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Posts Tagged ‘UC Berkeley’



Team eMeg Grabs the Green, Proves They’re Yellow

Monday, December 6th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other words: fuck you, you fucking fucks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press Clips: Reporting the Good, the Bad and da Ugly

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

megcarlyCalbuzz is happy to see the “national media” weigh in on California politics, and we’re always pleased to chat with our colleagues from DC and NYC when they’re gathering string and trying to figure out the lay of the land. But when they screw it up – especially after they’ve spoken with us – we find it annoying.

Thus it was with the Wall Street Journal’s  “California GOP Pins Hopes on Ex-CEOs” — which was thrown together mid-week, on-the-fly and then, we’re told, slashed before making print.

By writing that “many in the party are pegging their hopes on two former corporate chief executives: Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina,” reporter Jim Carlton gave the WSJ headline writers free rein to suggest Meg and Carly are the great hopes for the future of the California GOP. This is exactly the story eMeg and Hurricane Carly wanted to spin and — in our humble opinion — puts the cart way before the horse. Maybe that’s the story Carlton’s editors wanted, but we’re not convinced that it reflects what we sometimes refer to as “actual reality.”

What’s the evidence, for example, for the assertion that “The star power of both CEOs is likely to give them some momentum.”? Clearly the WSJ didn’t check the clips for the March Field Poll in which 17% of Republicans had a favorable view of Whitman, 11% unfavorable and 72% no opinion. Fiorina’s standing was 24% favorable, 17% unfavorable and 59% no opinion — also among Republicans. That’s not momentum or star power. To suggest otherwise is to swallow the swill peddled by Whitman and Fiorina spinners.

And here’s a neat writing trick: the piece posed “political observers” who say Meg and Carly’s business credentials could be helpful to them (on one side) versus (on the other side) “Democratic strategists” who say they come from a reviled class of CEOs. That’s a loaded match-up — positing neutral observers against partisans.

Especially since at least one neutral “political observer” the WSJ talked to (we name no names) made the point that being a business leader in this economic and political climate is a tremendous deficit for any candidate, Republican or Democrat. Also, eMeg and Hurricane Carly are from the same party as the governor whose approval rating is about 30% at a time when about 80% of voters say the state is on the wrong track.

And what, exactly, did this add to the conversation that it would qualify as a kicker quote?
“Whoever our candidates are,” says Mike Villines, former Republican leader in the Democrat-dominated state Assembly, “the key for Republicans in the state is definitely focused on winning.”

Why does any of this matter? Because unless reporters get it right, their clips create a body of “information” upon which more stories are built, getting it more and more wrong. There is no big flashing red light that pops up when the next reporter from out of town does a Google search on the California governor’s race. Up pops the WSJ story, with all its misstatements and misjudgments. This in turn can affect fundraising and momentum in the race itself. Thus, the spin works even if it doesn’t reflect “actual reality.” And this pisses off Calbuzz.

Late breaking P.S. (8:53 a.m.) The Journal this morning published this correction of the Carlton piece:  “Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard Co. chairman and chief executive who is exploring a run for the U.S. Senate in California, is pro-life on the abortion issue. A Saturday U.S. News article misstated her position as pro-choice.”

Back on the home front: Debra Saunders, our old pal who spins her own view at the Chron, would normally lean toward eMeg and Hurricane Carly, but you gotta give her big credit for taking them to task for being lousy citizens in her piece asking:  ”How do you run for California’s top political offices when you often have failed to vote yourself and have no political experience?”

conrad

He really IS a twit: Sam Stein and Ryan Grin have a first-rate takedown on Kent Conrad, Calbuzz’s least favorite U.S. Senator and the guy whose winning total in his last re-election wouldn’t be enough to get a seat on the L.A. Community College Board.

While Conrad loves to portray himself as some kind of deficit hawk hero on government spending, the Huffbloggers nail him for 1) opposing fiercely Obama’s bid to cut $10 billion in wasteful agriculture subsidies whose beneficiaries include constituents of Conrad’s, who get paid for not growing crops and; 2) enjoying nearly two million other reasons to fight against a public option and on behalf of private insurers to keep the health care status quo:

“Beyond ideology or pragmatism, however, the North Dakota Democrat has a pocketful of other reasons to oppose a public option. Despite being from a state where campaigns cost a relative pittance, Conrad has found himself the recipient of largess from a host of private actors with interests in the health care debate. Over the course of his career he has received more than $828,000 from insurance companies, $610,000 from health professionals, and $255,000 from pharmaceutical and health product companies, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.”

This is the guy who is one-sixth of the Senate Finance Committee that’s holding health care reform hostage. Hailing from such politically important places as North Dakota, Montana and Maine, the six-pack deciding the future of America’s medical treatment collectively represent 2.77 percent of the U.S.population. Sheesh.

Prince Gavigavinmicrophonen gets good ink: It was a good media week for wannabe governor Gavin Newsom, who got a whole bushel of huzzahs from a trio of UC Berkeley eggheads, who’ve studied San Francisco’s universal health care program and gave it high marks in a NYT op-ed.

While it’s always nice to have the chrome domes on your side, we expect Newsom and chief henchman Garry South were even more thrilled at the major props thrown his way on health care by our blogging colleagues at the AFL-CIO.

On the other hand, those polls by Jim Moore and David Binder, reported in the Chronicle, where Newsom is losing within San Francisco to Crusty the General Jerry Brown: OY! At least former SF Mayor Dianne Feinstein had a base in her home town when she set out to win the Democratic nomination for governor back in 1990.

Big picture guy: Nice work by New America Foundation scholar and sometime Calbuzzer Mark Paul, who has a first-rate, big picture takeout on the collapse of California in the new issue of The American Interest. Paul covers a lot of familiar ground with clarity and punch, and adds an intriguing new element to the debate about the awful woes of the Golden State:

omarlittle

“California is no longer a state of arrival. Population growth by natural increase now outpaces migration by three to one. Californians, especially the native born and the young, are less likely to migrate than the residents of all but three other states. By the time today’s California youth reach middle age, native-born Californians will make up the state’s majority for the first time in its history…Middle Americans who once thought of ‘California’ as a byword for ‘opportunity’ now see it as a signal of dysfunction.”

As the late great Omar Devone Little would say, “In-deed.”

Hold the parade: While Laura Ling and Euna Lee have been celebrated in the U.S. as journalistic heroes since their release from North Korea, there’s a group of human rights advocates, bloggers and Christian pastors in South Korea who aren’t exactly feeling the same way.

The Times reports that a number of human rights and religious workers trying to help North Korean refugees, the story Ling and Lee were trying to cover when they were arrested, say the pair “needlessly endangered the very people they tried to cover, North Korean refugees and the activists who help them.”

South Korean blogger Joo Sung-ha, a North Korean defector who works in Seoul as a newspaper  reporter,  “berated the American reporters, urging them to ‘shed their martyrdom image.’ In a separate interview, Mr. Joo said he was also ‘disgusted’ by the way ‘some American media are giving them some kind of hero’s welcome home.’”

Since their return,” he added, ‘they haven’t said a peep about the fate of the people they have endangered, though unintentionally.’” So much for happy endings.