest hope for California is that we continue the reform momentum we have seen the past few years.  But it will never take the place of leaders with backbone who are willing to make the tough, unpopular decisions our current state of affairs require.

Those people need to step up and be heard right now.

Gary Delsohn, a private media consultant, is a former reporter for the Sacramento Bee who served as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s chief speech writer from 2006 to 2009. He is currently working with Schwarzenegger on a variety of writing projects.

Phony Poll Critique; Why We All Can’t Just Get Along

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Strategists, spokes- people, pollsters and purse-carriers for Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina all went berserk over the weekend, trying desperately to shoot down a new poll by the Los Angeles Times and University of Southern California showing Jerry Brown ahead of eMeg, 49-44% in the governor’s race, and Barbara Boxer crushing Hurricane Carly,  51-43% in the Senate contest.

Their big complaint was that the LAT/USC poll over-represented Democrats and under-represented Republicans and thus was skewed. They compared it to the recent Field Poll that found the governor’s race tied at 41% and Boxer with just a 6-point lead over Fiorina.

But their argument is baloney, and they know it because Calbuzz and the Times told them the actual partisan composition of the survey before they put out email memos and tweets designed to confuse and bamboozle readers.

Here are the facts. The charts in the first version of the LA Times story showed the partisan composition of the survey based on party identification — that is, a question asked of respondents: Generally speaking, do you think of yourself as a Republican, a Democrat or what?

By that measure, 54% of respondents said they think of themselves as Democrats and 39% said Republican. But that had nothing to do with the actual make-up of the likely voter sample in the survey.

The pool of respondents was taken from actual voter lists; those identified as likely voters had voted in previous elections (or were newly registered voters) who also expressed some measure of enthusiasm about voting in November. When these controls were applied, the likely voter sample contained 44% Democrats, 36% Republicans, 16% declines-to-state and 3% others.

That’s exactly what a likely voter sample should look like. In fact, it’s one percentage point more Republican than the Field Poll, which had 44% Democrats and 35% Republicans. On its updated web page, The Times explained it as follows:

For the Los Angeles Times/USC poll, the likely voter model is based on two factors — previous vote history and expressed enthusiasm for voting this year. That model yields a likely electorate that is considerably more Republican than the full pool of California voters because Republicans are far more likely this year to say they are enthusiastic about voting. The pool of likely voters is 44% registered Democrats, 36% registered Republicans and 16% registered as Decline to State. That eight-point spread between registered Democrats and Republicans compares to a 13-percentage point spread in the electorate as a whole. Additional details are at http://gqrr.com/index.php?ID=2520.

Despite this, Whitman’s pollsters, David Hill and John McLaughlin, sent out a memo comparing the Field Poll’s sample (based on registered voters) with four different possible calculations of likely voters done for the LAT/USC survey. Only problem: None of them were actually used by the LA Times in their story that showed Brown and Boxer leading (and they weren’t the basis of the poll’s sample).

The biggest difference between the Field Poll and the LAT/USC survey is that Field found Brown beating Whitman among Latinos just 43-40% based on 97 interviews weighted down to 90 cases. The LAT/USC survey had Latino Decisions survey 400 Latino registered voters and weighted them down to 122 cases (14.6%) among 838 likely voters. (To track this down, you have to go to page 343 of the crosstabs!) This yielded a much more robust (and probably realistic) Latino sample than the Field Poll had and the result was Brown over Whitman 51-32% and Boxer over Fiorina 60-22%.

Bottom line: Calbuzz sez LAT/USC poll is reliable and solid. Stop whining. It’s just 5 points and the margin or error was 3.3%.

Why the Bias Against Compromise Cripples California

The following post appeared today in the Los Angeles Times.

As earnest pundits decry the shortage of moderate centrists and bemoan the partisan polarization afflicting governance from Sacramento to Washington, most Americans now appear to prefer stubbornness over consensus.

Vigorous debate followed by principled compromise — the political attitude and approach that long made representative democracy work – no longer finds favor among a large plurality of voters, according to a surprising new national survey.

The findings add yet another layer of troubling evidence to suggest that the dysfunctional dynamic that grips and gridlocks state government will persist, regardless of whether Jerry Brown or Meg Whitman becomes California’s next governor.

By 49-42%, Americans favor “political leaders who stick to their position without compromise” over those “who make compromises with someone they disagree with,” according to the survey by the Pew Research Center conducted for National Journal and the Society for Human Resource Management.

There are clear differences in the findings for the major political parties: Democrats embrace compromise, 54-39%, while Republicans stand against, by 62-33%. Most startling, however, is that independents – whom conventional wisdom holds will favor less partisan political centrism – strongly embrace the anti-compromise position, 53-40%.

“This is further evidence that the current political atmosphere is not merely contentious, but hostile to any hope of negotiated settlements to the many political and policy differences that define the current landscape,” wrote National Journal’s Major Garrett.

“In essence,” he said, the survey “suggests a confrontational mood in the country that may mirror the partisan wrangling in Washington and might even give trumped-up cable TV’s political spout-fests some rationale for their vein-popping intensity.”

That’s quite a statement, coming from the truly fair and balanced former political reporter for Fox News, who recently fled the hyper-partisan cable network to return to print journalism.

While the findings are national, reflecting the emergence of the Tea Party and its passionate celebration of anti-government intransigence, the data also shed light on Sacramento’s politics of dysfunction.*

Popular opposition to the very notion of  “compromise” — a concept that appears to sound like a weakness to many voters –  adds one more confounding entry to a familiar list of structural flaws that undercut governance in California: a wayward initiative system, a boom and bust taxation set-up, the Proposition 13 straitjacket, a super-majority requirement for passage of a budget, plus gerrymandering and term limits.

This nexus of political and economic factors has eroded the authority and effectiveness of historic power centers within the state Capitol and so enfeebled “leadership” that no one can enforce a deal to forge solutions to intractable policy problems. Just passing a budget has become a Herculean challenge.

In the current political atmosphere, every lawmaker is essentially an army of one – and none of them need fear the governor, the speaker or any other leader. Gerrymandered districts all but guarantee most incumbents reelection, while term limits offer a perverse incentive for cynical self-promotion in furtherance of individual ambition over cooperative collaboration in service of the public interest.

With every lawmaker essentially a free agent short-timer, seeking from their first days in Sacramento a pathway up the ladder, it is most often lobbyists who retain institutional memory and remain the only long-playing experts on complex issues.  That the latter control and direct an obscene flow of campaign contributions adds a layer of soft corruption to the process.

Just as term limits, since its 1990 passage, has framed a system discouraging compromise, so the redrawing of political boundaries following the 2000 census has shaped a political process encouraging partisan gamesmanship.

With legislative districts blatantly designed to ensure the victory of a Democrat in one and a Republican in another, the party primary, not the general election, became the crucial political contest.  This process heavily favored, alternately, the most liberal or the most conservative ideologue who could motivate his party’s base in traditionally low-turnout primaries.

Thus the politicians arriving in Sacramento typically represent the left and right wings of their parties. Far from thinking about the interests of California as a whole, their only concern is servicing their districts, an arrangement offering no inducement to compromise on anything

Voters have taken steps to reform this situation — passing an initiative in 2008 installing an independent commission to oversee reapportionment and approving an initiative in June that reduces the importance of party in primary elections. It is instructive, however, that legislative Democrats and Republicans found rare agreement in efforts to undo both measures, sponsoring a November proposition to seize back the Legislature’s control of redistricting and mounting an aggressive legal challenge to the “open primary” plan.

So while Brown’s big idea in the governor’s race has been a promise to summon all 120 legislators immediately after the election and apply sweet reason to their bitter differences, and Whitman vows she’ll veto most of their bills and lock them in a room until she gets her way, the plain fact is that neither will have much of a chance to find common ground with the opposition party unless some fundamental changes are made.

This will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, at a time when large numbers of voters equate compromise with capitulation.

*(The new Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California poll offers a glimmer of hope for California, finding that voters by a 2-1 margin say they’d prefer a governor “who can work effectively with others across party lines” to one who “is single-minded and will fight for what he or she thinks is correct.”

Democrats, moderates and liberals are most in favor of a governor who works with the opposition, but even Republicans and conservatives would rather have a governor who can work effectively across party lines.

The problem in Sacramento, however, has not been finding a governor who will work across party lines; the problem is finding enough legislators who will work with the governor.)

Dateline Moraga: Live Blogging the Senate Debate

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Play-by-play below, but here’s the bottom line: Nobody “won” the debate which means Carly Fiorina did not do what she had to do — kneecap Barbara  Boxer or force her to make a mistake.

Fiorina, a smart, articulate and attractive candidate stood toe-to-toe with a United States Senator and handled herself with skill and grace.

Boxer defended her record in the U.S. Senate and pushed issues like choice, climate change and gun control into the debate that put Fiorina on the defensive.

The single matter that emerged that likely will resonate most: Fiorina’s record of laying off 30,000 workers as CEO of Hewlett-Packard — in Boxer’s terms (not entirely accurate) of shipping those jobs to China.

Her response — sometimes you have to cut some jobs in order to save others — sounded like an eerie echo of  the famous line from the Vietnam War: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” (That’s how it’s remembered even if it’s not exactly right.) And it wasn’t just a slip of the tongue — Fiorina said it in the debate and at her press conference afterwards as well.

We wonder if this will come back to haunt Fiorina: “This is the 21st Century — any job can go anywhere.” BTW, in the debate she said: “It’s an agonizing choice (for a CEO) to lose some jobs in order to save more.”

It was a clear contrast. Fiorina is a tough conservative who would overturn Roe v Wade if she had the opportunity, is opposed to California’s AB 32 climate-change law and would extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers.

Boxer is a die-hard liberal who is known as a partisan, pushes cap and trade legislation, would end the Bush tax cuts for the rich and is more worried about easing the way for illegal immigrants than she is about securing the U.S.-Mexico border.

Untested political newcomer versus career politician. Republican stalwart versus Democratic diehard.

The most baffling thing is this: Why won’t Fiorina, who sees AB 32 as a “job killer,” come out in support of Prop. 23 — which would gut the measure? Pushed at her press conference, she made all the arguments against Prop. 23 but refused to take a stand. All she would offer is that when it comes time to vote, she will take a position.

Also, what happened to term limits that Fiorina is so hot for? Never came up.

It was a lively debate, showed the ideological contrast between the candidates and gave viewers a chance to see both candidates talk and chew gum at the same time, so to speak. Carly was more tightly wound, but crisp; Boxer was more conversational but equally sharp on her attack points.

Boxer kept saying she’s enacted a thousand measures but could not refute Fiorina’s assertion that she’s only got her name on four bills. Not much for a 18-year Senator.

(Live blog begins here.)

Calbuzz went to the extraordinary expense of dispatching the entire National Affairs Desk to St. Mary’s College in Moraga (De La Salle Christian Brothers) to cover the Barbara Boxer-Carly Fiorina U.S. Senate debate – and has been promptly relegated, with the rest of the press corps, to watch the event on a giant TV while the real deal goes down across the way in the LeFevre Theatre.

Plenty of free parking here where it’s 97 degrees outside and TV correspondents are trying not to sweat on camera during their stand-ups.

Cookies too, thanks to the terrific St. Mary’s communications staff – chocolate chip, peanut butter, double chocolate and (ugh) raisin – along with a bunch of fruit that Calbuzz hasn’t the slightest interest in touching.

We’ll be live blogging the debate as soon as it starts in about 15 minutes.

6:57 p.m. KTVU, which is co-sponsoring the debate with the Chron and KQED-FM, just showed live shot of extremely sweaty protesters outside.

“Carly, no es mi amiga” vs. “Boxer, you’re fired.”

Inside the press room, Jon Fleischman of FlashReport, just called the debate for Fiorina.

7:00 – It’s on. Big hand for Carla Marincucci’s hair in the press room.

Boxer, wearing a gray pantsuit, is on the left. Fiorina, in a teal skirt suit, is on the right.

First opening to Carly: “I have lived the American dream.” Trying to give herself blue collar roots, even though her father was a law professor who was almost appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We need some common sense and problem solving ability in Washington, D.C.” First whack at Babs:  She’s been in D.C. forever and her policies have been disastrous. Very aggressive in taking on the incumbent.

Boxer: “I’ve enacted a thousand measures,” coming right back at Fiorina charge that she’s done nothing. Whack at Carly: I’m working to stop companies from shipping jobs overseas. And, oh yeah, Carly got fired and took $100 million in severance.

Great start.

Marinucci asks first question of Fiorina:

Carly says it’s all about jobs — tax cuts — Carla asks — small business owners are struggling — death tax — Boxer voted for taxes — to create jobs we need to make sure business is free from stangling regulation and taxation.

Boxer says 16,500 teachers got pink slips, what’s important than out children — my opponent called the bill a disgrace — but she doesn’t like it because we paid for it by stopping tax breaks from companies overseas.

Question 2: Scott Shafer asks Babs whether Iraq war “was worth it.” She says she opposed the war but voted for more money for troops and veterans. Credits Obama for getting out, and supports him in Afghanistan but supports hard time line to bring troops home “by 2011″

Carly staff is walking around the press room dropping off  “Debate Fact Sheet” on everybody’s work station, challenging BB’s earlier assertions.

Carly on Iraq: Boxer’s “rhetoric doesn’t match her record.” Attacks Boxer for not voting for body armor, and also hits on her on small business legislation speaking government-speak gibberish about “TARP Jr.” and “TARP Sr.”

Question about immigrants: Carly wants to educate everyone but she’s against amnesty for people here illegally –

Boxer says she’s proud of her record on veterans — says Carly called immigration reform “a distraction” — we need comprehensive immigration reform.

Question 4 comes on tape from a guy in Oakland named Tim Tam who wants to know why Boxer doesn’t give somebody else a chance after 28 years in the Senate. Barbara sez “there’s a clear choice” and turns it to hit Carly: “We don’t need those Wall Street values.”

Fiorina says Boxer “mischaracterizes my record” on shipping jobs overseas. “Agonizing choice to lose some jobs in order to save more.”

Next question from Tom Watson, retired HP executive who bashes Fiorina with her record of “right sourcing” jobs and saying that no one has “a God given right” to a job. Great question.

Carly is now listing all the countries in the world – not to mention “Texas and Brazil” about….something…she seems to have been caught a little off guard by this.

Strong comeback on jobs by Boxer noting that Fiorina has opposed every jobs bill that’s come up since she started running.

Carly asks Boxer about famous incident when she asked General not to call her “ma’am.” She gives same answer as Calbuzz previously supported reported.

Fiorina comes back to say that Boxer is using H-P “a treasure of California” as a “political football.”

Randy Shandobil the moderator tells both of them to stop going over time, and get to the point and answer the damn questions. Yay Randy.

Shafer asks about gay marriage. Fiorina says marriage should be “between a man and a woman.” Says that because voters had such a clear decision “not appropriate” for “a single judge” to overturn. Umm, isn’t that why we have three branches of government?

So says Boxer, noting that America has a system of checks and balances. She cites Justice Ron George’s opinion opposing Prop. 8.

Fiorina gnomes just dropped off fifth fact check – almost make you think they had them ready in advance.

Boxer is asked about bipartisanship — is she too partisan — she says he works with Republicans all the time — a time line for withdrawl from Afghanistan is one example.

Carly says Barbara is long on talk and short on achievement — one of the most bitterly partisan — only has four bills with her name on them –

Carla asks about Roe v Wade — I am pro life, because of my personal experiences, her husband’s mother was told to abort him for health reasons — recognize that not everyone agrees with me — I am comfortable funding for adult stem cell research — but if embryos are produced for destruction then she’s opposed — says Boxer’s positions are extreme — has said a baby doesn’t have rights until it leaves the hospital –

Randy — Roe v Wade — she acknowledges she would overturn if she had the opportunity.

Boxer says she respects people’s — says Fiorina would criminalize women and doctors — says this is not about personal views.

Re. the “four bills” says she’s approved 1,000 Boxer provisions — you can see them online.

Shafer asks when Dems are going to stop blaming Bush and Rep congress for economic woes. Boxer says “we have” and are working on it…now she’s talking about the good old Clinton years and is blaming Bush for “the worst job creation record since Herbert Hoover.” “We didn’t get here overnight and we’re not going to solve it overnight.”

Fiorina: “Recovery summer has become the summer of despair in California.” She hits Boxer for voting for stimulus bill which she says “has failed.” Good riff on Boxer record of voting against balanced budget amendments: “Her record is crystal clear.”

Fiorina is asked if she thinks global warming is real or just a problem with the weather as she said in an ad — Carly says the ad was about military security — says we need a national and comprehensive energy bill — not answering whether she’s for Prop. 23 — we need to fund energy R&D — we cannot put bills in place that punish energy—

Randy re asks — Prop 23 — says her focus is on national policy — says she hasn’t taken a position — AB 32 is a job killer.

Boxer — if you cant take a stand on Prop 23, I don’t know what you will take a stand on — it’s a critical issue — my opponents is used to creating jobs in China, Germany, etc. – which would be the result of overturning AB 32 — “no bill I ever wrote superseded CA law.”

St. Mary’ student asks about ag policy. Zzzzz.

Fiorina now hitting BB on water – claims Babs “pressured” Feinstein to drop an amendment…

Viewer question – why do you think it’s a good idea for people on terrorist no fly list to have guns – what – are you nuts?

CF: “The no fly list isn’t particularly well managed.” We should not be taking constitutional rights away from citizens and giving them to terrorists – and that’s exactly what Barbara Boxer wants to do.”

BB: “It’s hard to know where to start.” Boxer trumpets her legislation letting pilots be armed.” Recalls watching debate where Fiorina said this and says Tom Campbell get excited “for the first time in his life.”

“Oh my goodness,” Boxer says Campbell said.

How about the assault weapons ban? Fiorina says it’s far too broad…Babs says dumping it “makes no sense at all.” Big wet kiss to Difi for sponsoring the bill.

Closing statements:

Carly: She’s been struck by the “beauty” of California. Also fear, anxiety and uncertainty. Recounts alleged anecdotal conversations with people who don’t like regulation…very sappy yarn about some lady who said she’d never voted but registered to vote for Carly and “don’t forget us.” Oy. She’s for average people who “give a lot and ask for a little.”

Barbara: “This a very clear choice.” I’m fighting for jobs and she laid off 30K people and sent jobs to China. Made in America vs. Made in China. Someone fighting for tax cuts for middle class and someone fighting for CEOs and billionaires. Clean energy vs someone supported by big oil and big coal. Pro-choice – Fiorina would “turn a woman into a criminal” for having an abortion…Offshore oil. I fought for Wall Street reform and she acts “just like a Wall Street CEO.”

Randy apologizes for not getting to more questions. No worries man, good work.

Debate Watcher’s Guide to Babs and Hurricane Carly

Monday, August 30th, 2010

As the U.S. Senate candidates prepare to debate Wednesday evening, Republican Carly Fiorina and Democrat Barbara Boxer face two, very different challenges:

Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, wants to make the case that Boxer is a left-wing extremist who should be tossed out of Congress and that she would make a solid replacement for her rival.

First elected in 1992, Boxer has to demonstrate that she has been, and can continue to be, effective in the Senate. It’s an added bonus if she can portray Fiorina as a right-wing whack job.

Look for Fiorina to move aggressively to steer the conversation to jobs, portray the economic stimulus bill as a prime example of excessive government spending and mock Boxer’s record of achievement (or lack thereof) in the Senate.

Watch for Boxer to argue that the stimulus saved many thousands of jobs in California, and to try to focus on a woman’s right to choose, climate change, offshore oil drilling and Fiorina’s record of achievement (or lack thereof) at Hewlett-Packard.

Throw down a shot every time Fiorina mentions Boxer’s 28 years in office and another when Boxer mentions HP and “You’ll be pretty toasted at the end of that game,” says Julie Soderlund, Fiorina’s spokeswoman.

Boxer is a big supporter of President Barack Obama and the stimulus. So Fiorina will home in on the sense that the president’s policies have failed to restore economic security. But every time Fiorina mentions the economy, she will open herself up to attacks about laying off thousands of HP employees, shipping jobs abroad and mismanaging the company, from which she was fired.

Both will have much to say about extending the Bush tax cuts: Fiorina likes them and Boxer argues they benefit only the rich. Both have strong views on immigration: Fiorina accuses Boxer of favoring amnesty and being soft on illegals; Boxer can’t understand why Fiorina is opposed to a path to citizenship for undocumented workers.

Listen for how many times either candidate refers to “green jobs,” policy proposals that posit California can combine economic growth with environmental protection by building up wind, solar and battery industries to cushion the shock of tough regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Note how many times the two reference agriculture and – heaven help us – “family farming.” Is one of them for getting water to the Central Valley and the other opposed? Would one of them drain the Delta in order to flood parched farmland?

The issue of abortion rights is perhaps the brightest line difference between the two.

Boxer knows that Fiorina’s anti-abortion stance differs from mainstream views of most California voters, including the independents who tilt the balance in statewide elections. She also knows, however, that Fiorina has a personal narrative to explain her position – she and her husband, Frank, were unable to have children, while his mother recalls that she was urged to abort him for health reasons – so Boxer must handle it carefully.

While voters may hope the candidates will keep the debate focused on issues, some personal, snarky moments are all but guaranteed – the targets are just too tempting.

Will Fiorina refer to Boxer as “ma’am,” to remind viewers of her notorious confrontation over titles with a top general at a committee hearing? Will Boxer, as one of her advisers suggested, mention Fiorina’s yacht trips with her grandchildren? Will either offer a reminder of Fiorina’s dis of Boxer’s way-yesterday hairdo early in the campaign?

How about term limits, Barbara? Carly’s for them and has even pledged to serve only 12 years in the Senate. Is this just a cheap rhetorical trick or are you planning to lead a nationwide drive to get approval for a constitutional amendment, Carly?

Carly, are you for tax breaks for companies shipping jobs overseas, like you did at HP? Barbara, do you want to raise business taxes to make it even harder for companies to hire workers when California’s unemployment rate is pushing 13 percent?

As they prepare for the debate, both sides are talking up how skilled the other is at public speaking and argument, part of the raise-expectations game.

But there are some expectations that viewers can rightfully bring to the debate-watching experience. Boxer, who often stands on a box to look taller, has to maintain the dignity and decorum of a United States senator, even if she takes shots at her challenger. Fiorina has to look and sound like a United States senator and not Suze Orman on steroids.

Viewers might want to put a couple of columns on a piece of paper: Junk Yard Dog and Dignified Public Servant. Every time either candidate sounds like one of these, mark her name in the appropriate column. Total them up at the end.

The results will have absolutely nothing to do with who actually wins the election.

This article, without clever Calbuzz art, appeared originally in the Sacramento Bee on Sunday, 8/29/10.