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Posts Tagged ‘Tom Brokaw’



Meyer ‘Toon, Top Goo Goos, Meg’s Money, Polls

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Since Meg Whitman wouldn’t change her pearls without a market research study, it’s safe to say that her grudging and belated acceptance of Jerry Brown’s apology in the campaign’s whore war came about only after polling showed she was doing herself as much harm as good by continuing to whine about it. As Tom Meyer reminds us today, most normal people, not to mention the Sisters of Perpetual Disappointment, almost certainly couldn’t figure out what she and her amateur hour communications crew was on about in the first place. (As for us, we, per usual, blame The Media).

Sifting through the entrails of this scandal-that-wasn’t, Calbuzz wants to acknowledge a few heroes in the saga, starting with the students, staff and administration of Dominican University, who did a heckuva’ job in staging an event of presidential debate caliber, even if the quality of the political entertainment sometimes fell a little short of the standards of excellence and civility they set with their careful preparations and warm hospitality.

H/T too, to Tom Brokaw for a first-rate job of ringmastering the eMeg-Krusty show. We made no secret of our concern that Tom the Tourist might not be the right man for the job. But after trying a little too hard at the start to ingratiate himself by bragging on his California bona fides, Brokaw hurled sharply crafted queries at each of the rivals – seeing no need, to his great credit, to pose the same questions to both – and also allowed the debate to go where it wanted to go, letting the rivals bark at each other, with none of the typical moderator’s control freak need to micromanage the clock or hog the camera. For our lack of faith, we criticize ourselves severely .

Calbuzz Goo Goo Offering: More and more sites on the interwebs are offering ways of helping people participate in the great, glorious process we call “democracy,” and Calbuzz, ever-helpful and dedicated to civic participation, is aware of a few worth mentioning.

First mention, of course, is one that BUYS ADVERTISING on our site. And that would be California Choices, which has a neat application to help you understand the propositions and, even better, to see what stands have been taken on the props by myriad interest groups, unions, newspapers and political parties you may like or dislike.

You can even fill out an online ballot form and email your personal recommendations to whomever you want. It’s put together by Next 10, the Bill Lane Center at Stanford, Berkeley’s IGS and Sacramento State.

Our old friend Greg Larson has also pulled together a massive number of organizations into a giant spreadsheet on each of the propositions. You can find it here. These kinds of sites are helpful because maybe you don’t know what to think about some props, but you know that you’d likely to agree (or disagree) with the Sierra Club or the Chamber of Commerce, or whoever.

Yahoo! and eVoter have teamed up to create a cool app with which you can enter your address and find your polling place – in case you’re not a permanent absentee voter and would actually like to show up and vote on election day.

There’s also an easy-to-use nonpartisan online voter guide called Imagine Election. You type in your zip code and get information about federal, state and some local candidates and invites reviews of candidates. Some of their information (for example how much money each candidate is spending) is rather out of date, but there’s some decent basic info there.

Coals to Newcastle: Not long before eMeg tossed another $20 million of pin money into the pot  - bringing her self-funding total for the campaign to more than $140M – our spies inside Camp eMeg forwarded an intriguing fundraising appeal aimed at a very select group of Top Bracket FOMs.

With a heavyweight sponsorship lineup including Sun Microsystems czar Scott McNealy, veteran GOP cash cow Howard Leach and Bush fundraiser/cell phone fortune spouse Susan McCaw, the A-list pitch bemoaned the evil forces that conspired to force eMeg into the position of, um, well, being responsible for her own actions regarding Nicky Diaz.

The recent attacks against our friend Meg were orchestrated to disrupt her campaign at the most pivotal moment.  The facts are that Meg did everything right.

Well almost everything.

In a stirring call for ruling class solidarity personal loyalty, the October 6 letter says, without a hint of irony, that Team Moneybags must raise $1 million in 10 days to spare eMeg the outrageous opprobrium of being accused of trying to buy the election.

We all know that Meg and Griff have invested significant resources and have been attacked for trying to level the playing field against the status quo…

Meg will be vilified for any additional contributions she makes to the campaign. We need to show her critics that she has enormous support from individuals within California and around the country…

Meg has worked tirelessly and done everything we could have expected her to do to win this race. We cannot sit by and let these attacks go unanswered. As her friends, we have to stand with her in the final days and ensure she knows we are behind her.

Given that our friend Meg just had to cough up another $20 million, it appears they were standing far behind her.

Don’t Call Us: When a Rasmussen Poll says Jerry Brown is leading Meg Whitman 50-44%, including 53-41% among women (after the “whore” story fallout) and 76-23% among non-whites and non-blacks (mostly Latinos with a few Asians), you know the ground is shifting in Brown’s direction.

Part of the explanation is that Rasmussen is fiddling with his turnout model – moving from a 2-point spread of Democrats over Republicans to a 6-point spread (could be he wants his survey to look more “scientific” and less partisan). But because the Rasmussen survey is automated, and it’s illegal to automatically dial cell phones, his surveys are fatally flawed – against Democrats.

A new study by the Pew Research Center underscores the distaste Calbuzz has regularly expressed for automatic, robotic calling, web-based polling and other shoddy political surveys. Pew found that surveys that do not include cell phones, “including virtually all of the automated polls” (like Rasmussen and SurveyUSA) yield a bias for Republicans and against Democrats on the order of 4 to 6 percentage points.

California pollsters (like the Field Poll, USC/LA Times and most private pollsters) who use the Secretary of State’s official list of voters as a base for their surveys automatically avert this source of potential error because they call respondents at whatever phone number they used when registering to vote. Other credible pollsters (like PPIC) use random digit dialing but  include a representative sample of cell phones.

Here’s what Pew reported:

The latest estimates of telephone coverage by the National Center for Health Statistics found that a quarter of U.S. households have only a cell phone and cannot be reached by a landline telephone. Cell-only adults are demographically and politically different from those who live in landline households; as a result, election polls that rely only on landline samples may be biased. Although some survey organizations now include cell phones in their samples, many — including virtually all of the automated polls — do not include interviews with people on their cell phones. (For more on the impact of the growing cell-only population on survey research, see “Assessing the Cell Phone Challenge,” May 20, 2010).

In the Pew Research Center’s latest poll, conducted Aug. 25 to Sept. 6 among 2,816 registered voters, including 786 reached by cell phone, 44% said that if the election were held today that they would vote for the Republican candidate for Congress in their district or leaned Republican, while 47% would vote for the Democratic candidate or leaned Democratic. Among the landline respondents, 46% preferred the GOP candidate and 45% the Democratic candidate, a four-point shift in the margin.

Rasmussen also had Democrat Barbara Boxer with a narrow 49-46% lead over Republican Carly Fiorina in the U.S. Senate race but again, take it with a huge grain of salt: no matter how hard Rasmussen tries, as long as they exclude cell phones, their surveys will tilt to the right

Memo to Rose K: Now that Babs has melted down in front of both Fred Barnes and Wolfie, we can only conclude it’s waaay past grandma’s nap time.

Liveblogging the Dominican Dog Fight

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Update 2:45 p.m. Calbuzz Steady Hand Video is up with a piece by video reporter Jennifer Fey of the action that took place outside the debate hall and press room last night. Her report is here.

In a sharp, fast-paced and intelligent debate, managed expertly by former NBC newsman Tom Brokaw, Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown gave any voters still undecided about the governor’s race as clear a choice as they could want: a businesswoman focused on private sector jobs and a lifelong public official focused on untangling gridlock in government.

Whitman scored well on a variety of issues, including a double dose of arguing that Brown is soft on crime and in the pocket of the unions. Brown hammered Whitman on her plan to cut capital gains taxes to benefit the rich and her failure to support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Brokaw asked impertinent questions with ease: What made Whitman interested in government after not voting for so many years? Did Brown sanction the use of the word “whore” to describe Whitman by someone in his campaign?

Brown, unexpectedly, was the first to attack, asking Whitman how much she personally would make if her plan to cut the capital gains tax was approved. But Whitman ridiculed Brown’s argument that he would cut the governor’s office budget and said he’d be “the same old same old.”

While Whitman demonstrated skill and knowledge, there was nothing in the debate that changed the dynamic of the race. However it was on Monday it will remain on Wednesday. Rare is the candidate who can use a debate to make himself or herself more appealing. Neither candidate did that, but neither did they make themselves more unappealing.

One note for Brokaw: In comparing the use of the word “whore” by someone on Brown’s staff to describe Whitman’s alleged sell-out to the Los Angeles police union to the use of the “n” word, Brokaw framed the issue with a false equivalency. One is a slur; the other is a blood libel. He knows better: that’s why he could say the word “whore” but had to use “the n word” as it’s “equivalent.”

Late add: That said, Brown’s apology was weak and his response was defensive and ineffective — and that’s what got picked up by most of the writers about the debate.

A brief rundown on key issues covered:

– Capital gains taxes: Meg wants to cut them because they’re a tax on jobs and innovation; Jerry says that would drive California even further into debt and steal billions from schools.

– Immigration: Whitman wants to secure the borders, bring in temporary workers and adopt new technology to verify citizenship; Brown also wants border security but emphasizes  comprehensive reform and supports a path to citizenship for undocumented workers, which Whitman opposes.

– Using the word “whore”: Whitman takes it personally that someone in Brown’s camp suggested calling her a “whore,” and she’s deeply offended for all women; Brown said he’s sorry the word was used and referenced a Calbuzz report about Whitman’s campaign chairman, Pete Wilson, calling members of Congress “whores.” He rejected Brokaw drawing equivalency between the campaigns use of the “w” word and referring to African-Americans with the “n” word.

– Crime: Whitman says Brown has been soft on crime for 40 years, that he doesn’t support the death penalty and appointed Rose Bird, who voted to overturn the death penalty 64 times, to the Supreme Court; Brown said he’s tough as nails, has the police chiefs backing (or was it in his back pocket?) and has defended the death penalty as AG.

– Unions: Whitman says Brown is owned by the labor bosses who have lavishly funded his campaign and that he won’t be able to stand up to the teachers union; Brown says he’s been there before and has denied labor’s demands when he’s had to.

–Pensions: They agree on the need for pension reform – later retirement age, greater employee contributions, two-tier system – but Meg says Jerry can’t pull it off because of his union support. He says he started doing pension reform long before she came to California and can do it more effectively because he can bring all the parties to the table while she vilifies labor. He says he exemption of law enforcement from her call for an end to defined benefit plans is a sell-out, she say cops deserve better treatment.

–AB 32: Meg says the number of green jobs to be created in the short term is not worth losing existing jobs under current economic conditions. Jerry says her moratorium plan will cause uncertainty for investors, and the only ones who want to get rid of existing law are big oil and petrochemical companies.

–Prop. 8 – Meg says she is against gay marriage and that Brown shirked his duty as AG by not defending Prop. 8 in court. He said he acted properly, and according to precedent, by refusing to defend a measure that imposes discrimination.

–National political leaders – He said he welcomes Obama campaigning for him in California and thinks he’s doing a good job. She said she’ll be otherwise occupied when Sarah Palin comes to the state and that she supports someone else – Mitt Romney – for president.

6:20 p.m - On the live feed into the press room, the president of Dominican University just introduced moderator Tom Brokaw, who comes out on crutches. He says he suffered an unidentified “mishap” on his Montana ranch and says he’s a lot like California:  “We’re both broken at the moment,” he said. “The difference is that I hope to be repaired by the end of the year.”

Talks about his personal, professional and family attachments to California: “In so many ways, California is a distillation of America.” Adds that he hopes to affect “the tone of this campaign.”

Brokaw introduces Jerry to the audience, recalling he first met Krusty with he, Tom, was covering Pat Brown’s campaign for governor in 1966. Introduces Meg as “one of the rock stars of the dot.com era.”

6:30 Throw to Brokaw after big taped plug for D.U. He says we’re going to learn lots of stuff about practically everything. Explains the ground rules – no opening statements. First question to Meg.

Tom waaaayyyy up on Mt. Olympus – JFK’s inaugural address is cited — asks the candidates to tell voters what they – the voters – can do for California.

Meg immediately starts talking about herself. Straight campaign schtick and talking points. Doesn’t answer the question except to say that “What people will have to do is support the next governor,” “pull together” and “there’s going to be some shared sacrifice.”

Brown on talking points too: Can’t point fingers, “rise above the poisonous partisanship” rise above categories and be Californians first. “Some people say this is a failed state – it’s not.” He doesn’t answer either.

Tom cites poll that says voters believe that we could cut 20 percent of budget without much affect: “Have voters become unrealistic?”

Meg says “they’re on the right track” and recites talking points on welfare, pensions and government efficiency, once again claims she can cut $15 billion with little impact.

Jerry: “A long time ago I said government was facing an era of limits and, boy, people didn’t like that” but it’s true, he said.

Q3: Should we look at changing Prop. 13 as a key to reform?

Meg: “Proposition 13 is absolutely essential to the future of California.” Says  one of the reasons she’s running is to protect Prop. 13. “Only way to increase revenues is to create jobs.” She sounds sharp and very specific.

Jerry: “There’s no sacred cows over the long term.” I once opposed 13 and then I made it work. Once again plugs Howard J’s endorsement of him. Brown says it’s a “myth” that homeowners are paying more than business.

Says the big problem with Prop. 13 is that in implementing Legislature moved too much power to Sacramento. Says one thing he wouldn’t do is cut the capital gains tax like Meg.

Meg gets a rebuttal and argues that cutting capital gains will create jobs. Jerry rebuts that 82% of the savings would go to people making $500K or more.

First great moment: Asks Meg directly how much she would make personally on such a tax cut. She says she’s “an investor” who would benefit along with “job creators.” She bashes Jerry saying he’s responsible, as a professional politician, for running down the economy over decades.

Jerry says her statements are “demonstrably untrue” and quotes San Jose Mercury News endorsement. Notes that there have been three GOP governors since him. Meg says that it’s “a classic politicians answer” – it’s “a half answer.”

Tom asks about the budget.

Notes Jerry has said “the process is the plan” and asks him to deny that it will be just more of the same, like the 100-day late budget just completed.

Jerry says it’s different because he’s done this before and can make it work by starting earlier and bringing all the stakeholders. We’ve heard this all before.

Tom to Meg: What alterations would you make in existing budget for 100 days?

Meg: Jerry did say “the process is the plan” and if you liked the process, you’ll like his plan. Gets into Jerry face about his promise to cut governor’s budget: “Do you know how much the governor’s budget is?” She cuts off his answer and says it’s $18 million and “if that’s your plan we’re in trouble.”

Good round by Meg. Jerry says “you’ve got to get the Legislature on board or nothing happens.” Says Meg doesn’t have a plan, doesn’t detail $15B in cuts or 40K layoffs.

Brokaw: What about the 100,000 lbs gorilla – underfunded pension system?

Brown says it has to be a two-tier system, credits Arnold for getting a good start on it. “A knowledgeable governor can get the compromise you need.”

? to Meg: What about existing pensioners? Meg says Jerry is “do what I say, not what I do” and hits Jerry over record in Oakland. “If we do not resolve this pension issue, California is going to run out of money.”

New employees have to come in under a different deal. BUT: law enforcement should get a special deal and stay on defined benefit plan unlike everyone else who should be moved to 401(k) program.

Brokaw pounces on that and cites extravagant pensions for L.A. cops, noting that some of them are higher than retired Army generals. Here’s the difference between me and Jerry Brown: he’ll owe his election to the unions that have been attacking me; I’ll be independent because I paid for my own campaign. She didn’t answer the question.

Jerry all defensive about her comments about Oakland record and dithers about that. Says the elephant in the room is that she would exempt law enforcement. Meg says she’s not exempting law enforcement because she’s changing age of retirement, contribution.

Here it comes: Brokaw raises the “whore” comment: “We’ve heard no outrage from you” about this.

Brown said it was a private conversation. Meg and he face to face: You’re defending your campaign against a slur on me. Brown cites fact from Calbuzz story about Pete Wilson calling Congress “whores.”  She tut-tuts that it’s not the same thing. He reaffirms his apology “I’m sorry.”

She says she got the endorsement not because of pension but because she’s tougher on crime, death penalty, etc. Jerry says he has more law enforcement endorsements and he has done dozens of death penalty cases.

Tom on AB32 and Prop. 23: Do you really think it’s going to kill jobs, despite what George Schultz, a great American says.

Meg says she wants to “freeze it, then fix it.” She thinks a one-year moratorium would be best: “We can be green and still smart” and first priority has to be keeping jobs we have instead of focusing on creating a small number of green jobs.

Brown says problem is “start stop” which creates uncertainty for investors. “The people who are crying are two big oil companies from Texas and one petrochemical conglomerate from the Midwest.”

Lots of audience applause, hooting and yelling.

Meg talks over Brokaw and says “what’s wrong with taking a break” on AB32? ”

Bushwah says Brown: there’s no evidence that this going to hurt 90% of existing jobs; we need to stimulate green industry.

Brokaw: What’s the role of the CTA?

Jerry: It’s a very important role. “You can’t go to war” with people who have to be part of the solution.

Meg: She’s still back on AB32. “Jerry Brown needs to get out and campaign more.” Says that the “bosses of the California Teachers Association” are a big part of the crisis in public schools. “We have to make radical changes.”

Brokaw: You’re spending a lot of dough but why didn’t you vote? Is there something else you might have done to benefit the state we don’t know about?

Meg repeats her rote apology for voting. Every candidate is a package of strengths and weaknesses. But spending my own money is a really, really good thing because otherwise “all the union bosses will collect the IOUs” for supporting Jerry campaign. “Of course Griff and I have a foundation.” Of course.

“This was always supposed to be a citizen democracy.”

Jerry: My entire campaign has been supported by many business and many ordinary citizens. She’s raised $30 million from people who will benefit directly from her “key economic plan” which will “take money from schools and invest in her friends.”

Talks about his work in charter schools and says that’s fine what we have to do is focus on the public education system. Push political power down to local level.

Meg says “Mr. Brown just said something he knows it’s not true” and she never said she wanted to keep money from schools.

Brokaw: Let’s go back to immigration. Recalls Meg spine of steel comments and says if you couldn’t figure it out how is anyone else supposed to.

Firing Nicky “broke my heart” (wonder what it did to Nicky?) but we really need an e-verify system. We need more infra red and motion sensor technology on the border. “I’ve been very clear from the beginning that I don’t think the Arizona plan is right for California.”

Brokaw to Jerry: You’re the top cop – why shouldn’t businesses be held responsible? Krusty says they should but it’s a federal problem but he’s worked with the fed through AG office.

The big problem is we have millions of people “in the shadows” and we need a comprehensive plan that includes a path to citizenship. She doesn’t. We need to think about immigrants as people. “And by the way…it’s a sorry tale” but “but after nine years of working for her why didn’t she get her (housekeeper) a lawyer?” Meg looks major pissed.

Tom asks Jerry why he hasn’t done anything about murderous drug dealing. He says he has.

Tom asks Meg: You’re opposed to Prop. 19 – what’s wrong with it being controlled, and administered by the state? She’s “firmly opposed” because “it’s not the right thing.”

And another thing: JB says he’s tough on drug dealers but she got the endorsement of a narcotics officers association. “Jerry Brown has been soft on crime for 40 years.” Rose Bird fought against all 64 death penalty cases that came her way. Look at my front-line cop organizations endorsements.

Brokaw to Meg: How important is Prop. 8? I’m running for governor to advance my talking points. But I’m against gay marriage. What is the responsibility of the chief law enforcement – he needs to defend that lawsuit on appeals. “It’s really dangerous” for him to make a decision on what part of the constitution he will defend and what part he won’t.

JB: I’m following precedent about an earlier racial discrimination.

Back to crime, stumbles and says, “I’ve got the police chiefs in my back…I’m got the police chiefs backing me.”

Meg laughs a really scary laugh and says, “I think Jerry was saying he’s got the police chiefs in his back pocket.”

“Sometimes, unaccustomed as I am to politics,” I misspeak.

Tom: Jerry what do you think of Obama? He’s terrific and I look forward to him coming to campaign for me.

Meg, how about that Sarah Palin? Meg says “I’ve supported other candidates” for president. And another thing: Jerry Brown is a major tool of unions – keeps talking while Brokaw tells her her time is up.

Brokaw: What about relaxing the two-thirds vote for the budget – Prop. 25. Meg doesn’t answer but says she supports a two-year budget plan. Jerry says he backs relaxing two-thirds for budget not for two-thirds.

Jerry gets last word saying unions, business, they’re all part of the process.

“I’ve been in the kitchen, I know what it is to say yes, and what it is to say no. She’s been in the bleachers, working for an internet company.”

Press conferences: Meg’s on first. She thought she did a great job. “I couldn’t have been more pleased with the way things went.”

Tough question on what is your record on drug enforcement – whatrecord do you have? I meant my policies, if I said me record, I misspoke.b

She was “stunned by Jerry Brown’s insensitivity” to use of word “whore” which is very offensive to Californians especially women.

Q: How was Brown campaign use of “whore” different than Wilson’s reference to “whores” in Congress. Completely different. How is it different? Completely different.

Q: I watched debate with Latinos and they don’t like your handling of the Nicky Diaz matter – is that over. “Absolutely.” It’s all Gloria Allred’s fault and Latinos care about a lot of other stuff that I talk about.

8:06 p.m. Brown is here. “Very spirited” debate. He’s standing in front of the podium instead of behind. He says biggest issue was her lack of answer on how much capital gains cut will benefit her personally. “I intend to get an answer to that” before election.

Brown asked about “whore.” I’ve apologized, I apologized again tonight” and I have nothing more to say about it.

And anyway, he rants, she should apologize for how she treated her maid especially about saying she stole the mail.

Pre-Debate Notes from the Press Room

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

4:15 p.m. The logistical arrangements for tonight’s Tom Brokaw show Jerry Brown-Meg Whitman debate rivals the planning for the invasion of Normandy, and the staff and students at Dominican University in San Rafael have done a terrific job getting ready for the big event.

Wizened by years of experience on the pothole pocked campaign trail, Calbuzz showed up six-and-a-half hours before the 6:30 p.m. kickoff, in the unstinting service of our readers, and were quite pleased with ourselves for doing so.

Amid annoying armies of satellite trucks and blow-dried bloviators, media types from Hong Kong to Germany flying in from around the globe, and the closed roads and Patriot Act level  security slapped on by fire marshals and  San Rafael cops, we skated in ahead of the other 265 credentialed news hounds and hens, got our work space set up in a jiffy, then headed off to a two-star, all-you-can-eat lunch ($6.95) at the campus cafeteria in Caleruega Hall.

We recommend the quesadillas and the salad bar (press room chow update  later).

In our spare time, we also managed to score a world exclusive, ferreting out the story of how Domincan scored Tom Brokaw as a moderator and, in the process, landed themselves squarely in the spotlight of national attention. Here’s how the deal went down:

Through the friend of an ex-spouse’s ex-friend ex-spouse (we name no names), Dominican’s public affairs office connected with Cindy Myers, the high-energy, former longtime marketing and promotions executive with the Chronicle and Examiner, who’s now got her own consulting business.

Asked if she could help the college put together a high-profile gov’s debate, Cindy said no problem, and promptly dashed off a Facebook message to Phil Alongi, a big deal NBC news producer whom she’d met while working on the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

In the message, she asked if he would be interested in producing a California gubernatorial debate, and whether it might be possible to get Brokaw as the star attraction.

Angoli , who was at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, said he’d be delighted. As for Brokaw:

“He’s standing right next to me,” Myers recalls that Alongi told her, and he’d be delighted as well. The rest is history, at least at Dominican University.

One other Brokaw note: apparently the last time Big Tom moderated a debate with Jerry Brown was in 1992 when Brown kept raising his 1-800 number sign during the debate, which drove Brokaw so crazy that during a break in the action he called a top Brown campaign aide, begging for Jerry to stop. He didn’t. Instead, he raised $8 million.

5:45 p.m. D.U. just sent in the caterers with a light but satisfying pre-debate spread to help the ladies and gentleman of the political press carbohydrate load in advance of the grueling task that lies ahead.

Soft rolled lavosh (lahvosh? lavash?), some filled with turkey, thinly sliced jack cheese and spinach, others a delightful vegie blend of eggplant, artichoke and yellow peppers, set off with a side of Kettle Honey Dijon chips. Magnifique! At least if they bring some cookies soon.

Only downside: Many sweltering journalists’ teeth specked with green. Yuck!

30 minutes to kickoff.

The Gov’s Debate Calbuzz Would Like to Live Blog

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

When Tom Brokaw, Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown meet for their three-way in Marin County tonight, we’re betting it will be a pretty tame affair, with NBC’s anchor emeritus setting the tone with genteel inquiries delivered with urbane civility as Meg and Krusty display their best behavior.

Or not.

In any case, while the candidates have been hunkered down boning up for tonight’s big event at Dominican University, political writers have been furiously trying to answer the crucial question of who played the opponent in debate prep for eMeg and Krusty.

Calbuzz hears eMeg was played by Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board,  in at least one debate prep session. We’ve been unable to unearth any more than that. So we decided to cast the sparring partners ourselves, as you can see above.

We’re also offering Calbuzz readers a look at the debate questions you won’t (and probably shouldn’t) hear as you’re deciding whom to support to lead the Great State of California.

With his Olympian air, Brokaw might turn to Brown and ask, for example: “Gov. Brown, what medication do you take for your ADD?” (For Bigfoot Tom this has the advantage of having no “ls” to swallow.)

Or, in his most resonant basso, he might look quizzically at eMeg and ask: “Ms Whitman, after not voting for 28 years, exactly when did you decide you wouldn’t let California fail?”

But really, since it’s not our debate – you may recall, Jerry accepted the invitation we proposed along with FlashReport and Calitics but Meg declined – we’d prefer to see the candidates question one another. To wit:

Meg: Who you calling a whore, bitch?  It was Anne wasn’t it?

Jerry: Hey Meg, how come you never talk about those boys of yours?

Meg: Who does your eyebrows, anyway?

Jerry: Don’t they have any decent hairdressers down there around Atherton?

(For the record, we criticize ourselves severely).

Or on the slightly more serious side, how about this:

Meg: How come you didn’t fire Jacques Barzaghi the first time he sexually harassed a woman on the city staff?

Jerry: Why didn’t you hire Nicky Diaz an immigration lawyer ?

And if they want to get really nasty:

Meg: Mr. Brown,  why don’t you just come out now and admit you’d like to put a measure on the ballot to overturn Proposition 13’s requirement for a 2/3 vote for tax increases?

Jerry: Ms Whitman, what are you going to do when an assemblyman from Firebaugh tells you he’ll vote for your budget as soon as you put a $4 million swimming pool in his district?

Meg: Would you appoint anyone to the bench who doesn’t support the death penalty?

Jerry: Would you appoint anyone to the bench who doesn’t support a woman’s right to choose?

Here’s what we don’t want to hear, yet again: talking points from their respective web sites – positions honed and polished by their advisers and allies – brought to life as a filibuster.

Which is what we’re likely to get if Brokaw doesn’t force Whitman and Brown to explain their reasoning, to get beyond the simple-minded superficialities they’ve resorted to in the campaign to date.

Well actually, Krusty hasn’t even offered too many of those.

What the hell, we’ll live blog it anyway. Sure you can watch it live on your local NBC affiliate, but you’ll be much better off coming back to Calbuzz around 6:15 p.m. Plenty of free parking.

Coming Up Next: Brokaw Takes on eMeg and Krusty

Monday, October 11th, 2010

First there was the Duel in Davis. Then the Fracas in Fresno. And now comes the Brokaw Brawl.

The former NBC News anchor will be the third conspicuous presence in the match-up on Tuesday at Dominican University between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman. The substance, tone and texture of the debate will be entirely decided by Tom Brokaw who, despite having no intimate knowledge about the race for governor, has a facility for asking candidates questions that probe the thinking beneath their talking points.

For Gandalf, that should not be much of a problem: it doesn’t take much to get him to talk about the philosophical underpinnings of his political ideas. His only risk is letting loose a verbal arabesque that references G.K. Chesterton, St. Ignatius and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and leaves listeners asking, “WTF is he talking about?”

But we have no idea how eMeg will handle the challenge because as far as we know she’s never submitted to an interview where her political ontology has been revealed. She’s a smart woman with an accomplished business resume but she didn’t even vote for 28 years before she woke up one day and decided she just couldn’t let California fail.

In the 2008 presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, Brokaw took time between questions from the audience and the interwebs to ask questions like:

– “Quick discussion: Is health care in America a privilege, a right, or a responsibility?”

– “Should we fund a Manhattan-like project that develops a nuclear bomb to deal with global energy and alternative energy or should we fund 100,000 garages across America, the kind of industry and innovation that developed Silicon Valley?”

– “Let’s see if we can establish tonight the Obama doctrine and the McCain doctrine for the use of United States combat forces in situations where there’s a humanitarian crisis, but it does not affect our national security.”

– “This requires only a yes or a no. Ronald Reagan famously said that the Soviet Union was the evil empire. Do you think that Russia under Vladimir Putin is an evil empire?”

Of course, a well-trained seal candidate can revert to talking points, even in the face of a thoughtful question. But at the risk of looking like a shallow evader – especially if the moderator or the opponent points out that he or she never answered the question.

Consider the possibilities. In a moving 2006 commencement address to Stanford’s undergraduates, Brokaw spoke of a world of perpetual contradictions, unintended consequences and unexpected realities, and he described how he admires most people who gave up comfort and convention to make a difference.

He said he could hobnob with elites anywhere in the world but that he never felt so intellectually alive as the time he heard a young nomadic tribesman in Mongolia describe riding his horse 20 miles through freezing temperatures just for the chance to vote.

Will he use the passion he has about commitment and participation to ask Whitman why she never voted for all those years? Or to ask Brown why, if he’s genuinely committed to democracy, doesn’t he advocate a majority vote for passing taxes?

Just because Brokaw is in charge, however, doesn’t mean the candidates won’t have their own debate strategies. Brown, believing he is leading in the polls, has no reason to attack and every reason to project himself as an elder statesman who does not have to wrestle in the dirt. Voters know he’s got what it takes to be governor; they just want to know he’ll keep his hands off their money.

But if Whitman believes she’s behind (as she apparently did going into the Univision debate), she will want to make Brown bleed and pressure him to make an error. She’ll want him on defense (which is not that hard if you attack his record). But as we’ve seen, Brown is a consummate counter-puncher and is not afraid of breaking the conventions of TV format if he has to. So if Whitman comes at him, it’s a move that carries risks, especially when her No. 1 challenge is to demonstrate that she has the skill, knowledge and temperament to be a governor.

In an interview with comrade Joe Garofoli of the Chronicle back in August, Brokaw, who said he won’t be a “patsy,” even though he has been following California politics from Montana. “The big issues obviously are spending and taxes and special interests and the referendum procedure. These are all critical issues for California,” he said. “The large issue for California is, ‘Are the golden years over?’ Or, is there a new era for California? And if there is, how do we get to it and bring everybody on board?”

Let’s hope he doesn’t ask vapid questions like that because he’ll just get the same drivel the candidates spew on the stump.

Tuesday’s debate may serve as a pivot point for the rest of the campaign. We’re not sure when Whitman will make her next move against Brown on TV:  Will it be before the debate or after? Will she put something up that she wants Brokaw to ask about, or will it be something she’d rather not have brought up in the debate?

Most consultants we’ve talked to in the past few days are predicting that Whitman will throw whatever’s left of the kitchen sink at Brown in the next weeks. Some think she’ll just hammer him further about taxes and spending – since the Armies of eMeg believe that’s his weak spot.

Others foresee nastier hits, perhaps something aimed at women tying the “whore” comment to Brown’s handling of his friend and aide Jacques Barzaghi (whom Brown belatedly fired long after he’d been charged with sexual harassment) and to his questioning, in 1995, the value of mammograms (a debate that is still going on in the medical world, btw).

As for the mammogram issue, a story which got fed  to Maggie Haberman of Politico in New York like cheap bait to a fish, we have two notes. First, this from the (All Bow Down) New York Times – an article noting that the usefulness of mammogram screening is still hotly debated in medical circles. And the quote of the week from Brown’s spokeshuman Sterling Clifford (or Clifford Sterling, if you prefer):

“Jerry Brown opposes cancer in all cases.”