Archive for 2011

GOP Special Report: Debate, Fratricide, Tea Party

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

All you need to know about last night’s Republican debate in Florida:

1) Best line: Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson got his first chance to join the Gang of 8, and got the biggest laugh of the night, when he said his neighbor’s dogs have “produced more shovel-ready jobs” than Obama’s jobs program. Sadly, the joke was stolen from Rush Limbaugh. Oops.

2) Mitt Romney actually made himself look human when he gagged at Rick Perry’s suggestion that his ideal vice presidential candidate would result from cross-breeding New Gingrich and Herman Cain. Some love child.

3) Perry gave a smooth and practiced statement about being lobbied by a young woman with cervical cancer for his controversial HPV program, which was moving, poignant and…a lie, according to a tweet from Texas native Arlette Saenz of ABC News: “Perry met Heather Burcham, the woman who died of cervical cancer, AFTER he issued the executive order.”

Gary Johnson's jobs program

4-Michele Bachmann’s 100% totally wrong fact this time out was her claim that Obama’s 38 percent favorability rating is the lowest of any president in history; simply not so tweets Marcus’ Beard who reports that W. fell to 25, Truman 22, Nixon 29, Bush I  29 and Carter 28.

5) The audience at the first debate raucously cheered Perry’s mention of his world record on executions, the second exalted about letting an uninsured guy in a coma die  and last night’s crowd kept the sicko-meter streak alive by loudly booing Stephen Hill, a gay soldier serving in Iraq, who asked if the candidates would repeal don’t ask don’t tell. Not a word of reproach from any of the wannabe leaders of the free world. In fact, the revolting Rick Santorum compounded the ugliness.

Bottom line: another good night for Obama.

Grand Old Pratfall: Republicans now represent 30.9% of California’s  registered voters, which raises an intriguing question: How does the state party define success?

The state GOP has lost 11% of its overall registration in the last 10 years, 21%   in the last 20; at this rate, they’ll be closing in on 25% by the next census. So what will their final victory look like – 20% registration? 15? Or do they have the smarts and moxie to go all the way and drive it straight to single digits?

The question occurs following the state GOP’s latest sad spectacle of political fratricide, their set-to over the party platform last weekend. As we reported in advance, a group of endangered species moderates had put forth a proposed revision of the current arch right-wing platform; the thrust was to delete some red meat on polarizing matters like abortion, gay marriage, gun control and immigration in favor of a more focused emphasis on economic development issues, along the lines of what Calbuzz suggested shortly after voters last year dealt state Republicans their latest in a long series of humiliating defeats.

No surprise, the troglodyte caucus came out in full force last Sunday to crush those who dared to think – hey, how about this, why don’t we try something new that, you know, appeals to voters?

Fat chance.

Not content with just winning the day, the GOP forces of doom later went out of their way to insult and trash talk those who had the unmitigated gall to raise the idea of changing the depressing status quo.

Honing in on Republican donor Chuck Munger, who bankrolled the moderate effort, the state party’s leading apparatchik – oh what’s his name, again? –  compared Munger to Sauron, the satanic Dark Lord arch-villain in “Lord of the Rings,” attacking him as “divisive” for trying to amend the platform “into something more to his liking.” Huh. And here we thought maybe Munger was trying to amend it into something more to the voters’ liking.

Marin, Mariposa and male menopause: Yeah, we know nobody reads the platform except for uber-nerds and it really doesn’t matter, etc. etc. Except that it does: in politics, what people say does matter, and platforms are a pretty good predictor of what its candidates think are the most important priorities for a governing agenda.

And you can see clearly what Californians think of the current GOP agenda by the number of statewide offices held by Republicans, and by the fact that the only semblance of significance they have left is its dead-ender, head-in-the-sand caucus in the senate and its male-menopause afflicted leadership.

The reaction of Republican thought police to these such crazy notions doubtless will be – aargh…grumble…Calbuzz…lefty commie socialist Fabian Marxists…arrgh…grumble..aargh.

So let’s be clear: the only rooting self-interest we have  is that it would be a helluva’ lot more stimulating, engaging and entertaining to cover politics in a state that actually had two vital and relevant parties; unfortunately, instead of compelling and thought-provoking ideas, all the status quo Republican reactionaries are currently contributing to the debate is a narrow and discredited ideology that demonstrably doesn’t work.

There’s no doubt that Democrats have their own problems with declining support, but by comparison they’ve lost voters at a much slower pace — 3% off registration in the last 10 years, 11% in the last 20; and of course,  decline-to-state independents routinely favor Democrats over Republicans.

Put another way, the top 10 counties in Democratic registration are: Alameda, San Francisco, Marin, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Sonoma, San Mateo, Imperial, Los Angeles and Contra Costa. The top 10 Republican counties are: Modoc, Placer, Lassen, Shasta, Colusa, Sutter, Tulare, Glenn, Mariposa and Amador.

Keep it up, GOP: you’re well on your way to 10%.

Tea Kettle Losing Steam: The most important finding in the latest survey from the Public Policy Institute of California – at least as it relates to national politics – is the declining approval California voters express about the so-called Tea Party movement.

Last October, 30% of California voters had a favorable view of the TP movement, compared to 47% with an unfavorable view. In PPIC’s September survey, the TP’s favorability has fallen to 28% positive and 57% negative – a 12 point swing toward unfavorable.

And it’s not just among Democrats, whose view is now 9-74% unfavorable, compared to 10-65% unfav last October. It’s also among independents: now 29-57% unfavorable compared to 31-50% negative back in October.

Worse, for the TP, the slide is happening among Republicans, too. Their view is now 56-30% favorable, compared to 59-21% favorable last October. That’s a 12-point drop in favorability among California Republicans.

This is what Texas Gov. Rick Perry is counting on – if he’s counting at all – when he looks at the potential for a race against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, should there be one next June in California. That he would appeal to the Tea Party wing of his party and capture the lion’s share of California’s 172 GOP delegates.

There’s logic in this. A 56% favorability for the Tea Party among California Republican voters is nothing to sneeze at. Of course, with 74% of Democrats and 57% of independents holding an unfavorable view of the Tea Party, there’s no percentage in being linked to these knuckle-draggers in a general election.

But the first order of business for Perry (and for Romney) is to get the Republican nomination. And it looks like being identified with the Tea Party is an asset in that struggle. At least for now.

And while it’s not a favorability measure, but a much tougher job performance rating, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that Gov. Jerry Brown’s  approval has remained about where it’s been for months – at 41% of Californians and 45% of likely voters – while the Legislatures continues to lag nearly 20 point behind.


A Bid to Restore George Moscone’s Place in History

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Three decades after the horror, it’s an odd twist of history that the late Mayor George Moscone has become little more than a footnote in popular media narratives about San Francisco’s City Hall assassinations.

Dan White, the cowardly ex-supervisor and cop who shot and killed the mayor, then reloaded, walked down the hall and gunned down Harvey Milk, has been the subject of a book, a TV movie and a stage play.

Milk long ago became a global icon of the gay civil rights movement, his life and martyrdom celebrated and honored in a major film and a documentary, both of which won Oscars, along with an opera and a best-selling biography.

But Moscone, who was White’s primary target on the awful morning of November 27, 1978, is usually portrayed as a cipher or, in the case of “Milk,” the famous Sean Penn vehicle, badly misrepresented as a weak-willed hack.

Josh Getlin, who served Moscone as a young speechwriter and later moved to the L.A. Times editorial page, summed up this historic anomaly in an op-ed piece on the anniversary of the killings in 2008:

Thirty years later, Moscone remains an enigma to all but a handful of us who knew him. But this year, and every year, we mourn the loss of our friend who did so much to shape the modern face of San Francisco. And we continue to hope that history will one day give him his proper due.

Now Moscone’s friends, family, aides and colleagues are trying to make that happen, working to produce a full-length documentary focused on the life,  times and politics of the mayor. They’ve organized an event next week in San Francisco to raise money to finish the film, which has been in the works for several years.* As Corey Busch, a Bay Area business executive who served as Moscone’s press secretary, told us in email:

History can’t be allowed to forget George or what he meant to California and San Francisco. With the perspective of the past 30 plus years, he truly emerges as a unique and very significant historical figure.  We’re going to do our best to give him his due and to add to the true historical record of that time.

Moscone was not a saint. He was conned by Jim Jones, who led the Peoples Temple mass murder-suicides, just days before the City Hall assassinations, in Guyana. The mayor at times was overmatched against the power of city unions, as during a 39-day strike shortly after he took office. Willie Brown famously said of him, “George Moscone has two drinks and thinks he’s invisible.”

A blue collar guy who left a wife and four children when he died three days after his 49th birthday, however, he was a family man and a skilled and effective politician, a pragmatic liberal with a passion for social justice who helped lead California into an era of remarkable diversity and dramatic change.

Years before he was elected mayor in 1975, Moscone was a major player in Sacramento, where he served three terms in the senate.

Among other things as Majority Leader, he authored legislation (signed by then-Governor Jerry Brown) to provide school lunches for poor kids. He fought fiercely against the death penalty and, with then-Assemblyman Willie Brown, led the battle to repeal California’s anti-sodomy law, an early landmark in the campaign for gay rights.

Elected San Francisco’s 37th mayor, after one of the most raucous and bitter campaigns in the city’s history, his accomplishments ranged from the prosaic to the transformational.

He pushed through a huge bond issue to build a new sewage treatment system, at a time when the city routinely poured raw filth into the Bay, and was legally banned from new construction. He broke the generation-long political deadlock over the South of Market Yerba Buena redevelopment project, where millions today visit the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the convention center that bears his name. He won the lasting gratitude of Calbuzz by saving the Giants, when the team was about to leave town for Toronto.

Most importantly, Moscone gave voice to neighborhoods and working people, who had been shut out of a City Hall long dominated by big business, big labor and the big money transactional politics of his predecessor, Mayor Joe Alioto.

Moscone was the first mayor to appoint large numbers of women, minorities and gays – including Harvey Milk – to city boards and commissions, and his success in creating a municipal government that looked like the city was profound and lasting.

In an appraisal of his brief tenure as mayor, written for the 20th anniversary of the assassinations, Old Chronicler Susan Sward interviewed San Francisco State history professor Richard DeLeon, who has written extensively on the city:

DeLeon said that if he were to inscribe on some tablet what he believes the mayor left behind, he would write: “”George Moscone included the excluded.'”‘

“So many avoid conflict and nothing happens, but he was brave enough to get into it. He decided to swim upstream. He chose to make history.

“His role in local history at that moment was to play the role of political leader. At great odds, he made a valiant stab at it.”

* Former Speaker Willie Brown will host a reception to benefit the George R. Moscone Documentary Film project on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in downtown San Francisco. For more information contact Shari Rubin-Rick at 415-413-0240 (X102) or at Shari@integratedfundraising.com.

GOP Mashup: Gaga & Michele Meet Pat Boone & Ron

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Five important things Calbuzz learned at the California Republican Convention:

Lady Gaga and Ann Coulter were separated at birth. The Northwest Ordinance is one of the nation’s founding documents. Michele Bachmann believes chains are the key to freedom. Pat Boone knows for a fact Barack Obama was born in Africa. Ron Paul thinks life was better before World War I.

Those are a few highlights from the CRP’s weekend convention in Los Angeles, where a dozen TV cameras focused on public events featuring the stylings of the GOP’s No. 3 and 4 presidential wannabes and their Tea Party faithful.

At the same time, however, there were more serious and rational conversations, many behind-the-scenes, about issues like the electability of a Republican president, how the state party might begin to reverse its recent movement towards irrelevance and its troubled relationship with Latinos.

“The word ‘Republican,’ unfortunately,” observed one participant in a crowded discussion about the latter topic, “is repugnant to Latinos.”

Political junkie alert: First the more substantive stuff (those wanting to cut straight to the entertainment may skip this and the following two subheads).

New party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro predicted, in a lengthy press conference that opened the weekend, that the GOP is poised to make gains in California in 2012, given the recession-wracked economy, Gov. Jerry Brown’s leadership failures and President Obama’s flagging popularity.

So Del Beccaro said the GOP is energetically reaching out to women, Asians and especially Latinos. “We have to directly communicate with voters,” he said, adding that the GOP is currently defined by Democrats and the media.

But when we asked how the state GOP can attract Latino voters while it steadfastly opposes any sort of path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already here, Mr. Chairman dodged the question, saying the party must concentrate on a message of jobs, education and public safety.

'Failure to communicate'

All well and good. Del Beccaro is a nice guy, sincere and earnest, and give him credit for understanding the problem he has to address. But will Latinos hear the economic message if Republicans remain tone deaf on immigration?

A stacked “town hall” meeting about Republicans and Latinos, which Del Beccaro engineered with Univision on Saturday, underscored the problem.

Like Strother Martin as the Captain, and Paul Newman’s title character in Cool Hand Luke, who says ironically, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate,” GOP panelists unanimously said the party simply needs to get better at the way it shapes its message, rather than changing what it is communicating. But if the underlying message remains “No citizenship for you” it’s unlikely Latinos will ever hear what else the GOP might have to say.

Presidential pragmatists: Other practical-minded delegates meanwhile were more focused on processing the pros and cons of Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, the actual GOP presidential contenders, neither one of whom bothered to show up. While Bachmann and Paul drew lots of coverage, their lack of electability made them more a sideshow for realpolitik apparatchiks.

“If you’re not elected, you can’t change things,” said Ron Edwards, of Stanislaus County, chairman of the Republican caucus of the California Teachers Association.

“The rest is just people just yelling,” he added, pointing to a noisy Ron Paul demonstration echoing inside the atrium lobby of the downtown J.W. Marriott Hotel (plenty of expensive parking, although the Emmys awards show setting up across the street took most of it).

Summing up the assets and liabilities of the two leaders, Edwards said he’s leaning towards Perry because of his policies on job creation in Texas, but also worries about Perry’s volatile statements on Social Security. He sees Romney as much more polished, but worries that as a Mormon, he can’t carry the base of evangelical Christians, especially in the South.

“The religion issue, for whatever reason, hasn’t been put to bed by Mitt,” he said, reflecting the fact that some evangelicals do not consider Mormons to be Christians and some even see the LDS Church as a cult.

Like other Republicans at the convention, Edwards is unsure whether the GOP – which normally wraps up its nomination fight early, avoiding nasty, protracted struggles — will close ranks behind one candidate before June, when California’s 172 delegates will be at stake.

It’s hard to envision either Perry or Romney – both of who will have plenty of money – dropping out unless one or the other pulls off a blow-out. And with Florida (with its huge retired population) a major player in the still-unsettled calendar, and in the wake of Perry’s attacks on Social Security, the notion of an early finish is far from certain.

Challenge for Difi? Some Republicans also discussed whether Senator Dianne Feinstein might suddenly be vulnerable – if the GOP can produce a credible challenger. The latest Field Poll found only 41% of voters support re-electing Feinstein while 44% are opposed. And her job approval is only 41-39% positive.

Among top-rank Republicans who could conceivably mount a serious challenge, Calbuzz favorite daughter Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO and failed candidate for governor, told us a while back there is no way in the world she would enter that race. Boo hoo.

Carly Fiorina, who came up way short last year against the diminutive Senator Barbara Boxer, has become vice chair of the GOP’s Senate campaign committee, but we’re pretty certain Dianne would clean Carly’s clock.

That leaves longshot scenarios, long one being spun about former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, or perennial window-shoppers like Representative David Dreier of the San Gabriel Valley, a potential contenders that senior GOP professionals might lean on.

“We’ve been trying to get Dreier to run for a while,” one top Republican consultant told Calbuzz.

Other names bandied about over the weekend included Michael Reagan, RR son and former radio host; whackjob birther Orly Taitz (Difi’s dream opponent); over-the-hill crooner Pat Boone (more below) and former Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner (our Commish camp sources say he won’t get in the race).

Mondo bizarro: As for the weirder side of the convention, Tea Party diva  Bachmann was the star of the show on Friday night — 10 TV cameras! —  combining her routine right-wing shtick with some truly original political thinking.

Calbuzz was instantly offended by the video used to introduce Bachmann, a low-rent piece of propaganda called “Fire From the Heartland: the Awakening of the Conservative Woman,” which cast Lady Gaga as the symbol of America’s cultural corruption, playing her off against Ann Coulter as the embodiment of strong moral values. Ann (How do I offend you? Let me count the ways) Coulter? Seriously? Talk about your bad romance.

Bachmann’s 40-plus minute stemwinder was replete with tried and true paeans to the Founding Fathers, as she went all dewy-eyed over Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence (“God answered his prayers for our nation”). She caught us up short, though, by declaiming on the collective wonders of the  Constitution, the Bill of Rights “and the Northwest Ordinance.”


As every school child knows, the Northwest Ordinance was passed by the Continental Congress in 1787 and paved the way for the westward expansion of the union. Known more formally as (all rise) “An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States, North-West of the River Ohio,” it lay claim to new territories and provided that they could become new states, instead of simply adding to the size of the original 13.

As a practical matter, kind of a big deal, to be sure. But equal in importance to the founding documents? We don’t buy it, and think that Bachmann’s home girl Minnesota bias has clouded whatever shred of judgment she has left in that huge lacquered melon sitting on top of her neck.

Chain, chain, chain: At one point, Bachmann also ripped President Obama for purportedly conceding control of space to China.

This surprising allegation involves the Chinese “blinding a critical component of our overhead architecture,” she assured the gathered Republicans; despite a typically wide-ranging Calbuzz investigation that yielded some interesting background about the government’s long-range space planning, we finally decided that puzzling out whatever the hell it was she was talking about was way beyond our pay grade.

A few moments later, she called on Republicans to cast a “wide net” to attract independents and disaffected Democrats; this net, she added, would then become a “glorious umbrella” that would allow the country to “forge a chain” and “birth a new beginning.” Warning: do not try this at home.

“Forging” was a key part of her big rhetorical flourish of the evening, an elaborate and extended, if utterly contrapuntal, metaphor about “chains” as the defining symbol of, uh, freedom.

As in: The Founders “faithfully forged a chain of liberty” that has grown longer (and presumably heavier) through the following generations so that today, “People all across America can’t wait to fashion that chain.”

This just in: long lines form early outside Home Depot amid reports of widespread chain hoarding.

Maybe it’s just us, but the whole chain thing seemed slightly offensive, especially when she railed about the need to “take our country back,” presumably from the current occupant of the White House who’s apparently claimed it on behalf of Kenya, in order to claim it for those chain-totin’ Tea Party overseers.

Friendly persuasion: Speaking of Kenya, we were delighted to have the chance post-Bachmann to interview Pat Boone, the 77-year old erstwhile pop crooner who, back in the day, was our parents’ goodie-goodie answer to Elvis, and who’s since become a white bread Christian Republican icon. (Hard to believe some of us made out to his tunes).

Along with Old Chroniclers Carla Marinucci and Joe Garofoli, we had an  intriguing colloquy with Boone (they’ve got major video of it on their site)

The bullet points: a) he’s personally traveled to Kenya where he found sufficient evidence to convince him Obama was born there (i.e. a bunch of people, including Obama’s grandma, told him so); b) all the documentation proving that Obama was born in Hawaii proves no such thing (the president is “spending millions” on lawyers to keep the truth from coming out); c) the president’s claims to be a Christian are very shaky (he grew up “reading the Koran in Arabic” and does not celebrate Christian holidays in the White House). Except when he does.

Boone, who substituted his trademark white bucks for a pair of white patent leather ankle boots, also said that while he’s opposed to gay marriage, he’s “not a homophobe,” because he knows and has cared for lots of people with AIDS, including his late friend Rock Hudson.

Further fashion note: along with the white boots, Pat wore a 5-button khaki suit, pink shirt, American flag tie and a US/Israel pin. This could become known as the Full Boone.

Is that a doubloon in your pocket or are you just glad to see me? Although worn out by our exertions of trying to make sense of Bachmann’s big night, Calbuzz was up early the next morning to catch Ron Paul’s speech about monetary policy, silver and the gold standard.

“Endless wars overseas and endless welfare at home — we can’t afford that anymore. We have to change those policies,” said. Uncle Crankypants. “I’m running on peace and prosperity and personal liberty, the U.S. Constitution and American tradition.”


His bottom line: Forget the eradication of diphtheria, polio and smallpox, “things have not improved since 1913,” the year the Federal Reserve was created.

In an exclusive huff-and-puff hallway ambush interview with the candidate, as he was rushed away, Calbuzz learned that Paul thinks the state of California does have the right to prevent children from being enrolled in public school if they’re not immunized for polio and whooping cough — “but there should be no federal mandates.”

And late Saturday the excited word spread that Paul had swept to victory in the CAGOP’s Mickey Mouse Straw Poll in which a total of 833 votes were cast. Indeed, the Congressman from the Great State of Texas captured (drum roll please) 374 votes — or .0107% (that’s point zero one zero seven percent)  of the Republican vote in California. .0070468% of the 5,307,411 registered Republicans in California.


Hey, it’s a start.