Posts Tagged ‘Watergate’

Fix My Ticket: Why Lite Gov Candidates May Matter

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

California has no history of major party candidates for governor and lite gov running as a single entry, but both sides in the 2010 campaign are suddenly talking ticket.

“I can’t recall any time that the governor ran with a lieutenant governor as a team – that would be unique,” the venerable Allan Hoffenblum told Calbuzz.*

Co-founder and publisher of the invaluable California Target Book, and a recovering Republican consultant, Hoffenblum added: “Often as not, they kind of run away from each other.”

Despite bipartisan memories of politically troubled lieutenant governors of the past (see Curb, Mike and Dymally, Mervyn), there’s widespread chatter among California’s chattering class these days over scenarios that posit the major candidates for governor may actually benefit – or actually suffer – from their party’s nominees for lite guv.

On the Republican side, the confirmation of Abel Maldonado to fill the #2 spot has sparked speculation that GOP front-runner Meg Whitman could boost her general election chances, if she wins the nomination, by raising Abel to a veritable partnership position on the ticket.

Hoffenblum said that in order to win election, Whitman’s must pull at least one third of the Latino vote, and having the first Republican Latino to hold statewide office since 1875 , who happens to speak Spanish, could help.

“I can see Meg trying to work closely with Abel Maldonado,” Hoffenblum told us. “Nothing would be better for her.”

Of course, the notion depends entirely on Maldonado surviving a primary battle against state Senator Sam Aanestad, in one of those chest-beating fight-for-the-soul of the Republican party type things .

Longtime political analyst Tony Quinn, Hoffenblum’s Target Book colleague, agreed that Maldonado could prove an asset to eMeg, and suggested that eMeg might even discover a sudden rush of generosity towards Maldonado.

Although a gov-lite gov mutual aid pact has “never happened before,” Quinn said, Maldonado “could definitely help her.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see her try to help Maldonado get the nomination sub rosa,” he added. “It would be smart for her to see that he gets the nomination.”

(Calbuzz sez: We would not be too surprised if eMeg finds a spare $1 million in the sofa cushions and feels a sudden onset of generosity towards Maldonado.)

Even if Maldo wins the nomination, and even if he helps Whitman in the general, of course, he could still easily lose in November to the Democrats, among whom there’s some top-of-the-ticket intrigue as well.

With San Francisco Mayor Prince Gavin Newsom and L.A. City Council member Janice Hahn competing for the nomination, her handlers unveiled “Jerry and Janice” campaign signs at the party convention this month.

Planned and produced without the assent of Jerry Brown’s campaign for governor, the slogan served the purpose of sharply making the political point that, even if Hahn didn’t help Brown, as a woman from Southern California, she potentially would hurt him less than having Newsom running for lieutenant governor.

Having two white male San Francisco Bay Democrats at the top of the ballot would give Republicans a big target, not only ideologically, in a year when voters are worried about government spending, but also demographically, in a campaign where the GOP could turn the tables and become the party offering diversity in its statewide slate.

Offshore update: With the still growing oil spill off the coast of Louisiana now about 2,000 square miles in size, NASA has produced some extraordinary images of the mess.

As we’ve reported, the political fallout from the spill could impact the future  chances Governor Schwarzmuscle’s pet Tranquillon Ridge project. First shot comes from Assemblyman Pedro Nava, a staunch foe of the proposal who was recently named the new chair of the Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials committee; he plans to hold “an investigative hearing” in Hermosa Beach on Friday to examine the “threats” posed by drilling.

“Given the disaster in the Gulf, we need to evaluate the dangers posed by both off-shore and on-shore oil drilling in California,” Nava said in a statement announcing the hearing.  “Many parts of the state are impacted by oil development and drilling.  Whether it is Hermosa Beach and Baldwin Hills in Los Angeles County or Santa Barbara…we must make sure that we do not have the type of catastrophe that is occurring in the Gulf of Mexico.”

First the verdict, then the trial.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire: Calbuzz mistakenly reported the other day that Jerry Brown had sold the state airplane. We couldn’t remember where we got that alleged factoid which, the Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters informed us, was wrong. Ronald Reagan sold the plane. Tuesday, we found the source of our mistake: it was in Jerry Brown’s own video — the one they showed at the Democratic Party state convention and the one that’s on his web site here (or at least it was before we spoke to Brown campaign manager Steve Glazer who tried to argue that it wasn’t their mistake, they just pulled together news clips!). “He sold the governor’s executive jet and travels commercially,” the narrator intones in the video. After first trying to argue that the mistake was Mike Wallace’s or Morley Safer’s, Glazer finally said, “I’m sorry that our video had a factual inaccuracy and you reprinted it.”

* From the Calbuzz Department of Corrections: Steve Merksamer and Kurt Schuparra, two of the sharpest guys in Sacramento, noted a couple of instances where candidates for  governor and lieutenant governor ran as a team.

According to Kurt, “In 1966, Ronald Reagan and Robert Finch ran ads in the LA Times and other papers, with a picture of them together, urging voters to “Elect California’s new team,” a duo with “common sense and integrity” and committed to dealing firmly with ‘Beatniks, taxes, riots, [and] crime.’  Like Reagan, Finch won by a wide margin.”

In addition, says Steve, “Reagan and Ed Reinecke ran as a ticket in 1970.  Advertising was joint and billboards throughout the state said “reelect Reagan/Reinecke Team 70.”

We note that Finch later joined Richard Nixon’s administration as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and later as Counselor to the President  until his resignation in 1973. Reinecke resigned his post after he was indicted by the Watergate Grand Jury in 1974 on three counts of perjury before Sam Ervin’s Senate Watergate Committee.

What’s True and False in "Frost-Nixon"

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

By Jerry Roberts

“Frost-Nixon,” the hit movie about Big Dick Nixon’s famous post-Watergate TV interviews, won an Academy Award nomination for Best Motion Picture of the Year.

Ken Khachigian is glad it’s not up for Best Documentary Feature.

California’s top-ranked Republican strategist (and All-World UCSB alum) Khachigian was a longtime aide to Nixon and chief researcher for his 1977 television confrontation with British talk-show host David Frost. Portrayed in “Frost-Nixon” by Gabriel Jarret, and an informal adviser on the film, Khachigian has a good news-bad news take on it.

“It’s great entertainment,” he told me. “Having said that, it’s not great history.”

Khachigian graduated in 1966 as Gaucho student body president, then joined Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign and the White House communications staff at Pat Buchanan’s urging. After Nixon resigned in 1974, he was one of four key aides to join him in San Clemente (Diane Sawyer was most notable among the others). He worked closely with Nixon, first on a memoir and, after Frost ponied up $1 million for the first post-presidency interviews, preparing for 28 hours of taping. “We put together 25 briefing books, and I spent dozens of hours prepping him,” he said.

Frost’s interviews with Nixon were of national interest because Gerald Ford’s pardon after the resignation provided a free legal pass – not only for the White House-sponsored 1972 break-in at Democratic national headquarters, but also for other alleged high crimes and misdemeanors, short-handed by the media as The Watergate Scandal, disclosed as the burglary cover-up unspooled. Millions wanted Nixon held to account, and Frost got the first, best chance to do the job. “Frost-Nixon,” however, overreaches in how effectively he performed: In reality, Frost scored points against the ex-president, but nowhere near the knock-out of the movie.

The climax of the film (Spoiler Alert), in fact, substantively distorts the historical record. The money shot comes when Frank Langella, whose performance won him a best actor Oscar nomination, is cross-examined by Frost, played by Michael Sheen, who presses for some justification for the break-in at the Watergate complex.

“When the president does it, it’s not illegal,” a harried Nixon-Langhella blurts. As big screen drama, it’s a great moment; as history, not so much.

As Khachigian recalled, Nixon said those words – but not in connection with the break-in. Instead, the comment came amid a colloquy with Frost about the [Houston] Huston Plan, a secret White House wiretap operation aimed at officials suspected of leaking national security information. Legally, Nixon’s claim that as a policy matter he, as a wartime president, had authority to order wiretaps is a broad, if familiar, view of executive power (See: Bush, George W.) – but far from an admission of guilt, or even responsibility, for a felony crime.
Khachigian remembers the real drama about Watergate questions and answers well. As accurately shown in the film, Frost badgered Nixon about the issue, so chief of staff Jack Brennan interrupted taping. While Brennan met with Frost to insist that he ease up on “the Perry Mason deal,” Khachigian said, he went in alone with the ex-president.

“Frost had been pushing and the old man was getting his back to the wall,” he recalled. “I went in to see him and he said, ‘Ken, they want me to admit to everything, to just grovel.’ He was thinking out loud and I said, ‘whatever you do, you have to do in such a way that survives history, and survives being on video. If you say you lied, (or) you committed a crime, (or) you committed an impeachable offense, it will be on the video forever, so choose your words carefully.”

A few minutes later, a composed Nixon re-emerged and uttered his famous, modified limited hang-out (CQ. Palmer: those four words a famous Watergate reference), as close to taking responsibility for the break-in as he ever came: “I let the country down.”

“The old man always had it in his head how to handle this,” Khachigian said. “He was thinking through for a matter of weeks the words he would say that would put Watergate behind him. He had the staff going back and forth about what to do, never revealing what he would do.”

At least two other big moments in the movie are simply fantasy. The first comes when a surprised Frost gets a call in his hotel room from Nixon, who delivers a terrific drunken rant. In the final scene, Frost drops off as a gift a new pair of Italian loafers, a fashion choice that Nixon earlier chides Frost for wearing.

“That was pure horseshit,” Khachigian said, adding that he pointed out factual flaws in the script to Peter Morgan, the “lefty Brit” writer. Morgan’s reply: “Hey, it’s entertainment.”