Archive for 2012

Press Clips: How Prez Race Is Like the NBA Finals

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

By the time LeBron, D-Wade and CB4 finished swilling $200,000 worth of champagne at the Fountainbleau’s Club LIV a few hours after sunrise Friday, it appeared, astonishingly, that Erik Spoelstra, coach of the newly crowned NBA champion Miami Heat, still had a job.

No thanks to the big brains of the battalion of professional hoops scribes and cable yakking “basketball analysts” who throughout the playoffs repeatedly forecast Spoelstra’s firing amid his team’s alleged ever-impending collapse: “They’re certainly not winning an NBA world championship,” insufferable ESPN loudmouth Stephen A. Smith announced two weeks ago.

“Not only is this series over, everything’s over for Miami. I think they lose Thursday night in Boston. I think after that, we don’t know if Erik Spoelstra will be back.”

So it went, from the scribblings of the hometown Miami Herald (“Spo must go”) to the online insights of NBC Sports (“Spoelstra just hasn’t done enough to help the Heat win this series – someone has to be held accountable”) and the rantings on NBA junkie blogs (The biggest issue with the Heat comes from the coach Erik Spoelstra. He has been extremely out-coached”). Right up until his team blew the doors off the OKC Thunder to claim the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy (aka “the Larry”) Thursday night.

Spoelstra’s early burial narrative mirrors the current story line of the 2012 presidential campaign, as Beltway seers quote Democratic bed-wetters opining that Barack Obama’s re-election chances are fast eroding.

Donning chest waders to navigate the muck, ooze and sludge of recent national media coverage, Calbuzz learned that 1) Team Obama is too insular and clueless to run a winning campaign; 2) their Bain-bashing contrast argument with Reginald Mantle Mitt Romney doesn’t properly “contextualize the (economic) recovery” and 3) Mittens has swiftly been transformed from a robotic self-entitled, silver spoon twit to an extraordinary cross between Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and King Kong.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The problem with this wave of MSM clairvoyance is precisely what ailed the NBA soothsayer set: a laser-like focus on what’s happening right this minute, coupled with an uncanny ability to assume, despite constant evidence to the contrary, that tomorrow will look just like today. Au contraire.

The fundamental dynamics of the race haven’t changed since last November, when we made the argument that Obama will be re-elected, barring an unknown and unknowable catastrophe. As White House strategist David Plouffe patiently explained to the Washpost:

But it’s also important for people to understand this isn’t simply a question of a referendum on the president. It’s a choice between two visions and two records”….

That’s what’s going to decide the election, not the contretemps of the moment,” he said in an interview. “We’re very cognizant of that.”

Back to basics: As every school child knows, a presidential race is not a national election, it’s 50 state elections (yeah, yeah plus DC).

As a practical matter, Obama has a natural base of 247 of solid or lean Democrat electoral votes, compared to Romney’s 206 solid or lean Republican, with 7 states – Colorado (9), Florida (29), Iowa (6), New Hampshire (4), Ohio (8) and Virginia (13) – fully in play, as the AP details here.

A glance at the most recent polling doesn’t show any significant departure from that basic shape of the race, and suggests that even if he loses a state or two he’s supposed to win (Romney groupies point to Wisconsin, where union-busting Governor Scott Walker beat an ill-advised recall by labor, and Michigan, where we don’t see voters endorsing Mitten’s opposition to the successful auto industry bailout, as potential takeaways), Obama still has multiple pathways to 270 EVs.

Not to mention a few other key battleground trends:

Job growth in swing states. Even Walker admits it’s a problem, the reason Team Mittens wants Governor Rick Scott to shut up about the improving jobs picture in Florida.

Qui bono: The biggest swing state beneficiaries of Romney’s supply side economic policies are, surprise, surprise, the 1%.

Mitt’s immigrant bashing: Latinos could sink Romney in a host of swing states.

Mitt’s immigrant bashing II: Latinos in swing states  don’t like Romney.

Personality bypass: Romney: Still a knucklehead.

Mega-kudos: Speaking of champions, major hoozahs and hurrahs to our pal Jon Fleischman, who was awarded the King of the Cavemen Prize Andrew Brietbart Award for Excellence in Activism and Online Reporting by his right-wing cohort at last weekend’s Americans for Prosperity confab.

His politics are wrong, his ideas are unsound and he really needs a new hairstyle, but Flash is sui generis, a true believer who always comes to play and never stops attacking the rim or diving for the ball. Now if he could just teach his highly-paid minions to spell “prosperity” right.

Op-ed: The Obama-Romney Duel on Immigration

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

By Dan Schnur
Special to Calbuzz

When Barack Obama and Mitt Romney address the largest gathering of Latino political leaders in the country over the next two days, here’s what they won’t say: “I’m sorry.”

Romney won’t apologize to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) when he speaks to their annual convention in Orlando on Thursday, certainly not for condemning his opponents during the GOP primary campaign when they spoke in opposition to deporting senior citizens and preventing unauthorized immigrants from receiving financial support to attend college.

Obama, who is scheduled to speak Friday, is just as unlikely to express regret, neither for overseeing the largest expansion of the nation’s deportation program in recent history nor for his administration’s halfhearted and belated effort in pushing for immigration reform.

What will they talk about? Mainly each other. Obama will attack Romney and his fellow Republicans for opposing comprehensive immigration reform, but neglect to mention it was his own opposition to a critical guest worker proposal that helped kill landmark legislation sponsored by the late Ted Kennedy in cooperation with John McCain during Obama’s first year in the Senate.

Romney will vilify Obama for the poor economy and the high rate of unemployment in the Latino community, without acknowledging that he supports Arizona’s immigration law and that he spent the primary season advocating for policy reform based on the idea that undocumented immigrants would voluntarily leave the country.

A dreamlike state: The only other thing the two candidates will offer is dreams. More specifically, they are likely to promote competing versions of the DREAM Act, the much-debated legislation that would give some children the opportunity for legal status in this country.

Obama has long supported the original Act, which would create a path to citizenship for young people who came here without documentation but who attend college or join the military, but he has expended little effort toward its passage.

Romney may use his NALEO speech to endorse a compromise proposal by Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, which would halt deportations of young people in those same categories and provide conditional permanent residency, but presumably (and quietly) maintain his opposition to the possibility of citizenship.

Obama will certainly trumpet last Friday’s announcement of a new Administration policy to provide residency for similar groups of young people as Rubio has called for in his plan. While there are differences between the way Obama and Rubio have approached the issue, they are relatively minor and could be negotiated in short order.

If Romney signs on with Rubio as well, the result will somewhat of a DREAM Act love fest, in which both candidates talk about their commitment to reform in this one very specific corner of the immigration debate. Both will speak expansively about the need to provide assistance to deserving young people, but scrupulously avoid the more politically difficult conversation about a much larger population of unauthorized residents.

For the past five years, ever since the death of the comprehensive Kennedy-McCain bill that offered the possibility of citizenship for all of the nation’s undocumented immigrants, the DREAM Act has been both a Band-Aid for and a distraction from the lack of progress on the question of broader immigration reform. Passage of either of the two DREAM Acts currently being discussed would represent an important step forward; however, neither is sufficient to address the larger and more critical question of how a nation that has built itself on the strength, creativity and courage of immigrants will resolve this festering crisis.

Those who understand that neither massive deportation nor the permanent existence of an illegal underclass is a satisfactory solution should recognize that a DREAM Act is a necessary emergency measure to protect deserving young people, but it is also a political panacea.

Both major candidates and their advisers have calculated that a decriminalization bill for college students and soldiers will placate both Latino and Anglo voters who care about this issue. But they also know that a series of high-visibility pronouncements on this specific matter will divert public and media attention from the larger challenge Americans deserve to have their next leader address.

What about real reform? Whether the result of a weak U.S. economy, an increased border presence, or a declining Mexican birthrate, the flow of northward migration into this country has all but stopped. That has removed the debate over immigration policy from the front pages, but does not in any way resolve the broader practical and moral questions that the current situation demands.

It is Obama’s responsibility to explain how and when he will devote more energy and political capital to the challenge of comprehensive immigration reform if re-elected.

It is Romney’s obligation to clarify his beliefs so we can better understand what he believes is a practical and conscionable alternative to a naturalization and legalization process.

Romney veered rightward during the primary to mollify one group of voters. Obama swung to the left last week to motivate another portion of the electorate. Both owe something more than election-year positioning and maneuvering — not only to Latino voters but to the rest of us as well.

Dan Schnur is the director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. He was the national communications director for the 2000 presidential campaign of U.S. Senator John McCain and the chief media spokesman for former California governor Pete Wilson. A version of this piece appeared in La Opinion.

Past as Prologue: Why Difi Goes Nuts Over Leaks

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Our 2012 Exit Poll and Office Pool Desk is still conducting its internal review of how our projection models of the primary vote for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination turned out so wrong. The guys failed to forecast that odds-on favorite Orly Taitz would lose narrowly to Elizabeth Emken by, um, 439,209 votes.

Now preliminary reports suggest their calculations underestimated the amount of campaign down time for Dr. Taitz, leader of the responsible dental-birther community, due to 1) an unexpected and unusually heavy volume of molar implant appointments and 2) a crucial fluoridation conference.

That aside, it also appears that human sacrifice GOP nominee Emken simply out-hustled the GOP field, and we’re here to attest there’s been no slow down for her since the primary, witness the 37 Emken campaign emails per day that pour into Calbuzz. Favorite to date: “Emken Leads All National U.S. Senate Candidates in Twitter Growth.” You could look it up.

We are considerably less impressed, however, with her balmy attack on the Senior Senator From California over the latest Beltway brouhaha about leaks of classified information. Auntie Em stamped her foot, shook her fist and huffed and puffed about “serious issues about our intelligence gathering capability,” harrumph, harrumph. Seriously? This from someone whose  entire experience in national security consists of calling ADT to reset the password for the alarm system.

Who owns the information? There is an attack line to be made against Dianne Feinstein on the leak issue, but it’s not one that Emken is likely to make anytime soon.

That would be the public’s right to know vs. national security, an argument nicely framed the other day by the ubiquitous Joe Mathews, who correctly noted that, “the government routinely classifies public information and keeps most secrets to protect its power, not the public.”

Still, it’s a tricky issue, and we don’t take lightly the notion that unauthorized release of classified information can potentially, maybe, sometimes be harmful. That said, it certainly appears that the New York Times was plenty responsible in advance of publication, going ahead only after giving the government a heads up and not getting a wave-off. Plus: the First Amendment.

Now Feinstein is heading up a bipartisan posse, apparently bent on stringing up whoever is responsible for having leaked national security secrets to the Times.

We don’t disagree with Debra Saunders, our favorite Republican, who applauded Difi’s political cojones because Herself disregarded partisan concerns about possibly embarrassing the White House in her anti-leak jihad. In a well-reported commentary about the controversy, the Old Chronicler correctly noted that “this crusade can’t be helpful to DiFi politically” because “many in her liberal base regard accused leakers…not as security threats but as heroic whistle-blowers.”

Why do you keep putting things in the paper? It’s also true, however, that Difi’s high dudgeon in this case has as much to do with who she is as with what information was leaked.

Since her earliest days in politics, two things always have been true about Feinstein: 1-She really, really, really hates leaks, no matter how insignificant or mundane; 2) she’s not that crazy about reporters, either.

During a visit she made to China as mayor of San Francisco, Difi once lectured former Chronicle City Hall newsie Evelyn Hsu, who was covering the trip, telling her American reporters should be more like their Chinese counterparts:

“They just write down what we say,” she told Hsu.

In the current controversy, Feinstein’s comments on CNN about David Sanger, the Times reporter who developed the information that is the focus of her leak investigation, spoke volumes about her view of the proper role of the press:

 One report that has irritated lawmakers is New York Times correspondent David Sanger’s story last week confirming long-suspected U.S. involvement in development of the computer virus Stuxnet, which reportedly caused significant damage to nuclear centrifuges in Iran.

 Feinstein suggested that in advance of the publication of Sanger’s story, he misled her about the likely impact of his reporting.

 “He came into my office. He saw me….He assured me that what he was publishing, he had worked out with various agencies and he didn’t believe that anything was revealed that wasn’t known already,” the senator said on CNN. “Well, I read ‘The New York Times’ article and my heart dropped, because he wove a tapestry which has an impact that’s beyond any single one thing. And he’s very good at what he does. And he spent a year figuring it all out. And he’s just one. And this is a problem.

(BTW, Feinstein also told Saunders that she’s still reading “Confront and Conceal,” Sanger’s new book:  “You learn more from the book than I did as chairman of the intelligence committee, and that’s very disturbing to me,” which Atlantic Wire noted is, “the best book plug ever”).

Anyway: “He’s just one?” Really? Round up the usual suspects.

The wayback machine: Difi’s performance in recent days reminded us of another incident from her long-ago days as mayor, when a far less important leak upset her, but her outrage was roughly equivalent:

Journalists who covered her were not immune from the mayor’s temper. She would not hesitate to call reporters whose stories angered her or, sometimes phone their editors first.

When the Chronicle’s Reggie Smith broke a story about the conclusions reached by a Feinstein task force on a new ballpark, which she was not ready to release, she summoned him to her office and sternly said that such “premature ejaculations” should not be in the newspaper.

David Sanger beware.